Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. (John 6:27)
My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. (Psalm 73:26)
Today, most of us will be feeling full, and not just of things for which to be thankful. As with all of our celebrations, feasting plays a big part. The special dishes associated with these times are often a link to past memories, things to be anticipated with pleasure and enjoyed to the fullest. Being well fed leaves us with feelings of contentment, a sense that all’s right with our world.
Being told we need to change the focus on our menu would not be well received by most. Our traditions are well-entrenched, and our appetites well-satisfied by them.
The crowds of people in John 6 had been well satisfied too. Though there were thousands of them, Jesus had handed out bread and fish until they couldn’t eat any more, leaving 12 baskets full of leftovers. In fact, they were so impressed they intended to do whatever it took to crown Him king. Jesus slipped away before they could move forward with this plan and spent the day on a mountain alone with His Father. That night, He was so buoyed by the Spirit that He walked for three or four miles on the water to His disciples in the middle of the lake.
The crowds weren’t finished with Jesus yet, and followed Him to the other side of the lake. But He told them they were looking for Him for the wrong reason: not because they saw His miracles, but because He had fed them. Now they were lining up for more of the same.
Instead, Jesus gave them something much harder to chew on: He told them what they needed to sustain life for eternity. They needed to feed on Him, to come into intimate relationship with Him, to understand what He would do on the cross for their sake, and to accept Him as Savior and Lord.
The lineup got very short at this point. This wasn’t what they signed up for, the menu they expected. They were looking to satisfy their physical appetite; Jesus was telling them they needed to develop their spiritual hunger. If they wanted to have real life, enduring life, they would have to cultivate an appetite for Him.
On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?”
From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. (John 6:60, 66)
Someone has said that thousands follow Jesus when He gives them what they want, but few are willing to follow when confronted with what He wants.
Jesus changed all the food parameters by claiming to be the bread from heaven, the source of life; the essential portion that went beyond flesh and feelings. The crowd resented the claim and rejected it. It didn’t fit with their ideas. They didn’t understand it. It made them uncomfortable. And so, grumbling, they shuffled off. Only the twelve remained. They didn’t know what He meant either, but they knew Jesus and they were ready to be taught. As Peter said:
“You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.” (68-69)
It’s so much easier to line up to get something than it is to commit to something or someone. Those who walked away couldn’t see that by feeding on Jesus, they would be meeting their most vital hunger at the table of eternal life.
It all leads me to ask myself: what fills me today, and is it the right kind of fullness? Am I hungry for Jesus; am I well fed?