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Saturday, 4 February 2012

John 6:41-51 Spiritual Hunger

A burglar was arrested and appeared before a judge. The judge found him guilty and before he sentenced the burglar, the judge asked him if he had anything to say in his defense. The burglar said, “Well, Your Honour, you know how it is. The more a man has, the more he wants”. The judge replied, “Is that so? Well, I tell you what I’m going to do. I’m going to sentence you to 15 years in jail. How many more would you like?”  

The desire for more and more material things has often been used by human beings to fulfill their deepest desires, but unfortunately it leads to heartache and pain. One only has to look at the “stories” involving former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin’s resignation or the deaths of Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson or comedian John Belushi for evidence. [1] Millions of people also practically worship the ground that Hollywood idols or rock stars walk on. These people get their joy from worshipping overpaid people who have gaping holes inside----holes that they often try to fill with worldly pleasures such as drugs, alcohol or sexual pleasures. [2]

Another way people try to fill this gap is by being obsessed with food. For many people, food is no longer a simple pleasure and a means of nourishment. Instead, it is a source of confusion, guilt and conflict---just like the obsession some people have with drink or gambling. The moment of pleasure is an illusion.

We must ask ourselves, “What are my hungers? Where have I gone to satisfy them and where have those choices led me? When my life takes a turn that requires wise choices, strength and perseverance, will the stuff I use to fill the void in my life be the nourishment I need?” Thank goodness Jesus provides an alternative that is healthier for us both physically and spiritually. In John 6:35, he states that he is the bread of life, and he goes on in verse 44 to explain that no one can come to him unless God the Father draws him. [3] Those who believe in him will have their spiritual hunger satisfied. This is the message that he tried to give in the story of the loaves and fish. Unfortunately, the people didn’t get it then, just like many of us don’t “get it” today.

The Jews didn’t get it because of their biases. They understood Jesus in a completely literal way, but Jesus was talking in a metaphorical way. They were so concerned with their literal interpretations of the laws of the Old Testament that they became set in their ways and either could not or would not change. In a way you can’t really blame them though. It’s only human nature to resist change, either actively or passively. We get so comfortable with the status quo, the way we’ve always done things, etc. that it becomes comfortable, like a well-worn pair of shoes. It just feels so good! We get comfortable! We like things just the way they are!!!!!! This new way of doing things makes us feel uncomfortable!!!!!!!!!!!!

The Jews also didn’t get it because of their prejudice against Jesus. When they heard his claim that he is the bread of life, their response was, “How can this be? Is he not Jesus, the son of a carpenter?  How can he claim that he is the bread of life?” In other words, the Jews didn’t see Jesus as being a supreme being because of their prejudice against his family and his hometown.  

The Jews also objected to Jesus’ claim that he was greater than Moses, and again it was because they saw Jesus as just a man, and not as the Son of God. Jesus knew that his claim would be difficult for people to accept, and therefore he said that if anyone did believe, it was proof that God had led him. The Jews saw Moses as being next to God, and everyone else was of lesser importance. The Jews’ pride kept them from believing in Jesus, just like our pride sometimes keeps us from believing in him. The Jews also believed that strict observance of the law would lead them closer to God, but Jesus tells them that this is not the case. God converts us from sin by enlightening our minds and inclining the will. He influences the soul by motives, just views of his law, love, commands, warnings, desires for happiness, applying truth to the mind, and by urging us to yield ourselves to Christ. [4]

Jesus says something similar when he states that “I am the way, the truth and the light. No one comes to the Father except through me”. He is the gatekeeper to our eternal destiny. Jesus the gatekeeper draws us to him through his love. [5] When we get to that gate, he is ready, willing and able to open it for us. He makes perfectly clear all that can be known about God. In return, he gives God’s eternal, spiritual life to all who believe. The reward for our belief is eternal life. It is a quality of life that we have now and will have even more of in the future. In return, he demands something from us-namely, a long-term commitment to him. We have to surrender ourselves to him in trust and be faithful witnesses to God’s Word.

The task will not be easy. The Jews, like the Israelites, were famous for complaining, especially during the forty years they spent in the wilderness. We are the same though. We are often tempted to feel abandoned when times are tough. Tough times often test our faith and challenge our Christian beliefs, especially when these beliefs run counter to popular culture. Jesus knows that the world will hit us hard, and we will lapse into spiritual amnesia at times. There will be times when we are opposed by those who satisfy their spiritual hunger with worldly pleasures. There will be times when we will be tired and discouraged just like the prophet Elijah was in 1 Kings 19:4-8. We will need nourishment if we want to follow God’s path and do his work. Jesus will provide that nourishment. We take this nourishment in faith, as a real way of being united with Christ to receive life---a life that will not fade or disillusion us.

When Jesus claims that he is the bread of life, he also states that the bread he gives is his own flesh, which he gives for the life of the world. [6] This is the first time that he explicitly refers to his sacrificial death. Unlike the forefathers of the Jews (who ate manna from heaven in the wilderness and died) those of us who eat Jesus’ spiritual bread and drink his living water will live for eternity if we believe in him in faith. When we take part in the breaking of bread during the Eucharist, we join with Jesus, the saints and each other in fellowship with each other and with God.[7] This spiritual food gives us a share in God’s life, and it is but a small sample of the feast we will have when we eventually sit down and enjoy God’s heavenly banquet.

[1] “Accept No Substitutes: Earthly Appetites, Heavenly Bread, and Human Wholeness” Readings for Sunday, August 2, 2009. Retrieved from www.journeywithjesus,net

[2] “Is it Right to Worship ‘Stars’? “, Dan Wooding, ASSIST News Service. Retrieved from

[3] ESV Study Bible, part of Bible Explorer 4 and Wordsearch 7 software packages.
[4]  Jamieson Fawcett-Brown Commentary, part of Bible Explorer 4 and Wordsearch 7 software
[5] “How Can I Get the Holy Spirit?” by Billy Graham Retrieved from

[6]  John 6:51, ESV Study Bible

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