What Are You Hungry For?

14 Aug What Are You Hungry For?

What Are You Hungry For?
John 6:1-21
August 12, 2018
M. Michelle Fincher
Calvary Presbyterian Church

It’s a little past 6:00 on a Friday night. It’s been a long week, it’s dinnertime, and nobody feels like cooking. If you’re like me, you might open the pantry door, then the refrigerator, taking a long hard stare at….nothing. Or at least, nothing that strikes your fancy. That’s when you ask your spouse or your children or maybe just yourself, “What are you hungry for?”

It’s an apt question. After all, we live in a place where the choices seem nearly endless. Mexican or Italian? Sushi, Thai, or a really juicy hamburger? (And don’t forget the fries.) Do you want take-out, delivery, fast food or a gourmet dining experience? There’s so much choice it can sometimes feel overwhelming, and perhaps I’m not the only one who has stood staring into my refrigerator because nothing sounds good. I don’t really know what I want.

What are you hungry for? It’s a great question, one that goes beyond what your body feeds on for fuel, beyond what you do to quench a midday craving. It’s a question that, if you let it, tugs at much deeper drives and desires. What accomplishment are you feasting on, hoping it will give you that long-sought after sense of fulfillment? What activity do you devour, holding out for the day that it finally makes you feel worthy? What ideology are you buying in bulk, praying that it answers the questions to all of life’s mysteries? What relationship have you set your table by, waiting for it to tame your loneliness and insecurities? What are you hungry for?

It is an important question for every age, never more so than in our own when we are constantly presented with “foods” that fail us, foods that are not from God and so cannot fulfill the promise of God to never leave us hungry. It’s also an important question because we are surrounded by people who are craving something new to feast on, something more satisfying than the ordinary fare of sports and entertainment, politics and shopping, work and travel, accolades and applause. True, there are many who think they will find it in these things, so they hang on every uptick of the stock market, get in line for the latest gadget as soon as Apple announces we “have to have it”, live for the next exotic trip or designer purchase, or leave a trail of betrayed and trampled colleagues on their trek up the corporate ladder.

Jesus was well acquainted with hungry people. The gospel of John paints a picture of Jesus who, at the height of his earthly ministry, had reached a sort of “rock-star” status in much of Palestine. His miracles amazed the masses, and his sermons could silence a crowd. The buzz about Jesus was that this guy was the “real deal”, he “had the touch”, and so the people followed him wherever he went.

In John 6 Jesus and the disciples attempt to hang out on a hilltop, only to find a large crowd, excited about the miracles they’ve seen, make their way toward them. This was no small pack of fans. This was lines of folks for as far as the eye could see, making their way to Jesus, thousands of people hungry for whatever it was this rock-star rabbi would do next.

Sensing both a logistical nightmare and a teachable moment, Jesus engaged in what would be his most spectacular miracle yet. Taking five loaves of bread and two fish, Jesus instructs the disciples to tell the people to sit down. He grabbed the meager meal, gave thanks and then offered it to the masses spread out across the hillside. And to the surprise of everyone but Jesus himself, it lasted. That simple and insignificant little meal more than satisfied the hunger of thousands of Jesus’ biggest fans.

It’s tempting to use this story as an excuse to paint a very attractive but dangerously inaccurate picture of Jesus. The temptation is to see Jesus—who can walk on water as well as turn water to wine, heal the sick, raise the dead, and apparently not only calm the seas but also our stomachs—the same way that crowd saw him, as a Savior who is here to meet your needs and make your troubles melt away. It’s easy to turn Jesus in to a “short order Savior”, here to satisfy all our earthly cravings. In fact, John tells us the people were so moved by the miracle that they wanted to throw a crown on Jesus and anoint him as their king right then and there. And why not? With this guy in charge, life will be one nonstop buffet of blessing.

If we’re honest, many of us would have to admit that at times we have approached Jesus with precisely this attitude. Our lives are filled with cravings for things like financial security, peaceful relationships, and physical well-being. We seek advice from Dr. Oz and Oprah, we devour the latest self-help book, or we try the secrets to a happy life touted on magazine covers, hoping it will provide the healing we hunger for.

Even the way many of us shop for actual food offers a striking metaphor of our search for satisfaction. Warehouse stores such as Sam’s Club or BJ’s or my personal favorite, Costco allows shoppers to load up on life’s necessities at bargain prices and in bulk, capitalizing on the idea that life is better when you buy more. And the stores offer deals on everything imaginable—and some items you might not have thought to imagine. Did you know you can get your casket or urn from Costco?

What we need to watch out for is that we don’t shop for fulfillment like we shop for groceries. It’s all too easy to walk through life loading our massive cart full of stuff that we hope will cure our cravings for the picture-perfect family, a nice retirement, and a long, healthy life. Somewhere along the way, after hearing rumors of his power and talk of his miracles, we make our way to Jesus. Just like everything else, we throw him in our cart, too, attempting—like the hungry crowd of John’s gospel—to anoint Jesus as the ultimate means to all our shallow, earthly ends. In the process, even Jesus becomes just another piece in a game we play where the goal is simply to get what we want.

Jesus sensed the crowd’s desire to throw him into their cart and anoint him as their miracle-working king. This forced him to retreat until the mass made its way home. What Jesus knew was that while the people marveled at the miracles, they misunderstood the message. Jesus didn’t come to help people get what they want. He came to be what they want. He didn’t come to be a “short-order Savior,” there to crank out whatever it is that we think will satisfy our need and want of the moment. He came to be the food that we feast on.

Which brings us back to the question we started with: what are you hungry for?

If you’re looking for a Jesus who will fatten your 401(k), guarantee a cure for your cancer, offer you “10 easy steps to raising a well-adjusted teenager”, land you a great job or restore every one of your relationships, then you’ve got the wrong Jesus, or rather the wrong idea about who Jesus is. Jesus didn’t come to perfect your life; he came to lay down his life and take it back up again. His death and resurrection are the “meal” that sustains our souls and brings wholeness, healing and growth. When we come to Jesus, for Jesus, we receive Jesus. When our souls are fed and filled by the work of Jesus, we may still go through seasons of illness, unemployment or even a lack of food. But one thing we will never, ever be is empty.

When we fill ourselves with Jesus, we find that many of our other cravings in life, like the need for meaning and purpose, become satisfied, freeing us to view the issues that affect our day-to-day lives with an eternal perspective and through contented, peaceful eyes.

So, one last time: What are you hungry for? It’s a profound question, a question that goes beyond what you do to satisfy a 10:00 a.m. craving. It’s a question that, if you let it, tugs at much deeper drives and desires. My prayer for you (and for me) is that we will feast on the Food that offers true sustenance for our souls. May we follow Jesus not so that he can meet our needs but rather knowing that he is all we need.

In the words of the prophet Isaiah: “Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the riches of fare.” (55:2) Amen.

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