Over the next several Mondays, the contributing writers at Of Larks will be sharing a series on Jesus' I AM statements in the book of John. This is the second post in the series. Read the introductory post to the new series here.
We are spiritually hungry beings. We crave meaning and purpose. We long for forgiveness and acceptance. We gaze across fields stretching away to wide open skies and tilt our heads up to an abyss of stars, and we ache to reach out to the One who designed this beauty.
We grasp to fill this hunger with accomplishments, experiences, and possessions. We savor recognition, infatuation, and self-worth like cotton candy at life’s carnival, only to be left staggering afterwards with the emptiness and nausea of self-indulgence. At our best, we lay quietly on our beds at night and realize we are starving to be set free from our love of ourselves, starving to sink our teeth into a passion for Someone else. We may reach higher and dedicate ourselves to a cause for a while. We may aim for selfless, sacrificial love. But we are never satiated. Often, we give up the search for sustaining spiritual food and resign ourselves to a life of physically getting by, with an occasional self-indulgent, nausea-inducing treat.
Into this world of spiritually starving beings, Jesus came—clearing the distractions and disgrace out of His Father’s house of prayer (John 2:13-22), compassionately leading the religious outcasts toward worshipping His Father in spirit and truth (John 4:7-29), healing the sick (John 4:46-5:9), and miraculously multiplying bread to feed a vast, physically hungry crowd (John 6:1-14). When that crowd of people became excited with the prospects of Him continuing to satisfy their physical hunger, Jesus took the opportunity to teach them that He had come to satisfy so much more.
Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” They said to Him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst…I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”
John 6:32-35, 48-51
It was a tough crowd that Jesus was addressing. They knew they were physically hungry, but they had convinced themselves that their souls were full. This crowd of Jews knew that “man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord” (Deut. 8:3). They thought they knew the word of the Lord. For hundreds of years the Jews had honored the law, memorized it, expounded it, expanded it, and, unfortunately, that led many to selfishly pride themselves in knowing it. For many, following the word of the Lord had purely become a way of self-acclamation, rather than a response of faith in the coming Messiah. So when the apostle John tells the story of Jesus, he opens the story with a bombshell plot-twist.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him was not any thing made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men… And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth… For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”
John 1:1-4, 14, 17
To the Jews, Jesus called out, “I am the bread of life,” and they knew what He was claiming. God had provided their forefathers bread from heaven for their physical hunger and His word from heaven for their spiritual hunger. They thought that word was the law, yet here stood Jesus claiming Himself to be the bread of life—the Word of God become human, living among them—a living bread so satisfying that they would never feel spiritual hunger again, a meal so nourishing that the soul of the one who partakes would live forever. For most of the Jews, this teaching was too hard. Many of those who had been self-servingly eager to have Jesus fill their bellies were unable to see Him as the only true nourishment for their souls (John 6:60-66).
Far removed now, in our 21st century homes and lives, not many of us are tempted to try to fill our souls with strict obedience to God’s Old Testament law. Yet Christ’s simple, powerful call often slides off our ears and thuds dully on our hearts as we frantically chase our next spiritual junk-food snack.
“I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me shall not hunger.”
Are you hungry? Do you hear Him? Christ will fill you. He will satisfy you completely. But you have to take Him in.
What are you consuming? With all of the worldview-skewing, mind-numbing, soul-deadening information and entertainment crowding its way into your mind every day, have you found time to feed on Jesus?
Have you found a place of quiet contemplation where your hungry soul can savor His grace and truth (John 1:17), His gentleness (Matt. 11:29), and His peace (John 14:27)?
Do you feed your soul on Christ’s call to join Him in a life of self-denial (Matt. 5:40-42, 16:24; Mk. 10:21); a life of humility (Mt. 5:5), mercy (Mt. 5:7), and peacemaking (Mt. 5:9); a life of seeking His Kingdom first (Mt. 6:33); a life built on Him (Mt. 7:24-27)?
- Believe in Him (John 6:29) and find truth (John 1:17, 14:6).
- Receive Him and find your identity as a child of God (John 1:12-13).
- Hear His life-giving words (John 6:63).
- Lay down your life to follow Him (Matt 16:24-25).
- Hold nothing back (Matt. 19:21).
- Stop running after the things you think you need and run head-long after Him, and you will find that He provides what you need (Matt 6:25-33).
- Learn from Him (Matt. 11:29).
- Live in Him, and you will find that out of your life comes meaningful, purposeful things as naturally as fruit grows on a well-nourished vine (John 15:4-5).
Let His Spirit live in you and find your life filled with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self control (Gal. 5:22-23).
If your spirit is nauseous from consuming only the law, if you’re ill from attempting to feed your spirit on self-gratification, or if your heart has simply grown dull from spiritual malnourishment, turn to Jesus. He is the Word of God made human. He is the Bread of Life. Feast on Him. Whoever comes to Him will never be hungry again.