The Bread That Satisfies
This morning I’m going to go out on a limb and talk about a dangerous subject: I’m going to talk about food. Food is a dangerous subject because it’s been awhile since you had breakfast, and it’ll soon be time for lunch. If I’m not careful, your stomach might start speaking louder than the sermon.
Many years ago a friend of mine preached a homecoming service for me, and asked one of the guys cooking chicken outside to come to the door and wave to him when the meal was done so he’d know when to wrap up. He and I almost lost it when we see an arm slide through the doors at the back of the sanctuary, waving a chicken leg! Needless to say, the sermon was soon over.
Hunger can be a powerful motivator. Advertisers know if they can stir up your appetite, they’ve made their sale. If you’ve ever tried to diet, you can’t watch TV, because almost every commercial involves close-up shots of apple pie, juicy steaks, or some other fattening food. You can cut a lot of corners in your budget, but it’s not too often we skimp on the groceries.
But let’s steer clear of the subject of physical hunger and focus on a different kind of hunger this morning—the hunger of our souls. Just as our physical body hungers for food, our soul has its own hungers, its own desires for satisfaction and fulfillment. What do our hearts really hunger for? How do we satisfy the appetite of our souls? This is what I want to talk about this morning as we look into what the Bible says about the Bread that Satisfies our souls. The answer comes to us from the lips of Jesus Christ Himself found in John 6:35.
Jesus’ statement implies a very important truth about human nature:
I. EVERYBODY HAS A HUNGRY HEART
A minister was conducting an altar call at the end of his sermon, asking for the lost to come to Christ, as well as inviting those with other requests, to come forward. The entire congregation was surprised to see the preacher’s three-year-old daughter get up and make her way forward. She waited patiently while the others ahead of her made a request. When his daughter’s turn comes, the pastor leans down and asked, “What is your request, sweetheart?” She whispered, "Can we go to McDonald’s after church?" [i] This little girl was a little confused about physical and spiritual needs. But Jesus makes a direct connection here between physical and spiritual hunger. At the beginning of this chapter in vs. 1-14, the Bible tells us Jesus feeds 5000 people with only 5 barley loaves and two fish. V. 13 says after everyone has their fill, there are still 12 baskets of bread left over. This is a lot of food for folks in those days that lived on the brink of starvation. So it’s not surprising in vs. 24-25 this hungry crowd meets Jesus on the opposite shore looking for another miracle meal. But Jesus warns them in vs. 26-27(read). He says You don’t realize you have a deeper, more urgent hunger inside that physical food won’t satisfy. Put your energy and effort into seeking a way to satisfy the hunger in your souls! What Jesus says to these people He says to you and I this morning: everybody has a hungry heart. In a land of plenty of food in the pantry, there is a hunger for the food which endures for everlasting life (v. 27.)=the food which nourishes your soul--the food that feeds the part of you that will live forever. Everybody has a hungry heart. Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. once wrote, “Everybody basically has an empty hole inside of them that they try to fill with money, drugs, alcohol, power—and none of the material stuff works.”[ii]
At the back of our addictions is a hungry heart. At the back of many relationships is a hungry heart, a hope that the right relationship will make us happy. If the real truth were known, it’s a hungry heart that drives many people to accumulate money and wealth, drives them to seek fame and a name for themselves, drives people to find some way to settle this nagging desire to be happy and satisfied in life. Just when you think you’ve finally got it, you realize: no, this isn’t it. All of us hunger and thirst for something that will last, that will satisfy us not for a day, or a year, but for good. As surely as God created your body with an appetite for food, God created your soul with an appetite for something more. I wonder if you’re sitting here this morning and your heart is hungry? Maybe your heart is hungry for love, or hungry for purpose and meaning in life. Perhaps your heart is hungry to know God, to know you are forgiven for your sins, hungry to be at peace.
Don’t try and suppress that hunger. Don’t settle for the junk food this world tries to offer you. This world can offer many spiritual appetite suppressants, but don’t fall for them. A hungry heart is a sign of a healthy spiritual appetite. Just as physical hunger drives you to eat physical food, so the hunger of your heart can drive you to the real food that will fully satisfy your soul.
But the next question is: if the sin or the things of the world cannot satisfy the hunger in your heart, what can? Jesus This passage declares to us
II. JESUS IS WHAT YOU ARE HUNGRY FOR
There are those who don’t recognize a good meal when they see it.
A mountaineer went to Boston and entered a seafood restaurant. “Bring me the best meal you have,” he tells the waiter. The waiter brings a bowl of clam chowder. The hillbilly eyes it suspiciously but eats it. When they bring him a shredded cabbage salad, he doesn’t look happy, but he eats it, too. Finally, the waiter brings in the main course, a fine New England broiled lobster. The man stares at it a moment, then jumps to his feet and cries:” I drunk your dishwater and I et your weeds, but I’m not about to eat no big red bug! ”[iii]
Sometimes we don’t recognize what we’re really hungry for.
This crowd is hungry for more bread, so in vs. 30-31 they ask Jesus to do an encore of Moses’ miracle. If You’re a prophet, rain down bread from heaven like Moses did! Jesus replies in vs. 32-33 Let’s get something straight —Moses didn’t feed you the manna—My Father in heaven did. Now He has better bread for you: the Bread of Life. Now the crowd eagerly asks in vs. 34, Lord, give us God’s Bread.
I can imagine Jesus smiling, standing before them and shocking them all when He declares I am the Bread of Life.
A sea of blank faces. Everybody looks at each other with confused expressions. Jesus continues: That’s right, I came down from God in heaven, just as the manna fell in the wilderness. The big difference is all your ancestors ate the manna, and they died; but any of you Who eat the Bread of Life- Me- you won’t die! You’ll live forever!
Some of them start to sneer- Who does this Guy think He is? He didn’t come down out of heaven- He comes from Nazareth, from the home of Joseph and Mary!
It gets better as Jesus continues in vs. 53-58: You all need to eat My Flesh and drink My Blood if you want to live forever! Now if you don’t think that blew their minds, you haven’t been paying attention. Eat His flesh? Drink His blood? Does He think we’re cannibals? Even the disciples admit in vs. 60 (read.) That is an understatement. What is Jesus saying?
First of all, He’s obviously using symbolic language. He is not saying He literally is a loaf of bread, or that you have to literally devour His skin and drink His blood to be saved.
Also, Jesus is not referring to the Lord’s Supper here. Later on when He institutes that ordinance, He uses real food and real drink, not His own flesh and blood.
So what is Jesus saying? He is comparing eating to believing, and food to Himself. He is saying Believe in Me, and your soul will be satisfied. In other words He is what your soul is hungry for.
Many of them didn’t buy it, just as many of us don’t buy it. “Are you kidding me? I’m not hungry for Jesus.” But is that really true?
“I’m not hungry for Jesus—I’m just hungry for somebody to really love me.”
1 Jn 4:19 We love Him because He first loved us.
Jesus Christ loves you like nobody else ever has or ever will. He loves you not only at your best, but at your worst. Your own parents, your husband/wife, boyfriend/girlfriend will never love you as much as He does. The truth is you will never know how to give love or receive love until you receive Jesus’ love for you, and give your heart to love Him.
“I’m not hungry for Jesus—I’m hungry for peace”
Jn 14:27 Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.
Jesus is the only true Source of peace. Only He can give you peace with God. Only He can calm the storms of worry and fear that trouble your heart. You will never experience true, lasting peace apart from Jesus.
“I’m not hungry for Jesus—I just need a little hope.”
1 Ti 1:1 …the Lord Jesus Christ, our hope
Jesus is our only hope, not only of heaven, but of living in this present world. The only reason we can know we will make it through whatever happens in life is because of Him. Whether it’s love, peace, hope, or whatever else your soul hungers for, Jesus is what you’re really hungry for. This is why He says I am the Bread of Life—eternal, abundant life.
Which brings us to one more really important thing to remember about your hungry heart:
III. JESUS CHRIST WILL FULLY SATISFY THE HUNGER OF YOUR HEART
Several years ago on our anniversary, I took my wife on a cruise in Nashville on the General Jackson steamboat. It was not a cheap date. For the most part it was worth the money except for one thing: the food. For supper, they served a plate that contained a 3 inch square of some unidentifiable meat (with something that looked like a leg sticking up in the middle), a couple of spoonfuls of green vegetables, a small glass of tea, and (I’m not exaggerating!) a 2 inch square desert. The show was great, but after we left the boat, we had to stop and get us some more food!
Have you ever had this kind of meal—one that just wasn’t very satisfying? Jesus makes An amazing promise here about the Bread of Life: He who comes to Me shall never hunger and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.
William Barclay observes here is at the same time one of the greatest claims and one of the greatest offers of Jesus Christ.[iv]
But here’s the clincher: it’s only great if it’s true. How can these words really be true?
Again, it’s obvious Jesus is speaking symbolically here. He’s not promising if you believe in Him you will never need to eat again, or drink again. He’s not promising perpetual physical nourishment.
Nor is Jesus promising the satisfaction of a problem-free or pain free life. In fact, living for Christ usually involves more difficulty, opposition, and suffering. The life of an apprentice to the Lord Jesus is not an easy one in this world.
What Jesus promises us is a satisfied soul, a soul that is full of God’s love, full of God’s joy, full of God’s peace. He puts it this way in
John 10:10 …I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.
Jesus Christ came to give you full life-not to empty your life of everything good. At the center of who you are, Jesus says, you can be satisfied no matter how much or how little you have, no matter how pleasant or unpleasant your situation, you can have a deep satisfaction and contentment like nothing else can give. Jesus is saying I will fully satisfy your soul.
But this satisfaction is conditional. Two key phrases describe the person who experiences satisfaction for their hunger: He who is coming to Me…He Who is believing in Me… Both these verbs describe continual action, a constant coming to Him, a persistent believing in Him.
Coming to the table once doesn’t mean you don’t need to come again. Eating is something you do regularly, not just once and then your hunger is satisfied forever.
In order to experience the full satisfaction of the Bread of Life, you have to keep coming to Christ—keep following Him. You have to not only trust Him, but continue trusting Him. You don’t have to get saved over and over---that only happens once. But you must follow Jesus—by loving Him, by obeying Him---and you must keep trusting Him in all things if you want to keep a satisfied soul.
I think this may be why you see people who claim to know Jesus, but they don’t seem very satisfied with Him. Some of them know a lot of Bible facts, but they’ve never come to Jesus and believed in Him. Some of them have quit trusting Him, and then they wonder why Jesus just doesn’t seem to be enough anymore. But then there are folks like Mabel.
Mabel was a real person, though by now she’s probably gone on to be with the Lord. I read the story of how a young preacher met Mabel in a nursing home, when she was 89 years old. Her face was contorted by cancer, she was blind, nearly deaf, and nobody had come to visit her for many years. But this young preacher discovered this woman was a very special lady.
She grew up the only daughter of a farmer. When her parents died in 1950, she was placed in a convalescent home. She lived for 25 years here, with roommates who didn’t know who they were, who soiled their beds daily, who screamed out constantly during day and night.
This young preacher came to visit Mabel and read her the Bible. Many times he would pause in his reading, and she would recite the rest of the passage from memory. He told how she never spoke of loneliness or pain, except for times when they would sing hymns together and she would put a particular stress on a certain word or verse.
One day when he came to visit Mabel, he asked her a question. “Mabel, what do you think about when you lay here all day?” She replied, “I think about my Jesus.” The preacher thought to himself, sometimes I have trouble thinking about Jesus for an hour, and here Mabel thinks about Him all day!
After a pause he asked, “Mabel, what do you think about Jesus?”
She replied, “I think about how good He’s been to me. He’s been awfully good to me in my life, you know…I’m the kind who’s mostly satisfied. Lots of folks wouldn’t care much for what I think. Lots of folks would think I’m kind of old-fashioned. But I don’t care. I’d rather have Jesus. He’s all the world to me.” Then Mabel began to softly sing:
Jesus is all the world to me, My life, my joy, my all
He is my strength from day to day, without Him I would fall,
When I am sad to Him I go, no other One can cheer me so,
When I am sad, He makes me glad, He’s my Friend.
Tom Schmidt, who was Mabel’s young pastor friend, writes:
This is not fiction. As incredible as it may seem, a human being really lived like this. I know. I knew her. How did she do it?
You know, don’t you? Mabel feasted on the Bread of Life- the Bread that satisfied the hunger of her soul.
If you and I live long enough, we will be where Mabel was. But you don’t have to be elderly and in a nursing home to have a hungry heart. I am sure many of you sitting here in this sanctuary have a soul that is longing for satisfaction.
My friend, if your soul is hungry this morning, Jesus is the Bread you need that will fully satisfy your soul. Won’t you come to Him- whether it’s the 1st time or the 101st time- and pray, “Jesus, My soul is hungry for You today. Would you come and fill me?” If you come to Him and trust in Him I promise- you won’t be disappointed. You will be satisfied.
[i] Ellen Hammonds in James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale
[ii]More Real Stories for the Soul, electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000), 133.
[iii]Msgr. Arthur Tonne, Jokes Priests Can Tell, vol. 6 Streiker, Lowell D.
[iv]Barton, Bruce B. John. Life application Bible commentary, Page 133. Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale House