People have been known to make outlandish-bizarre claims. When I was studying Psychology at Adelaide University we made a visit to Parkside mental home.
I remember meeting a man who claimed to be Napoleon. And there was woman cradling a doll in her arms. She said she was the Virgin Mary and the doll was the baby Jesus. Because of their mental illness, these people were obviously deluded.
Jesus also made some rather striking-unusual claims. On one occasion he said, “I AM THE BREAD OF LIFE”. And he wasn’t the baker at the local mental hospital. This statement is in fact the first of the 7 great “I am” statements of Jesus recorded in John’s gospel.
I am: “The Light of the world” -”The Door”-“The Good Shepherd”-“the Vine”-“The Resurrection and the Life”-“The Way, Truth and the Life”.
Now these are tremendous claims. They are saying that Jesus I not a mere mortal man. They are in fact claims to be divine. It is Jesus’ way of saying that he was the Son of God-that he was One with God.
This morning we focus on the first of these claims-“I am the Bread of Life”.
Note that Jesus didn’t say, “I am the medicine of Life”. That would have implied
that he was only for emergencies-sickness-particular needs. Unfortunately that is how many people treat Jesus. They only turn to him when they are in trouble-desperate.
Jesus didn’t say, “I am the desert of life”. That would have implied that Jesus was an extra, but not really necessary.
He didn’t say, “I am the tea-coffee of life”. He says, “I am the Bread of life”.
Throughout history, bread has been the staple –basic source of nourishment.. It was called the “staff of life”. It was nutritious-healthy. For the people of the Middle East food meant bread. So it was culturally appropriate for Jesus to say, “I am the Bread of Life”.
Italy: The pizza of life. America: The MacDonald’s of life. Asia: The Rice of life:
Germany: the Schnitzel of Life. Sound better than the sauerkraut of life:
Ireland: the Potato of life. Hungary: The goulash of life. Australia: The BBQ-meat pie.
In Israel at the time of Jesus it was appropriate to say, “I am the Bread of life” because bread was the basic-essential food of those times.
The day before Jesus made this remarkable claim was the time when he fed the crowd of 5,000 with the 5 small loaves and two fish. And as a result of that miracle the crowd wanted to make Jesus their King. But it wasn’t for the right reason –it wasn’t because of their commitment to him-it wasn’t because they wanted to be his loyal subjects. They simply saw Jesus as providing an easy life for them. They wanted Jesus to be their King who would provide for all their needs. They then could have an easy-care free life.
It is in this context that Jesus makes this striking statement. “I AM THE BREAD OF LIFE; HE WHO COMES TO ME WILL NEVER GO HUNGRY AND WHO BELIEVES IN ME WILL NEVER THIRST”.
It is quite clear that Jesus was not talking about ordinary bread. You can eat bread (any food) and that will satisfy you hunger for a little while-stop you stomach from rumbling. But after you have eaten and your stomach has digested the food you begin to feel hungry again. That is the pattern with ordinary food.
But Jesus says quite emphatically, “HE WHO COMES TO ME SHALL NEVER HUNGER”.
What Jesus means is that he can meet all our needs. Not just the physical needs the people were focussing on but in particular our spiritual needs. Jesus can satisfy all our hungers-thirsts. He said, “Blessed are those that hunger-thirst for righteousness”. Those who want to know God-to have a relationship with God.
It is interesting to note that that many people who seem to have “made it” in the world-people who have acquired fame-wealth-status-power-influence, often don’t seem to be very happy-satisfied. Many of these “high flyers” have made psychiatrists very wealthy. To be having “therapy” was the “in thing-trendy-fashionable thing for many of the Hollywood set. Pop stars commit suicide in large numbers-Janis Joplin-Jimmy Hendrix-brain Hutchence-the comedian Tony Hancock. The list is endless.
Fame-wealth-success is no guarantee of happiness-satisfaction. Take Howard Hughes-Paul Getty for example. Success with material things does not-cannot- bring true satisfaction-happiness.
Jesus said it many years ago, “ A MAN’S LIFE DOES NOT CONSIST IN THE ABUNDANCE OF HIS POSSESSIONS”.
Perhaps you have experienced that for yourself. There was something you really wanted –a large screen TV-DVD player-new car-new furniture-new hobby etc. But once you have got it-once you have reached your goal, it soon looses its appeal. It doesn’t seem as important as it once did.
The reason why we don’t often find satisfaction is that we are looking for satisfaction from things that ultimately are unable to satisfy. When Jesus says, “HE WHO COMES TO ME SHALL NOT HUNGER-HE WHO BELIEVES IN ME SHALL NOT THIRST”, he is claiming that he can satisfy All our needs-spiritual-emotional.
But for this to happen we need to come to him- accept his invitation-believe-trust in him. His promise is that he will meet our unsatisfied longings.
The spiritual hunger that we have, can only-will only be met when we really come to know Jesus personally. That is when we experience his love-concern for us. Then and only then, will the restless soul find rest-the hungry heart be satisfied.
You know it is a strange thing. Our generation is probably the best off as far as material possessions-comforts are concerned. And yet so many people don’t seem to be happy-satisfied- despite all the things they have.
That is why some people flock in droves to the various New Age alternatives-astrology-Buddhism-Eastern religions-even witchcraft-Between 1996-2001 there was a 140% in people turning to witchcraft in Australia.
The reason is quite simple. More and more people are discovering that material possessions-outward success don’t and can’t ultimately satisfy the human spirit.
St Augustine knew the reason for that. He said, “OUR HEARTS ARE NOT AT REST UNTIL THEY REST IN GOD”.
And the only way our hearts can rest in God is when we come to know Jesus who is the Bread of life.
There is a song by Andy Park
“Only You” .
No one but you Lord can satisfy the longing in my heart.
Nothing I do Lord can take the place of drawing near to you.
Only you can fill my deepest longing
Only you can breathe in me new life.
Only you can fill my heart with laughter.
Only you can answer my heart’s cry”.