Don't spend your life chasing food that spoils and rots. Instead, seek the food that lasts into all ages and comes from the Son of Man, the One on whom the Father has placed his seal (John 6:27 The Voice). ... I AM the bread that gives life. If you come to my table and eat, you will never go hungry. Believe in me, and you will never go thirsty (John 6:35). ... I AM the bread that gives life (John 6:48). ... I AM the living bread that has come down from heaven to rescue those who eat it. Anyone who eats this bread will live forever. The bread that I will give breathes life into the cosmos. This bread is my flesh (John 6:51).
I tell you the truth; unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you will not know life (John 6:53)
Have you ever been on a cruise ship? Let me warn you, most folks who take a cruise gain 6-8 pounds. That, in and of itself, should tell you something. Being overweight myself, I recognize that crazed look when folks sit down at a delicious meal and enjoy it overmuch. Yet on a cruise, some folks go berserk — they eat too much, they eat too often, and they can't wait to eat again.
The whole thing is more than a little scary and really sad. After watching this process for a while, and trying to analyze it in myself, I've become convicted that most of these folks are hungry for something much more substantial than food. Far more than wanting to sample delicious delicacies, the issue is more about amounts and frequencies — none of which really satisfies their hunger.
Yet if we are honest, there are all sorts of addictive pleasure sources that capture our hearts and divert our focus from Kingdom living. We chase after these false gods hoping they will give us a brief taste of real life — something that brings us joy, makes us feel significant, and gives us a sense of power over our lives.
We chase after these things much like the dog that chases his own tail. The cycle of overstuffing our hunger doesn't fill us and the voluminous amounts of food we ingest doesn't satisfy us. We hunger for something altogether different. Yet, because so much of what passes for Christianity is cheap, sappy, and afraid to call for real life change, we go away unchallenged. So many churches seem to want our attendance more than they want to call us to full discipleship. They promise us an undemanding savior when what we need is Jesus as both our Savior and our Lord (Acts 2:36).
Jesus comes with an incredible claim:
"I AM. The hunger that you try to fill with food, sex, drugs, status, work, wealth, shopping... can only be satiated by me. That hunger is real. That hunger speaks to your genuine longing for something more than a full belly, a fat bank account, and an endless supply of brew. You are hungry for God. You are hungry for me. I AM the only bread that can truly satisfy, for I AM God come down to live with you and hear your voice and know your hunger and lead you home."
Jesus challenged them to do more than eat bread and think that it will magically fill them.
"You've got to ingest me — eat my flesh and drink my blood. For I AM the true bread that came down from heaven. You've got to take me in — let me fill all of your life, not just your bellies. And when you do, you will find real life God wants you to experience."
Unfortunately, the folks Jesus tried to reach in his day were a whole lot like you and me. They were more focused on having a miraculous picnic than taking in Jesus to be Lord of all of their life. They wanted a taste without a commitment. They wanted a religious quick fix messiah rather than letting Jesus reign in their hearts as both Savior and Lord.
So many of them took Jesus' words literally: "You're crazy! We're not cannibals. This is ridiculous!" And they got mad and left him for good, choosing to hope for some kind of special bread to tickle their latest hunger pangs and their hopes for a miraculous leader (John 6:66).
While Jesus' closest followers didn't understand all that Jesus meant when he said these words, they did get the major point:
Jesus (to the twelve): Do you want to walk away, too?
Simon Peter: Lord, if we were to go, whom would we follow? You give the words that give everlasting life. We believe and recognize that You are the Holy One sent by God (John 6:67-68).
I'd like to think that I would have joined Peter in saying these words, but I'm not sure. I catch myself looking for the quick fix. I want everything to be easy to understand and quick to happen. I catch myself looking for miraculous picnics — a little bread and wine during communion — rather than yielding my life to the words and example of Jesus — eating his flesh and drinking his blood.
Our hunger, the real hunger we long to fill, cannot be filled by anyone or anything or any amount of the things we chase — including religion and cheap discipleship. These things leave us with a fleeting sense of fullness. Afterwards, our hunger is more intense, our emptiness more hollow, and our darkness more enveloping. Deep down inside us, we know that our hunger is for what only Jesus can fill. We know that we can only be full when we invite Jesus in to be Lord of all of who we are.
So Jesus comes to us — to you and to me — and reminds us once again that he is the great I AM — God come to earth to fill our emptiness, light up our darkness, and satisfy our hunger. So Jesus calls us to follow him as Lord and discover him as our fullness. We won't get there all at once. It took the disciples a long time, but to their credit, they recognized early on that there was something different, something real, something intensely satisfying in Jesus that could be found nowhere else.