We recently had lunch at Thurman’s in German Village in Columbus. They are known for their specialty hamburgers. I ordered a bacon cheeseburger. When our waiter brought our meals to us I couldn’t believe how huge the burger was. It must have stood five inches high on my plate. The waiter said it had ¾ pound of hamburger in it. It tasted wonderful and although we had to wait about 30 minutes it was worth the wait.
That sandwich was the same as three Quarter Pounders at MacDonalds’. My stomach was so full I could barely walk and I couldn’t eat for two days. But eventually I became hungry again and by Sunday evening I was ready for a chicken dinner. We can’t live without food and we Americans really enjoy a quality meal. However, whether we dine at a four-star restaurant or some fast food place, we eventually get hungry again because we are never satisfied.
We need to eat to survive, but here in John, Jesus, is telling the people by the Sea of Galilee something quite different. He was saying that food may fill their stomachs but it will never fill their souls. He had just fed 5,000 folks with five loaves of bread and two fish. However, they were still hungry and followed after him. Jesus had satisfied their hunger for food but now he tells them what they really need is food for their souls.
Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” What does Jesus mean by bread of life? How can he satisfy our hunger and our thirst?
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When I ate that huge cheeseburger I thought, “Why did I do that to myself? If I continue to eat like that I will look like the Pillsbury Dough Man. Why didn’t I just order a salad?” Like most Americans I have a passion for food. I enjoy fine dining and quality food. In our society we drive great distances to eat at our favorite restaurants. We spend good money. We want a good atmosphere, good service and we are willing (in most cases) to wait in line to eat what we want. Let’s be honest, we are very passionate when it comes to food.
I believe that what Jesus was trying to do was to get his listeners to be passionate about matters of faith. He wants us to desire food for the soul in the way we desire food for our stomachs. Have you ever had a passion for something or some goal? To what extreme were you willing to go to reach your dream?
In October, 1958, Legson Kayira, of Nyasaland, Africa, was determined to get a college education in America. With a five day supply of food, a small ax for protection, a blanket, a Bible and a copy of Pilgrim’s Progress, Legson set out for Cairo. He would have to journey 3,000 miles from his tribal village across East Africa in order to board a ship to America.
Legson was determined to get an education. His hero was Abraham Lincoln and he wanted to be like Booker T. Washington, a great reformer and author. Legson wanted to serve humankind and make a difference in the world. Legson had no money and had no idea what college he would attend, even if he made it to the states.
But, Legson had a passion to pursue his dream of getting an education. Although he was impoverished, he had been given many books from missionaries which inspired him to seek his goal. He started out on his journey and after 5 days he had covered only 25 miles and was already out of food. Yet, to turn back was to give up. He continued on. Sometimes he walked with strangers but he mostly walked alone. He passed through many villages, some friendly and some not. He occasionally found work and shelter but frequently slept under the stars. When a fever struck him he was attended to by strangers. He became discouraged and turned to his two books which renewed his faith.
Legson continued his journey and after fifteen months he reached Kampala, Uganda. He was one third of the way to Cairo. There he remained for six months working odd jobs and spending his spare time in the library. He was now growing stronger and wiser, especially in the ways of survival. In his library readings he learned about Skagit Valley College, in Mount Vernon, Washington. He wrote to the dean explaining his situation. He wrote to other colleges too, in case Skagit did not reply. But the dean at Skagit Valley College was impressed with Legson’s determination and offered him a full scholarship plus a job.
Still more obstacles stood in his way. He would have to acquire a Visa and Passport plus verification of his birth. He relied on the missionaries in his village who helped to push the paperwork through the necessary channels. Legson, undeterred by the obstacles pushed on toward Cairo, believing that somehow he would raise the money for passage to the states. He was so confident he spent the last of his money on a pair of shoes, so he wouldn’t have to enter college barefoot.
Months passed and word of his courageous journey spread. He reached Khartoum, penniless and exhausted but he was becoming a legend back in Mount Vernon, Washington where students raised enough money for air fare. In December of 1960, over two years after beginning his journey, Legson arrived at Skagit Valley College. All he had was his treasured two books. Legson graduated from Skagit but his passion to go further stayed with him. He became a professor of political science at Cambridge University in England and a well known author. (from Unstoppable, by Cynthia Kersey)
To understand Jesus as the bread of life is to be passionate about our faith. It is to seek after his word and to follow his teachings. To “come to him” means we may have to rearrange our lives and shift some of our priorities. To come to Jesus means we must leave something behind. To be persons of passion means we make sacrifices and we truly have an appetite for the “bread of life.”
Secondly, to understand Jesus as the bread of life is to trust. Trust involves risk. Trust involves behavior that causes us to act in extraordinary ways. Imagine the trust that Legson must have had as he journeyed across Africa. Following is a story that might help to explain what it means to trust.
Far away in a lonely desert stands a water pump in the sand. You are a solitary traveler, and your canteen is empty and you come upon that pump. Tied to it is a hand written sign put there by some pilgrim. The sign reads; “I have buried a bottle of water to prime the pump. Don’t drink any of it. Pour in half of it to wet the leather. Wait, and then pour in the rest. Then pump. The well has never gone dry, but the pump must be primed to bring the water up. Have faith, believe. When you are through drawing water, fill the bottle and bury it in the sand for the next traveler.”
Having come upon this pump in the desert with this sign and being out of water, what would you do? Would you dig the water bottle from the sand and drink from it, or will you believe and dare to trust and pour that water into the rusty pump? When you trust, you take a risk, both for yourself and for the next person who will pass that way.
To accept the life giving bread of Jesus is to trust in God. It means we have the faith that God will provide all we need. It also means that by trusting in God we will be satisfied.
I probably should have passed on that cheeseburger. It seems that whenever I indulge in fattening food I feel guilty. Although a low-carb, fat free, diet would be good for me this isn’t what Jesus was promoting. To receive the “Bread of Life” is to receive the forgiveness Jesus gives. It means to live a guilt free life. It means to live in the grace of God.
Perhaps you have made some decisions in your life that have done you more harm than good. Perhaps you have had some wonderful dreams or goals but you gave up because you were afraid or the odds seemed to great. Perhaps your faith is weak and to follow after the ways of Jesus seems impossible. Forgiveness enables you to move forward. Forgiveness makes it possible to erase the past and begin again.
Today, we receive the life giving bread of Jesus from this table. May we be passionate about our faith. May we trust in God and may we truly accept the forgiveness Christ gives.