READ : John 6:35
Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst.
John 6:35 rsv
Have you ever noticed how often Jesus did something truly wonderful – only to have the people watching miss the point completely? For example, one day in a synagogue in Capernaum He restored a man’s paralyzed arm. He made it straight and strong again. He said to the afflicted man, “Stretch out your hand.” That, of course, was exactly what the man could not do. He couldn’t flex those fingers. He couldn’t reach forth that withered arm. But at the word of Jesus he did what had been impossible. His hand was made completely whole. Marvelous!
But do you know how the people around Jesus reacted to that? Instead of feeling wonder and happiness, they were filled with anger. Instead of praising Jesus for what He had done, they hurled accusations against Him. All they could think about was that He had done this thing on the Sabbath day. If someone had asked them, “But isn’t this a beautiful deed that Jesus has done, to restore this man’s arm?” their bitter reply would still have been, “He shouldn’t have done it on this day!” They missed the point.
Remember when Jesus delivered the demoniac in the land of the Gadarenes? He had been an uncontrollable monster of a man, stalking around in fetters, cutting himself with stones, lurking about in graveyards. For him to be sitting down, clothed and in his right mind beside Jesus, was a stupendous miracle. But when the townspeople in that area came out and saw what had happened, do you know what they did? They pleaded with the Lord to leave. “Go away, Jesus!” They didn’t grasp the significance of what He had done.
Today I want to think with you about one of those occasions when Jesus fed a multitude of people. There were about five thousand men along with many women and children. When Jesus asked His disciples how they could all be fed, one of them said, “There’s a boy here who has some food with him, five loaves and a couple of fish.” But he added with a chuckle, “That’s not much for this crowd.” Jesus said, “Bring him to me.” Then He gave thanks and began to distribute the food to the people seated on the grassy slopes. He kept passing out the provisions, passing them out, and there always seemed to be more. When He was through, when everyone had eaten his fill, there were baskets full of food left over!
How would you have expected the crowd to respond? You’d think, first of all, that they would come by to say thanks. You’d expect them to be filled with amazement, to ask themselves, “Who is this man who has done such a wonderful thing? How do we account for this generosity and His strange power?” Instead, they wanted to appropriate that power for their own ends. They wanted to exploit this Jesus. They were ready to seize Him, the Scripture says, carry Him away, and make Him a king. They didn’t understand. Jesus withdrew from them and went into the hills to pray.
That night the disciples started out in a boat to go to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. Jesus didn’t embark with them but later He joined them – out on the water. The next day when the people who had been fed couldn’t find Jesus, they surmised that He had gone to the other side. And they went to Capernaum looking for Him. When they arrived, they said, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” They couldn’t figure out how He had gotten to the other side since He didn’t leave with His disciples.
Jesus sensed what they were after and said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves” (John 6:26). They remembered what Jesus had done the day before. They were seeking Him, yes, but for the wrong reasons. What they were after was simply more bread. They wanted to see Jesus “do it again.” They weren’t interested in Him but in what they could get from Him. But let’s not condemn them too quickly. They were after what all of us long for – lasting satisfaction. They’d been fed once but now they were hungry all over again. That’s the way with these cravings of ours. They’re never really fully satisfied, are they? We always want more.
I’ve talked to a number of people recently about plans for retirement. You know what I find to be true in almost every case? Very few are sure that they have enough to retire on. Some of these seem to me quite wealthy. They have savings, pension funds and annuity benefits that amount to far more than most people make at the height of their careers. Others are more modestly prepared in terms of their financial resources. Some don’t have very much put aside at all. But they all seem to feel uncertain in the same way. They don’t know whether their resources will be sufficient. They wish they had just a little bit more. Then they could feel secure (at least, that’s what they think).
Why do people want to win a big lottery jackpot? Does that sound like a stupid question? Well, think about it. There’s the excitement, of course. There’s the publicity. “But that’s nothing,” you say. “It’s all that money.” Yes, but what does the money represent? It means for some people that they won’t have to work again, or at least that they won’t have to worry any more. Now they’ll be satisfied. Now they’ll be secure. But ask them about that after a few years, the ones who have won big. Did that sudden bonanza satisfy them? It surely made their lives more complicated. It surrounded them with many more things and conveniences. But many of them feel less secure than they did before. They still don’t know, in the midst of all that wealth, whether they’ll have enough.
Jesus says to them what He said to those people who had come across the lake looking for Him, “Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of man will give to you” (v. 27). He’s saying, “You’re on the wrong track if you’re on a stretch to accumulate more and more of this world’s goods. Even if you had warehouses full of bread, it wouldn’t finally satisfy you. Even if your portfolio were bulging with stocks and bonds, that wouldn’t make you secure. Even if you tasted all the delights the world has to offer, they wouldn’t bring you the happiness you’re searching for.” All that is perishable, Jesus reminds them. It’s not going to last. It can’t finally satisfy.
Here’s the alternative He proposes: “[Labor] for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of man will give to you.” Now the Lord isn’t saying something silly and otherworldly here. He’s not telling people that they shouldn’t care about food on the table, that they shouldn’t be concerned about having enough to eat and clothes to wear and a place to live. On the contrary, He told us, you remember, to pray every day for our daily bread. He is saying, though, “Don’t let that be the main quest of your life, the driving aim, the main ambition. Most of all,” He urges, “don’t expect to find your happiness, your peace of mind, your final security in these things. Instead, concentrate on searching for the food that will never perish, which the Son of man will give you – this One whom the Father has sent.”
Still, they don’t get the point. Instead of being open for what God will give them, they think they have to do something. “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” Jesus answered, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent” (vv. 28-29). They still don’t catch on. “All right, we’re supposed to believe in You,” they say. “What sign do You do so that we can see and believe? You fed a crowd of people for one day; Moses fed them for forty years. You took care of our little community here; Moses nourished a whole nation. You gave us bread, but he gave them heavenly manna. If You want us to believe You, we’ve got to see more.”
Jesus says to them, in effect, that it wasn’t Moses who gave them those wonderful provisions in the wilderness. It was God. And it’s the same God who gives us what the manna was only a sign of, the true bread from heaven. “The bread of God,” says Jesus, “is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” Now they say, “All right, Lord, give us this bread, all the time.” He has awakened their longings. They know what they want now. They’re coming to the right place. “Lord. Give us this bread.”
Then He offers them that incomparably great word: “I am the bread of life.” This true bread to which manna and the loaves are pointing is not a substance but a living Person. What you really need is not something you can buy, pick up from the ground, put on your table, or hoard away in your closet. All the nourishments you receive in this world point beyond themselves to what finally satisfies, and that is God’s gift, God’s Son. Jesus says, “I’m the One. What you’re really searching for when you want more and more food, more and more wealth, more and more thrills, is Me. The deepest craving in your life is a craving for God. That emptiness down inside is a thirst for the living Lord. And I am the One you need.”
“But to have this bread,” He goes on, “you need to come to Me, move in My direction, draw near to Me.” It’s in a personal relationship with Me,” Jesus says, “that your deepest needs will be met. It’s when you believe in Me that your soul will be filled. Just as bread is a pointer to the true food that comes from heaven, so coming and tasting, eating and drinking are signs of what it is to believe in Jesus, to receive Him into our hearts and lives. And it’s receiving Him, knowing Him, coming into a personal connection with Him that makes all the difference. This satisfaction, Jesus says, doesn’t fade away. This security won’t leave us at last in the lurch.
But someone is skeptical. “You mean that if I become a Christian, if I receive Christ into my life, that I’ll never feel unsatisfied again, that I’ll never have unfulfilled yearnings?” A great Christian from India, D. T. Niles, responds in this way: “When Jesus meets people, He meets them in their several situations; He comes to them as they are, and whether He satisfies their immediate needs or not, they find Him satisfying . . . He satisfies them with Himself.” Believers always find that Jesus is enough. All their needs may not be met at once but they somehow find Him sufficient. As they go again and again to the Lord with their thirst and need, He again and again fills their hearts. What is gone forever for them is their restless searching for something new, something different. Those who trust in Christ know in the depths of their lives that they’ve come to the heart of things. They’ve found reality. They’ve found God. They’ve been reconciled to their Maker. They’re becoming the persons they were meant to be. Christ fills that God-shaped blank in every human heart. In one sense, we all keep on hungering and thirsting throughout our lives. We never have enough of the Lord and His fullness. And indeed, He wants us to keep longing and seeking for righteousness, to be always coming afresh to Him. But we aren’t looking beyond Him any more. The restlessness is gone. We aren’t searching anywhere else for some imagined happiness that’s just beyond us, some final security. We’ve come home. Our hearts are full now. Our future is bright with hope. We have found lasting satisfaction.
Maybe you’ve heard a good deal about Jesus and the gospel, the things that He has done and said. But maybe up to now, you’ve sort of been missing the point, too. You haven’t yet seen that all of that is meant to point you toward Him that you may come to Him, believe in Him, receive of Him. Well, the invitation is out today for you to receive Jesus Christ the risen Lord as your Savior from sin, for you to trust Him as the Master of your life, to welcome Him into your heart. And He promises in His word, as a “Gentleman of the strictest honor,” that when you come to Him with your need, and open your heart to what He offers, you’ll find what you’ve been longing for and maybe never been able to identify before. You’ll be feasting, friends, on the Bread of Life.
PRAYER: Lord, You offer Yourself to us not as a frilly desert, a fancy delicacy but as life’s real bread. May every person sharing this broadcast be led to trust in You and find in You true life. In Jesus’ name. Amen.