There are so many voices telling you what you need. We live in a marketing age. We face those specialist at convincing us that the superfluous is actually the necessity. It’s become increasingly more difficult to know what we really need. And is the church just one more voice telling us what we need? The ancient world of Jesus may not have known the kind of aggressive advertising that we do, but the claim of Jesus to be the “bread of life” certainly records his exclusive claim to satisfy like no other (John 6.35).
This claim is made right after Jesus fed thousands by miraculously multiplying a young man’s lunch of fish and barley bread. Here’s why this is such an amazing miracle. What’s the staple diet of Cape Tonians? You couldn’t say right. That’s because it’s varied. But in Jesus day it would have been bread and fish. In fact the average person worked not to pay for a home loan, or to buy a TV, clothes or other stuff we generally work for but they worked to eat! New Testament scholar D.A Carson suggests that in Jesus day 85% of your salary went to pay for your food. When Jesus creates bread and fish to feed everyone they’ve just saved 85% of their daily wage. So, they figure with a guy like Jesus around we’ll have more money for home loans and general stuff and they try to make him king (6.15). But Jesus eludes them by crossing the Sea of Galilee. Some paid precious money by taking the ferry across the Lake (6.24) while others literally ran carrying their paralysed friends on stretchers across the 16 km coastal line to get to Jesus (Mark 6:55). The twist is this; they don’t really want Jesus, they want more food and miracles. How desperate they were for their misunderstood need!
“Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.”
Jesus then tells them “do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life” (6.27) which is Jesus himself (6.35). Essentially he says ‘I know you need food, money, houses, stuff, but the thing that you need most is me! I can satisfy you. Bread can’t do that, sex can’t do that, drugs may promise to do that, counseling may help to do that, friends may make it a little easier, but what you really need is Jesus. That’s the point of the ‘I AM’ statements. We say ‘but Jesus we need bread – he replies ‘I AM’. We need a new president – ‘I AM’. I need a friend – ‘I AM’. I’m struggling with my co-workers – ‘I AM’. I’m lonely – ‘I AM’. Is the thirst of the human heart not apparent to all? The thirst factory of our hearts are only satisfied with Jesus.
Some however were unwilling to see Jesus as greater than Moses; as number one in their lives (v 32). Terry Virgo, a pastor and church planter says that when he became a Christian he naively asked all his other idols to move up one and make space for Jesus. I identify with him. When I became a Christian it was like I called a board meeting with all my idols; ‘idols welcome; Beauty – looking good, Popularity – so glad you could make it, Success – in good shape, Sex – so hot right now. I want you to meet Jesus. He’s going to be joining you…what’s that Jesus? No seat for you…Umm over their….anyway. He’s one of the gods in my life. But rest assured you guys don’t have to leave. I can multi-task. I can worship all of you at the same time…. What’s that Jesus, there aren’t any seats…um…. Just sit on the floor! So, gods, let’s welcome Jesus and be assured nothing will change!
The only problem is Jesus doesn’t share the podium. The first hearers of this claim saw a potential king not the King of kings, they heard a message but not the gospel of grace, they saw only bread & power not what they signify. As Carson puts it “They witnessed the Divine Revealer at work but only their curiosity, appetites and political ambitions had been aroused, not their faith”. And they did not “taste and see that the Lord is good” Psalm 34.8. The command to “eat my flesh and drink my blood” was a signal to the kind of violent death Jesus would die (6.53). “He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities, the punishment that brought us peace was on him” (Isaiah 53.5). If you believe you have eaten. Taking to heart the message and meaning of the cross of Christ is the most soul satisfying work. Is the church another voice among many? Yes. But if you listen closely and you can hear the voice of the Father telling you to look to His crucified Son you can trust and believe. For nothing else can satisfy you.