What Are We Hungry For?
24 So when the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum looking for Jesus. 25 When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?”
26 Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. 27 Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal.”
28 Then they said to him, “What must we do to perform the works of God?”
29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”
30 So they said to him, “What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing? 31 Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”
32 Then Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
34 They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”
35 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.
When I was a senior in college, I took my church’s high school student on a week-long mission trip to Louisville. This was a little bit different from the mission trips our youth have run, as we had to make all of our own meals, plan our fun activities, create our own directions, figure out our own worship. It was a great week, but for myself and the other adult leader, it was absolutely exhausting. There was never a time we weren’t on.
So, after the five-hour drive back to Kent, Ohio, in a conversion van full of very loud and caffeinated high school boys, I gave a big sigh of relief, and then I planned out my next two days. I would do nothing except sit on the couch, eat pizza, and watch my favorite tv shows. This was before Netflix, so I had to go to the nearest Family Video and grabbed a ton of DVDs of the Office, the Wire, and the West Wing. And then I swung by Hungry Howie’s and grabbed two huge pizzas with coke and chips (you need some sort of vegetable). And I thought I was set. I was so looking forward to these next 48 hours. It was going to be awesome.
But something interesting happened about 4 hours in. My stomach was more than full. I had enough shows to last me a week. I had the place to myself and a comfortable spot on the couch. But something was missing. I had everything around me that I should have had to be happy, and yet after a few hours of all of this, I was missing something. Not more pizza. Not more chips. Not more coke. I would have burst with any more than that. And then I realized something.
Shoot. I missed those youth. Even those boys who sang way too loud to every song, farted at night, and never listened to directions the first time. I missed the van ride, as crazy as it was, with the dancing and singing, and sharing stories, and lots of laughter. I missed our work together, even the hard days of stacking box after box in a warehouse for Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, and the food kitchen where we had to clean dishes upon dishes. I missed the worship service we went to together at a black Baptist church downtown, even though it went about an hour longer than I was used to. I missed the times we prayed together and took time to read scripture. I missed our foot washing on Thursday night. I missed using my hands and my feet, hearing stories of transformation, and serving as a community of adults and youth. I missed these things, and no amount of Hungry Howie’s or West Wing or lying on the couch was going to fill that part of me.
That weekend, I needed rest. We all need rest. But I also realized that weekend that I needed more from life too. That I had tasted something good and beautiful and fulfilling that week, and I knew that I was never going to be fully satisfied without it again, no matter how much pizza or tv I got.
We live in a world that sells us on so many things, telling us that it will make us happy. If you just get these nice new clothes then everything about you will change. If you just move into this much more expensive neighborhood, then all your hopes will be fulfilled. If you just try this diet out, or go on this vacation, or drive this car, then you will know nothing but happiness. We’ve heard those voices. And we’ve gone after those items and goods and experiences that we’ve been told will make us happy forever.
But none of it has made us fulfilled. None of it lasts forever. We are still hungry for far, far more.
I am curious what you are hungry for. Maybe it’s a hunger for purpose, for knowing that you were made for a reason, knowing that you have gifts and talents and a place to use them. Maybe you are hungry for love and welcome. You are hungering to have a real relationship with people (not just romantic, but a connection with something and someone greater than yourself). Maybe you are hungry to discover – discover more about yourself, more about this world, more about the one who made it. Maybe you are hungry to get an answer to the question, “Does God really love me? Am I really worthy of love? Is there a God who really loves us and hears us and knows us and will be with us? Maybe you are hungering for forgiveness and transformation, to let go of something from your past, and to be able to be more than you are today.
For many of us, watching the news and reading the paper, we are hungry for justice in our world. We are hungry for lives to matter, for families to be reconnected, for the sick to be healed, the poor to be uplifted, the alien welcomed in. We are hungry for hope and good news. We are all hungry for a world in which I am transformed into a better person, and we all are transformed into a better community and people.
That is what Jesus came to offer. Designer jeans, vacation planning, a wealthy neighborhood, becoming more famous – Jesus can’t help with those things. Because those aren’t the things that will last. That isn’t the true bread that we are seeking and will fulfill us. That’s just some fluff filled with air.
What Jesus can offer is new life in him. What he can offer is a purpose and a calling. What he can offer is forgiveness and grace and resurrection and everlasting life. What he can offer is radical hospitality and love that claims every part of our souls. What he can offer is a new kingdom where the poor are lifted up, the lame walk, the blind see, the hungry are fed, families are made whole, and every person is valued. What he can offer is be with us as we strive and fail and strive again for justice and peace and connection and wholeness in our world today. What he can offer is the message that yes, you are worthy of love. You are so worthy of it, that Jesus would, and did, anything for you. What Jesus can offer you is to discover who you are, who you were made to be, and who it is that you made you so wonderfully. What Jesus is offering is bread for today, but also bread that will be with you tomorrow and the day after that and the day after that.
What Jesus is offering is not something that can be sold. It doesn’t have a great jingle. There’s no flashy sales pitch. Instead, it’s “Pick up your cross and deny yourself.” It’s “love your enemy and give your second cloak.” It’s “forgive 7 times 77 times” and look at the “log in your own eye before judging your neighbor.” What Jesus is offering is not fast or easy or cheap. But it is what we are so hungry for. It is what will fulfill us. It is what will give us peace.
And all it costs us is following him. All it means is getting off that couch, putting away that pizza, and seeking something more in this world. Knowing that God has more for you.