11th Sunday after Pentecost – B (Proper 13) LSB #589
Text – John 6:26
Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.”
EATING YOUR FILL
“The young man became so hungry that even the pods he was feeding the pigs looked good to him. But no one gave him anything.” (Luke 15:16 NLT) That line, from a well-known parable of Jesus, is something few of us have experienced. Yet, it was this man’s tremendous hunger that finally caused him to turn away from the rebellious attitude in his heart.
His need for food spurred him to turn back to the father who once loved him. He thought, maybe his father would accept him back as a servant, because even the servants ate better than this prodigal son was now eating… Has anything ever caused you to change your mind, to turn around, to plot a new course?
In the 6th chapter of John’s Gospel, Jesus is pleading with the crowds to change course, & in world history that’s nothing new. In the 9th verse of Genesis 3, “…the Lord God called to the man & said to him, ‘Where are you?’” (ESV) You see, Adam & Eve were headed in a totally unhealthy direction, & their Creator, out of love, was calling them to change course.
In what areas of life would it be healthy for you to change course? Jesus challenged the people searching for Him because they sought food instead of forgiveness. While it’s true that we need food & water, what we want are cookies & ice cream. While it’s true that we need forgiveness, what we want is to have our sins swept under the rug rather than forgiven.
Forgiveness is not free. If someone hurts you, whether physically, emotionally or spiritually, when you honestly forgive them, you are absorbing the price through your pain. To forgive the sins of the whole world, Jesus had to pay the price. It meant excruciating pain – physically as He was nailed to the cross, emotionally as His own people shouted, “Crucify Him,” & spiritually as His Father in heaven abandoned Him. Jesus suffered hell all alone. With forgiveness, the person causing the pain does not pay the price. It is paid by someone else for them. God the Father sent His only Son to pay that price for you.
And that’s why Jesus has the right to call you to a course correction: “Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you.” (John 6:27a ESV) Jesus told Pontius Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world.” In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus went into more detail:
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth & rust destroy & where thieves break in & steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys & where thieves do not break in & steal.” (6:19-20 ESV)
Jesus is consistent in His teaching that, if we’ve been making our lives all about material things, we need to change course. The culture around us, of which we are part, teaches that to be needy is bad. We’ve been programmed to believe that our need is the problem & whatever fills that need is the solution. The culture says, “All people should be eating their fill.”
The Greek word that Jesus spoke could be used when speaking of cattle that have been fattened for the market – “you ate your fill of the loaves.” Jesus knew that’s why they came searching for Him. They wanted their needs met on their own terms. They weren’t the least bit interested in Jesus’ knowledge of the danger they were in, nor in His love for them.
It might not be steak & lobster, it might be mac & cheese, but most Americans can eat their fill whenever they like. They are not searching for anything more than the material things of life. It seems to be one reason for our nation’s lack of interest today in the Church. The life of most Americans is saturated with stuff. Giving people more of they want is a dead end. “It’s the economy, stupid!” is a more contemporary line, yet it describes the same problem Jesus saw: “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.”
The OT reading was about Israel’s journey in the wilderness – 40 years of traveling in circles, all the time carried along by Christ. The manna they were given to eat pointed to the coming of Jesus, the Bread of Life. So at the end of today’s Gospel reading Jesus declares:
“I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, & whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” Can you believe in Jesus even in the struggles of your broken, sinful lives? Can you believe enough so you will actually engage the struggle, every day, to stop ‘chasing’ after earthly food? PAUSE
The manna in the wilderness was given to living people to keep them alive. The Bread of Life gives life to people who are dead so they may live. That is the food God’s children are to work for, remaining in the faith that God 1st created in us. That’s why we sing of the Gospel reading: “Alleluia. Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life…”
Our Creator has the food that endures to eternal life & we need it to survive. The main object of our lives ought to be earnest labor to remain believers. God’s Spirit created the faith in us, but Satan, the world, & our own sinful nature, are constantly trying to starve it out.
In that struggle we get the physical earthly blessings confused with the spiritual heavenly ones. Jesus complained of the people, “You seek me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.” The miraculous feeding of the 5000 had occurred just a few verses before the Gospel reading, & food was not easy to come by in their lives.
It may sound like madness when Jesus calls us to take our mind off our worries, off of what we lack, off of what we have failed to achieve, & place our mind upon Christ. Martin Luther wrote, “To depend on God’s Word, so that the heart is not terrified by sin & death, but trusts & believes in God, is a more severe demand than any that humankind can dream up.”
Many try believing in order to ‘get something’ out of Jesus. When they get nothing like the commercials on TV, they give up, they drift off, they fade away. That’s because even then, even believing in Christ, our sinful nature is still, always, working for food, working for things, working for this life. In that sense Christ never satisfies.
Our sinful nature never gains enough. It must always have more. There are still large #’s of people who seek nothing more in Christianity than earthly well-being. How’s your Christian walk been going lately? Has it been a bed of roses? If it hasn’t, are you disappointed, weary, discouraged?
Have you been hard at work just trying to stay even, or get a little ahead of the game? Even if you’re trying to work for the food that endures to eternal life, it is weary & exhausting work. Our sinful nature is that strong.
The Gospel of John teaches that we need not feel guilty for leaning upon Christ. He knows our dilemma. He knows our failures. He knows our sins. Jesus knows how we are naturally preoccupied with the things of this world, with the food that spoils. So He came, not just to die, but to live in your place. Jesus has done everything that needs to be done.
Now you can rest in Him, & once you are rested, then Jesus can use you to point others to the Bread of Life. Until you yourself find rest from your sin in Jesus you cannot lead anyone else to Him. Otherwise, you will only be seeking Him because you have eaten your fill. That’s why, daily, each of us needs the course correction that God’s gift of repentance brings to us.
You & I can always find rest in Jesus, because even when we seek Him for the wrong reasons, He responds to our own individual hearts & not merely to our words. The question as always is this: “Will we allow Jesus to give us a course correction & follow Him?” By the end of John’s 6th chapter many people had left Jesus because His teaching was too difficult. In other words, they did not want to give up the things of this world. They worshipped the creation instead of the Creator.
Why do you search for Jesus? Why do you pray to Him? Do you worship Jesus for His own sake or do you worship Him because of the gifts He has given to you? Is there a course correction in your future? Could it be that what is best for us is our emptiness & our need? As with the thorn in St. Paul’s flesh, maybe God’s answer is that ‘His grace is sufficient for us.’
Speak, O Lord, Your servant listens, let Your Word to me come near; newborn life & spirit give me, let each promise still my fear. Death’s dread power, its inward strife, wars against Your Word of life; fill me, Lord, with love’s strong fervor that I cling to You forever! Oh, what blessing to be near You & to listen to Your voice; let me ever love & hear you, let Your Word be now my choice! Many hardened sinners, Lord, flee in terror at Your Word; but to all who feel sin’s burden You give words of peace & pardon. Amen. LSB 589:1-2.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet