August 23, 2015 - John 6:35, 41-51

“Get Hungry”

John 6:35, 41-51

August 23, 2015

 

35Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.41Then the Jews began to complain about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42They were saying, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” 43Jesus answered them, “Do not complain among yourselves. 44No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me; and I will raise that person up on the last day. 45It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me. 46Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father. 47Very truly, I tell you, whoever believes has eternal life. 48I am the bread of life. 49Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

 

When was the last time you were really hungry?  I mean the kind of hungry where you think, “a little mold on the bread never hurt anybody;” that kind of hungry.  I have never known true hunger.  But I have known the kind of hunger that transforms a mediocre helping of Hamburger Helper eaten out of a Frisbee over the sink of my college apartment into a feast fit for a king.  I remember saying, “this is the best food I have ever eaten.”

Thirst is the same way.  Ever see a small child come in from playing hard outside in the hot sun?  They drink their water only to come up gasping for air.  “This is the bestest water ever Daddy.”

Spiritually, we all hunger and thirst.  But we need to realize that there is no famine and there is no drought of the word of God.  I had the great privilege this week to talk to someone who was asking me “How do I get to know more about the Bible?”  What a great place to be.  What a fantastic attitude.  If we hunger and thirst, there is food and drink ready for us in abundance.  The question is if we will accept it.

So today we hear Jesus say, “I am the bread of life.  I am the living bread that has come down from heaven.”  That’s strange.  So what do we do with this statement?  How do understand what Jesus is trying to say?  He obviously isn’t made from wheat...what is he trying to say?

What drives us to eat bread?  Hunger.  We understand hunger.  All creatures in the animal kingdom understand hunger.  There is an empty, hollow, gnawing pain inside of us.  It drives us to search out what will satisfy us.  Our world is filled with hungry people, and I am not just talking about physical hunger for food here.  I am talking about spiritual hunger here.  People are searching because they are empty inside and the spiritual emptiness drives them to look under every guru, crystal and tarot card for something to fill them.  Something that will make them live.  Jesus says, “I am the bread of life.”  Bread is filling.  It gives us life.  Jesus not only saves us, he feeds us.  To everyone searching to end his or her spiritual hunger, Jesus is the bread of life. 

I once took communion in a service where they replaced the grape juice with actual grapes and the normal bread with different types of bread from around the world.  Flat bread, dark bread, brown bread, round bread, bread with heady aromas, breads with flaky textures, breads the color of 7 grains.  Bread is a staple in all diets, it is the universal food for most of the world’s population.  For the parts of the world that face real hunger, bread is the difference between life and death.  That was the case for a group of disciples in the first century.  Bread was often the only food that many people had.  Like water, to have bread often meant that you would live as long as the bread lasted.

In the world today having daily bread is the difference between life and death for most people on this planet.  You and I are blessed that the only concerns about our bread is our choice between sourdough or rye for our sandwich and whether or not it fits into our low-carb diet. But the fact is that today, on this day when you and I will have plenty to eat, 35,000 people will die because they have not had enough bread recently. Every day 35,000 people die of physical hunger.  That’s 9/11 times ten.  And that will be today.  And it happened yesterday.  And it will happen tomorrow.  This is the level of tragedy when the world’s people do not get enough bread.

Even more urgent are the hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, even billions of souls that starve each day spiritually.  More significant than the loss of physical life are the spiritually starving masses that need Jesus, and nothing but Jesus.

Jesus says that he is “the Bread of Life.”  He is speaking in a metaphor, so understanding that, what does this mean? 

It means that your soul will never be satisfied with the things that fill your body.  No food, no love interest, no job, no wealth, no product, no success, no fulfillment, no amount of endless pleasure will ever satisfy the hunger of your soul.  All of those things look good and many of them claim to bring spiritual satisfaction, but there is not a single calorie, vitamin or mineral in any of them that will benefit your soul.  The reason that so many people consume these things so ravenously and in unending quantities as they pursue spiritual satisfaction is that their hunger is never satisfied nor is the edge of their hunger ever dulled.   Only Jesus is the bread of eternal life and only Jesus can satisfy the hunger of our souls.

We are the first culture in the history of humanity that seeks to fill its spiritual needs with material things.

If there is a feeling of emptiness inside, a profound feeling of lacking, a gnawing at your soul that needs to be filled, then you are hungry for the bread of life.  God sent Jesus to be all that will fill us.  All that will fill us.  All you need is Jesus.  There is no need for a flashy production, or professional musicians, or even a retreat or a conference.  Jesus is the bread of life and there is no substitute.

A pastor was once teaching a discipleship session at his church on communion.  He asked those present to convey their thoughts about the most memorable meal they had ever had.  People talked of fancy dinners at five star restaurants, their favorite cafe in a little out of the way places, elaborate ten course French feasts.  Then one man said, “The best meal I ever had was in WW II, the morning after a terrible battle.  I staggered over a hill and saw a little Red Cross wagon in the middle of a muddy field.  There was a woman there who was handing out stale doughnuts and cold coffee.  She handed them to me and she smiled.  I have to say that was the best meal that I have ever had.”

It is the same way with Jesus.  The hungrier we are, the more satisfying Jesus is to us.  Maybe when we fail to be filled, it is because we fail to realize how hungry we ought to be.  We ought to hunger for Jesus, because our lives depend on it.

I think that is what is wrong with most of us in our walks with Jesus.  We aren’t hungry enough.  We have grown complacent.  Maybe we don’t give enough of our spiritual food to others.  Perhaps we hoard it too much.  Maybe it’s that we have become spoiled.  Hungry people never complain about their food.  You seldom see anyone at a homeless shelter send his or her food back to the kitchen.  We need to get hungry, folks.  Our world needs to see us have an insatiable hunger for Jesus and also see our joy of being filled as only Jesus can fill us.

 

There is a French proverb that says, “A good meal ought to begin with hunger.”  We have to be hungry before we can really eat. Go without bread long enough, and you will be very hungry.  I do not know about you, but I am getting hungry.  I got hungry this week.  I do not mean physical hunger. I was sick all week, not really physically hungry.  Plus….you know.    The more I dealt with this text, the hungrier I got.  I mean last week, we had Jesus talking about himself as bread, and now this week, too, and probably nest week again.  The more I worked in preparation for this sermon, the more hunger built up within me.  The longer I worked with Jesus’ words about him being the bread of life, the more I felt my need for Jesus.   All week I prayed and got hungry to be here now.  I grew hungry to be with you. 

Jesus said “Do this in remembrance of me.”  That’s why we have this table.  We eat of this bread, not because we appreciate the symbolic nature of the bread, but because we are hungry for Jesus.  A lot is made about Communion. A lot of fuss is made about the nature of it.  There are real deep and long theological arguments about the meal, and they are important arguments.  But hunger for Jesus is not debatable.  The most important thing is not to know the correct answer to this theological question.  The important thing is that you come to the table hungry...hungry for God.  Luther, Zwingli and Calvin were known for their arguments about this meal and the protestant traditions that they shaped.  But Calvin kept it in proper perspective when he said, “I would rather experience it than understand it.” 

I think most of us only realize our spiritual hunger once we begin to feel the absence of our relationship with Jesus, like when we drift away.  We get hungry when we haven’t been fed.  When we slip away from God, it’s because we have chosen (unintentionally perhaps) to move away from Jesus.

 

Jesus doesn’t move away from us.  We slowly slide away from him.  If you are hungry, then pull a seat up to the table.

In every family, the persons in that household who provide for the lives of the others in it are called the “breadwinners”.  That is because what they do provides life-giving sustenance to all the family.  In our church family, none of us qualify as the breadwinner.  We are all guests at the table, people who are fed out of the generosity and love from our Father.  We have earned nothing, and yet we are given all we need.  It costs us nothing, and there is no way to earn this.  But like my Daddy always told me, “There ain’t no free lunch.”  Just like a meal in this world, even spiritual food always costs somebody something.  This meal, this spiritual feast, though free to us, is not free.  Somebody is footing the bill, and we ought to be aware of the price of what we are about to take.  The meal that Jesus provided us God everything.

You might think that it would be a good thing to have communion now.  All this talk of Jesus as the Bread of Life, last week and now, ought to lead us to the table.  That is true.  But I am thinking that perhaps we aren’t all hungry enough yet.  Take a week and go get hungry.  Stay hungry.  Come back to this table next week, and then we will feast.  Hunger for Jesus for he is the Bread of Life. 

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