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Jul 15, 2012

Real Hunger & Real Food

Passage: John 6:1-35

Preacher: John Repsold

Series: Life to the Full

Category: New Testament

Keywords: food, appetite, hunger, feed, thirst, life, bread, body and blood, jesus christ


We've all got so many appetites in life. This message looks at what Jesus has to say about them and about what we should be doing to work for the right food for them. What really satisfies the soul and what doesn't? What can we do to make sure we're working for "food" that lasts forever?


Real Hunger…Real Food

John 6

July 15, 2012


CONNECT:  Tell someone about an experience you had where you remember receiving something that normally costs you money, that you really like, but you either won, found or were given it for FREE!  (Like someone paying for your meal...or you winning something for free.)


INTRO:  Story of Schwan’s truck that turned the corner in our neighborhood several years ago and dumped its load of… ice cream.  Sandy came around the corner a few seconds later to see half-gallon containers of every fancy variety imaginable strewn all over the street.  As she stopped to help the driver retrieve his load, he asked if she would like any of it since he could no longer sell it once it had fallen on the ground. 

            Being about a block from home, she drove home and told us of the lucky strike.  Being conscientious stewards of God’s good graces… and not wanting to appear greedy…we grabbed the  garden wheelbarrow and headed back to the scene of the incident.  It felt like we had hit the jack pot at the casino…only without the guilt.   J  Ever since then I’ve had to train myself to resist following the Schwan’s truck around town whenever I see it.  J


Getting free stuff is actually pretty fun, isn’t it?  We all wish the good things in life would come free of charge and a lot easier than they do, don’t we? 

And even if things aren’t free, most of us are more than willing to work and work and work to obtain more and more things that we think will make our lives better.  We have this sort of insatiable appetite for more and more of whatever it is that we think constitutes “life.” 

That “stuff” we look for to make life what we think it should be can be infinite in options.  It can be people or books, money or games, politics or entertainment or health or sex or any number of options we think will really fill our hearts. 


People have not really changed for hundreds of generations.  We still want pretty much the same things and do just about the same things to get them. 


In our series in the Gospel of John, we are in the 6th chapter today.  It’s a chapter that has 3 basic stories in it with one critical message tying them all together. 


The first story is the only miracle in the Bible that occurs in all 4 Gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.  It’s the “feeding of the 5,000 hungry men…and then some” miracle. I’d like to suggest that an equally amazing miracle to feeding 5,000+ people was getting 5,000 men to take a whole day off work to pursue a spiritual longing of their hearts.

Well, Jesus had apparently been performing a whole host of miracles of healing in the region of Galilee.  So, as you might expect, the crowds were growing and their demands for more miraculous interventions of Jesus into their lives were growing as well. 

            So Jesus decides to try and get some needed time away from the crowds by taking his disciples to the far east side of the Sea of Galilee.  He found a nice grassy place on a hillside there and sat down to with his disciples, probably to simply spend time with them and teach them by answering their questions…or maybe asking them a few thought-provoking questions. 

            No sooner do they just get settled and start to unwind than Jesus looks up and sees a huge crowd of people hot on their tail.  It had to be worse than the paparazzi and Princess Diana!  Where you and I might have been groaning about a quiet afternoon of solitude spoiled, Jesus sees another opportunity to teach something truly important to his followers. 

            He turns to Philip and asks something that I never would have felt responsible for in a million years:  “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?”

I don’t know about you, but I can think of a whole bunch of choice responses to that question, things like,

  • Too bad, so sad for them that they forgot to pack a picnic dinner.  Or…
  • Buy bread for them?  Since when are we Daddy Warbucks?  Or…
  • Since when did you become a socialist, Jesus?  How about we set Judas up in a toll booth and charge a conference fee for anyone who wants to hear you teach today? 

The options are endless. 

But Philip is nicer than I am.  He does some quick math in his head and says, “Eight months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!”  Two-thirds of a year’s salary…maybe equivalent to thousands of dollars worth of food…would not be enough to give everyone an airline sized bag of peanuts or pretzels!  (Philip would have been great running Delta or American Airlines today!)


What is Jesus trying to do with Philip here?  The text tells us in vs. 6 that Jesus did this to “test” Philip.  Jesus already knew how he was going to meet this need supernaturally.  But, as usual, Jesus isn’t just concerned with meeting people’s immediate and never-ending physical desires.  He wants to teach Philip something by testing him with a life experience. 


So what is Jesus testing here?  What is Jesus wanting Philip to realize in this experience with his simple question?

How about, “You don’t have what it’s going to take to meet even the most fundamental needs of people, Philip.  This is going to require more than you or even all the disciples put together can pull off.” 


Then Andrew, obviously a whole lot more politically astute, gets on the socialist band wagon.  He finds some little boy with foresight enough to pack a little food for the day and volunteers the kid’s lunch for all those who didn’t bother to think ahead.  But as he does, he, too, realizes the impossibility of the situation and remarks, “But how far will [these 5 small barley loaves and 2 small fish] go among so many?”  Answer:  Ahhh… about enough for the boy who packed the lunch! J

     Now that Jesus has his disciple’s attention, he goes ahead and performs the miracle of taking those meager rations, multiplying them by over 500,000%.  When everyone is full, he has his disciples gather the leftovers that turned out to be enough for every one of his disciples to have a basket-full.  For those of you who don’t like leftovers, you better get used to them if you plan to live very close to Jesus.  J


Vss. 14 and 15 are really the critical commentary on this story.  While the miraculous feeding of the 5,000 has truths about God’s sufficiency in the midst of our need, clearly what John wants to teach us has more to do with how the crowd responded than with the miracle itself. 

“After the people saw the miraculous sign that Jesus did, they began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.”  Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.” 


So here you have the people recognizing who Jesus really is, “the Prophet” who was foretold in the O.T. who would come and lead God’s people out of bondage and oppression, set the captives free, heal the lame and blind, and even raise the dead.  They get the I.D. correct. 

            But they come to the wrong conclusion.  With someone who is SO powerful as Jesus, someone SO able to draw and keep crowds, someone SO compassionate that he provides unparalleled health care and free food, why not make this kind of person your king?  Talk about a winning candidate!  Jesus could promise…and deliver…on more than both the Democrats and Republicans ever could in even our country of freedom! 

            But Jesus doesn’t want to be that kind of king.  He isn’t the least bit attracted to the political power structures we humans get so caught up in so often.  Even thought he could have been THE most amazing national leader ever to grace the political stage of time, Jesus turns his back on those possibilities and retreats from everyone, even his disciples (vs. 15). 


The next story has at least one more miracle in it—Jesus walking on the water in the storm.  But John’s focus doesn’t seem to be so much on the miracles as it is upon the fear of the disciples and the longings of the crowd.  The crowd is trying to figure out how the disciple’s boat clearly left without Jesus and yet Jesus ends up on the other side of the Sea of Galilee before they do.  And here is where the story gets really interesting. 

Vss. 25ff—“When they found him on the other side of the lake, they asked him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?”  Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you at the loaves and had your fill.”

Now things have moved from crowds that come because of miraculous things Jesus is doing for individuals to miraculous things he is doing for crowds of people—feeding them.  They wanted more bread…more free meals…more stuff that they normally had to work all day for.  “Jesus, we want more free stuff…please, please!” 


Jesus continues (vs. 27), “Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.  On him God the father has placed his seal of approval.” 

You mean we don’t have to work for physical food anymore?  We’ve got the command right here, no?  No.  If this was the only command about work we had in the N.T., then maybe (though not likely) we might have a thin thread to hold onto for abandoning work.  But it isn’t.  We’ve got plenty of other passages that speak of our need to “work with our hands” so that we have more than enough to share with others in need (I Thess. 4:11, 12) and that “those who do not work should not eat,” (2 Thess. 3:10).  Work has always been God’s way of supplying most of our physical needs for food, clothing and shelter. 

            No, here Jesus is calling us to work much more and harder “for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.”   

            So we know WHO will give us this “food that endures.”  And we know that we will have to “work for” it.  But HOW?

That is precisely the next question of the crowd.  “What must we do to do the works God requires?”  They are seemingly very willing to roll up their spiritual sleeves and DO whatever God requires.  “Just give us the list of things to DO and we’ll be fine,” they say. 

And now Jesus drops the bomb.  Vs. 29

“The work of God is this:  to believe in the one he has sent.” 


Here is the fork in the road for every one of us:  will we try to “work” for this food that endures eternally by keeping some long list of things we try to do OR will we accept Jesus’ word that there is really ONLY ONE “work” that will bring us the food our souls long for:  “believing in” Jesus himself?  We “work” by exercising belief in Jesus all the time about everything he said.


When you really believe in someone, do you just believe one or two things they say about themselves or life or their relationship with you?  No, believing in someone means you take everything they say and stake your life on it.  When they ask you to do something, you do it.  When they tell you something is true and something else is false, you accept it and order your life around the truth.  Belief in Jesus is “the work” God wants us to labor for.  Truly exercising our faith in Him and all he has told us is a life-long “work” that starts with getting our relationship with God squared away by faith in what Jesus has done as the Lamb of God who has taken away the sin of the world. 


Then Jesus reaches the summit of his proclamation in John 6:35 when he says, “I am the bread of life.  He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.”   


So now we know WHO gives us this “food that endures to eternal life.”

We know HOW we need to work/labor for it—by believing in Jesus.

And here Jesus tells us WHAT that “food” is that will satisfy our life in every way both here in this life and forever in eternity.  It is JESUS HIMSELF.  “I am the bread we of life.”  And Jesus isn’t sold in stores everywhere…or churches…or on-line.  To get that bread of his presence we must GO TO HIM.  Going constantly to Jesus and consuming his life into the “stomachs” of our souls is THE ONLY way we will “never go hungry” and “never be thirsty” in this life and the life to come. 


The world, our flesh and the devil himself is constantly telling us, “What you need is more money…or better health…or a bigger house…or a better job…or a more loving spouse…or deeper friends, etc., etc.  That’s the “food” this world sells us for our souls. 

To which Jesus responds, “NO. STOP running after all those things!  Stop laboring so hard to get ‘life’ that really doesn’t satisfy.  START believing in me by coming to me with every hunger of your soul. Start feasting upon my life which I want to give you every time you feel a ‘hunger pang’.  You can either keep doing what the world has been doing since Adam and Eve believed the lie that life was found somewhere else other than believing God OR you can start coming to Jesus with every need and finding that his menu for life has everything you will ever need.  The Author of our lives is also the Source of our soul’s sustenance forever. 


You see, Jesus is primarily interested in making sure he has our hearts far more than filling our stomachs.

Jesus knows that the lies of Satan have not changed much from the Garden of Eden.  He deceived our forefathers when he got them to trade the Tree of Life for the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil…and we’ve been trading God’s offer for Satan’s ever since. 

Jesus knows that HE alone will fill the longing of our souls.  So he offers himself as daily bread.  And we keep laboring for the ‘bread’ of this world…the physical things of this life…that He knows will not satisfy deep enough or long enough. 


God’s word to us about where life is found ends as it began—with the tree of life that is watered with the water of life that flows from God’s presence and person. 

Rev. 22:1-5

Here is EVERYTHING we will ever and forever need flowing from God himself

  • water to satisfy whatever thirst we will have in life
  • purity as clear as crystal
  • a never-ending, always flowing supply
  • smack dab in the middle of the road of life that comes from the throne of God
  • the tree of life that straddles this river and provides different crops every month, 12 crops.  (Remember the 12 baskets of leftovers?)  Here is enough variety of celestial food to satisfy every craving of fully redeemed souls. 
  • Never-ending light that makes the light of our sun look dull and makes the need for lights and electricity obsolete. 
  • Face-to-face living with the God of all glory. 
  • Work to do and the authority to do it forever and ever. 


This is our future!

This is also the privilege of our present…if we believe in Jesus day by day, week by week, month by month and year by year. 



So WHERE do you need to take Jesus as the bread of life in your personal experience? 

You may be able to get a clue or answer to that question by looking at 3 different arenas of your life.

1.)    The “negative” emotions of our souls.

  • With what are you most discontent? 
  • What part of your life or what issues of life are causing you the most frustration? 
  • What unmet longings do you need to go to Jesus with and ask Him to meet? 
  • Things like worry, anger, anxiety, lack of peace, conflict, depression, frustration…they can all be simply warning lights on the dashboard of our souls to alert us to the fact that we have not yet learned how to “eat” the life of Jesus in a way that fills our souls.

2.)    The over-exertion of our souls.

  • What has us fatigued about life? 
  • What are we running so hard after that it has stolen the joy of the Lord from us?
  • What “food,” what thing or person or experience have we allowed to deceive us into believing that if we just worked a little harder to get it, we will really be satisfied?

3.)    What is God asking you to “do”, to believe in Jesus about, in order to work for the food that really satisfies the human soul?  In other words, what has God been tugging on your heart about in order to get you into his presence more? 

  • Daily time with Him?
  • More margins in your life so you can be still enough to hear his voice?
  • Less “stuff” so you can have more relationships with people God has placed around you? 


Just yesterday, feasting on Jesus for me looked like my daily reading and running along a country road with God for 45 minutes talking about what I had read.  My reading was in Exodus 24 where Moses is invited by God to “come up” to Him on Mt. Sinai along with 3 priests and 70 elders of Israel.  This is what Exodus 24:9ff says.

            “Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel went up and saw the God of Israel.  Under his feet was something like a pavement made of sapphire, clear as the sky itself.  But God did not raise his hand against these leaders of the Israelites; they saw God, and they ate and drank.” 

            Here’s the spiritual reality:  when we draw near to God himself, the closer we are, the more we “eat and drink” of that which satisfies our souls. 

            In fact, this chapter ends with Moses going up into the cloud of God’s presence on top of the mountain where the glory of the Lord had settled on Mount Sinai.  For 6 days Moses waits for an invitation from God.  And on the 7th day God invites him into what looked like “a consuming fire” to all who watched.  Exodus 24:18 says, “Then Moses entered the cloud as he went on up the mountain.  And he stayed on the mountain forty days and forty nights.”    

When Moses repeated that experience of being with God 40 days and nights after he broke the first set of stone tablets, we are told that he didn’t eat or drink (according to Ex. 34:28) that entire time.  You know how I think he was able to survive that experience?  The very presence of God was his food and drink in a way that all of us who have come to “believe in Jesus Christ” will one day experience.  Contemplate that miracle, that future, for a moment with the help of our worship team. 


MUSIC:  Andrew & Co singing,  Holy (Wedding Day) by The City Harmonic .

COMMUNION:  Mike Mann introduces some truths from his study of "bread" in the Bible.