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.”
Let’s set the scene: Jesus recently fed the 5,000 men (not counting the thousands of woman and children who were likely there as well). The crowds are still asking for a miraculous sign to prove he is the Messiah (John 6:30-31). Many Jews of that day longed for a great leader who would free them from their Roman oppressors and bring social, religious, cultural, and economic revitalization. They also believed the Messiah would be like Moses, who brought daily manna. So, if Jesus could replicate his feeding miracle, then perhaps that would convince them that he is the Messiah who will fix all of their problems.
When Jesus says, “I am the bread,” he is confirming their hopes that he is the Messiah while challenging them to understand that he is something much more than a problem solver. Instead of saying, “I will give you bread,” he says, “I am the bread.” For those who are seeking something from Jesus, he offers himself instead.
One of the most common mistakes we as leaders can make is wanting the gifts of the Giver more than the Giver of the gifts. Perhaps I want God’s help to make a deal go through. Or maybe I want someone to give me the respect I think I deserve. Or perhaps I want God to give me clarity about my future or peace about a major decision. I seek what God gives more than I seek God. This isn’t all wrong, of course. But it can keep me from experiencing God as the greatest gift of all.
C.S. Lewis offers insight in his classic book, The Weight of Glory: “It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
Jesus offers us something greater than easy pleasure. He offers infinite joy in himself when crowds are willing to settle for temporary fixes. We will still turn to Jesus for the gifts he gives. We will still ask for wisdom, guidance, strength, patience, and forgiveness. Yet, if Jesus is the bread, not just the giver of bread, then we will seek him above all.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
Do I want Jesus himself more than what he can do for me?
Is it wrong to seek the gifts Jesus gives? Or should we only seek Jesus?
What increases your desire to know Jesus deeply?
Jesus, I desire many things. When I’m hungry, I yearn for bread. When I’m lost, I seek guidance. When I sin, I want forgiveness. Thank you for all the ways you meet my needs. Indeed, every good gift comes from you. But, may I not be satisfied simply with the gifts you offer. Even as I receive your gifts with gratitude, may I seek you even more. May the greatest desire of my life be to know you intimately and to serve you with all that I am. Give me the courage to lead others to look beyond their temporary longings and to hunger and thirst for you and your love. Amen.