“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.”
(John 6:35 (ESV))
As I prepared for last Sunday’s sermon on Matthew 6:16-18 (Jesus’ instruction on Fasting) something occurred to me that I hadn’t ever considered before. If the purpose of a Fast is that, rather than finding your strength from physical sources (bread, meat, caffeine), you turn to God, the true source of all life, health, and strength, then the one who is Fasting should demonstrate in their strength of character that they have indeed been fed by “every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matt 4:4). Jesus had Fasted 40 days, and was hungry (an understatement), but because of His intimate reliance upon and relationship with the Father, he was able to withstand the temptations of the evil one. He was hungry because of the Fast, but satisfied in God.
I’ve Fasted before, sometimes skipping a meal for prayer, one time even Fasting for a week. I have, on occasion, “given something up” for Lent, usually something that wasn’t good for me anyway, as an act of discipline. The greatest revelation provided through the Fast has always been how self-sufficient I have become. If I’m hungry, I can just run out and get something to eat. If I’m bored, I can grab a snack. If I’m down and depressed, maybe some “comfort food” will help cheer me up. Who really needs God when there’s Bratwurst, Kraut, and a Cold Stout ready and waiting? Fasting reveals just how dependent I have become on food, but more importantly, how little I think I depend upon God.
Don’t get me wrong, I think God gave us brats and kraut, beer and wine, steak and potatoes, fish and chips, spaghetti and marinara… a smorgasbord of succulent sustenance that we may eat and be blessed. The problem arises when we begin to think that this sustenance will satisfy, because it doesn’t. No matter how many times you eat yourself sick, and mumble as they roll you away from the table, “I couldn’t eat another bite…” – you will be back. You will thirst again, you will be hungry again. Until you can find that one thing that really satisfies, your stomach, your life, will always yearn for more.
Jesus said, right after feeding 5,000 people, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” More than anything else, Jesus is the one thing that will satisfy our souls. We scramble around in a maddening rush trying to find that one thing to make us happy, satisfied, content in life – all the while Jesus offers the bread of life, the living water.
Perhaps the reason why we are not satisfied in Christ is that we have never really gone to him to be satisfied. We are content with an occasional nibble of bread and a thimble of wine, when He is ready to bless us so that our cup runneth over and our heart overflows with the river of life. We don’t want to have to trust and depend upon the provision of another, thinking that our independence is some sign of spiritual superiority, when in reality we are starving ourselves of our one source of life. “I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).
Perhaps we just haven’t been reminded enough of how Christ can satisfy our souls. I direct my sermons so that every message leads us to trust and hope in Christ, but how often do I extol the vast treasure and the unsearchable joy that comes from knowing Him? Not often enough.
I finished my sermon on Sunday with a quote from Robert Murray McChayne’s letter to a friend whose soul was troubled:
He is not far from any one of us. He is a powerful and precious Saviour, and happy are they who put their trust in Him. He is the Rose of Sharon, lovely to look upon, having all divine and human excellences meeting in himself; and yet He is the Lily of the Valleys,—meek and lowly in heart, willing to save the vilest. He answers the need of your soul. You are all guilt; He is a fountain to wash you. You are all naked; He has a wedding garment to cover you. You are dead; He is the life. You are all wounds and bruises; He is the Balm of Gilead. His righteousness is broader than your sin; and then He is so free.
Friends, know that in Christ you will find everything your heart desires. Turn to Him. Find in Him your strength. Be satisfied.
Grace and peace,