Have you ever worked your behind off for something you thought you really wanted, but after you got it, you realized it wasn’t all that great or perhaps the thrill only lasted for a little while? Let me tell you, most of us are stuck in a cycle where we go through this all the time. This is the backbone of modern consumerism. Apple or Samsung or Sony – whoever – will create a svelte new device that they say will make your life easier and fulfill all your hopes and dreams. So you buy the svelte device and experience all the promised bliss. But then about nine months later, you begin hearing whispers in the wind that what you were sold last year was incomplete and that upgrading your device would fill in those gaps in your device nirvana. And so the cycle goes.
Many of the things we work for are replaceable, temporary, corruptible, and they eventually wear out so they need to be replaced occasionally. And let’s be clear, there’s nothing wrong with those things. God didn’t create us to live bland, dull lives, afraid to enjoy the things at our disposal. God has made us to enjoy his creation.
The five thousand people that Jesus fed, they were hungry. They enjoyed the bread and fish that Jesus multiplied for them. And I totally get it. I love bread! My favorite kind of restaurants are the ones that give you complementary bread before they bring out they main course. And my favorite favorite restaurants? Unlimited bread (thank you Olive Garden!). If the owner of Olive Garden approached me and asked me why I kept coming back I would tell him. Unlimited bread. Italian food? Not really. Great service? Annoying at times. You want me to keep coming? Keep the unlimited bread.
That’s what’s happening with the people here. When they woke up the next morning (John 6:22-40), the people realized that Jesus was gone, so they followed him across the sea. When they caught up to him he was teaching in the synagogue of Capernaum (John 6:59).
When they questioned Jesus about why he left, he cut to the heart of the matter.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.” (John 6:26)
In this case, I am the crowd, Jesus is the owner of the Olive Garden. And he just nailed me. Ok, you got me, Jesus, I love the bread! But as you know, Jesus isn’t just the owner of Olive Garden, he’s the owner of everything! What is the answer? We’re all just like the crowd. Too often, we are coming to Jesus for the things he can do for us. He can heal us, he can defend us, he can empower us, he can forgive us, he can redeem us, he can raise us from the dead. And here’s the incredible thing. He will do these things for us!
But what’s wrong with this picture? I’m a worship pastor, and all of the things I listed above comprise a great deal of the songs we sing to Jesus on a weekly basis. But I’m telling you, this is not enough! Jesus continues:
“Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.” (John 6:27)
One day, all of the things that we love Jesus for – the things he does for us – will come to an end because we’ll finally be with him. When we’re with him, we won’t need healing, we won’t need defense, we won’t need to be empowered, we won’t need forgiving, we won’t need more redemption, and death will be history so we’ll never need to be raised again. What will be left of our love? All of these things, as great as they are, will perish from becoming obsolete.
What is the food that endures to eternal life?
“I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” (John 6:35)
Once we taste of the bread of life, we’ll never hunger again. You see, the hunger Jesus speaks of isn’t your tummy growling, it’s your life growling. These people, like us, are trying to feed our hunger with things that are temporary. Even the good gifts that Jesus provides for us, if our appetite stops there, will never be enough. You’ll never be healed enough. You’ll never be defended enough. You’ll never be empowered enough. You’ll never be sheltered enough. We keep consuming the garnishing that decorate the main course and it will never satisfy, never nourish, never be enough! We consume the gifts of God, just like we consume smartphones. We experience something great and that carries us for a little while, but soon our lives growl again and we need another experience! Plus, it needs to be a greater experience because what we lived on yesterday isn’t enough anymore!
The hunger Jesus speaks of isn’t your tummy growling, it’s your life growling.
Our lives growl with such ferocious intensity, and the good gifts we feed ourselves with fall so short, that Christians become just as depressed, just as captive, just as enslaved as they were before they were born again! But it’s more deceptive because we become captive to the gifts of God rather than God himself! The answer to your life hunger isn’t more doing! It isn’t more experiences! It isn’t more miracles!
Jesus himself is the Bread of Life, not what he will do for us.
When he returns and recreates everything, what will be left of our love? If I have pursued him, and loved him, not for what he does for me, but because of who he is, my love will be with me, fully realized in all of his glory. But if I’ve pursued him for what he can do for me, when I stand before him, all of the things I loved will be history because they are no longer necessary, and the words that you never wanted to hear may be uttered: “I never knew you.” Why? Because I never pursued Jesus for Jesus.
I just wanted more bread. In the end, salvation is less about how much you experience, and more about how well Jesus knows you. Pursue Jesus for Jesus and the unlimited bread won’t matter all that much anymore.