John 6:35,41-51 is part of the lengthy “bread of life” discourse in which Jesus shows that he is the only way we can satisfy the hunger we have in our souls. Hunger is a powerful motivator. When we are physically hungry, we get something to eat. When we are spiritually hungry, we look for something to satisfy it. Just like there is physical food that can best be described as junk food, there is also spiritual food that can also be described as junk food.
Take, for example, some TV evangelists. Several years ago I heard a comedy routine by the comedian, actor, and musician Steve Martin. He was doing his imitation of an evangelist. At one point he said, “The other day I talked to God, and He promised me that He would not talk to any other TV preachers. So if you hear any of these other TV preachers saying they talked to God, do not send them the $1.50 for their polyester prayer handkerchief!”
We all suffer from soul hunger. We all hunger for something more in life. Some people try to satisfy their spiritual hunger through beauty, power, prestige, sex, drugs, alcohol, or other worldly means. The world’s way is the way to sorrow and despair. You only have to consider what happened to people such as Michael Jackson, Amy Winehouse, Whitney Houston, Jimmy Swaggart, Jim Bakker, and John Belushi to see what happens when people try to satisfy spiritual hunger by worldly means. Jim Bakker lost his ministry and was sent to prison, Jimmy Swaggart lost his ministry in disgrace for several years (although it has since rebounded) and the others died from drug and/or alcohol abuse.
On the other hand, Jesus offers to fill us with his love. Only he can save our souls, change our tomorrows, and grant us peace and joy for today. Jesus takes the initiative in our salvation, even if we confess him as our Lord and Saviour. He creates a longing within us. His love and presence and the difficulties he allows to enter into our lives force us to open up to him. Jesus takes the initiative and we choose to cooperate with him. That is the very definition of the Christian life.
God works in us to create spiritual hunger because he loves us and wants us to get to know him and love him in return. He uses the spiritual hunger to convict us of our sin and convince us to turn to him.
There are parallels between the manna God gave to the Israelites in the desert and Jesus. The manna came at night, and Jesus comes into our spiritual darkness. Manna was God’s gift to the Israelites, and Jesus is God’s gift to us. All we have to do is claim it for ourselves, and we will never be spiritually hungry again. The manna from heaven was associated in the minds of the Jews with the giving of divine teaching, and Jesus sees his own teaching as being just as essential as our daily bread.
We need to receive Jesus’ spiritual food on a regular basis, just like the Israelites needed to receive the manna and quail from God every day. Without it, we will always be spiritually hungry. We can’t get enough spiritual food by going to church only at Christmas or Easter or on special occasions such as weddings, funerals, baptisms, or confirmations. Our spiritual hunger can only be satisfied by regularly studying God’s Word and applying it to our lives. This means regular attendance at Sunday worship services.
In order to live with Christ, we have to die to our worldly way of life and take up his life-a life of forgiveness, goodness, trust and service. If we are grounded in Christ’s unconditional love, we are free to lead like Jesus and love and serve others. It will not be easy, but God has drawn us to faith in him, and that faith will sustain us.
- Stanley, C.F.; The Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible, NASB (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc.; 2009)
- The Rev. Ken Klaus, “Bread of Life”. Retrieved from www.lhm.org
- Steve Arterburn, “Soul Hunger”. Retrieved from Christianity.firstname.lastname@example.org
- Online Devotional-Day 167. Retrieved from www.leadlikejesus.com
- Billy Graham, “How Do I Begin to Give God a Chance?” Retrieved from www.arcamax.com/news/billygraham/s-533004-396571
- Billy Graham, “Who or What is the Holy Spirit?” Retrieved from www.arcamax.com/news/billygraham/s-841447-120453
- Dr. Ed Young, “A Daily Word”Retrieved from Christianity.email@example.com
- Jude Siciliano, O.P., “First Impressions, 19th Sunday (B)”. Retrieved from www.preacherexchange.org.
- Matthew Henry Concise Commentary. Part of Lessonmaker Bible software package.
- John Kenrick, O.P., “Do Not Waver, Hold Fast”. Retrieved from http://torch.op.org/preaching_sermon_item.php?sermon=5697