In the Gospel of John, the people who were fed by Jesus chased after him the next day to Capernaum, across the Sea of Galilee. Jesus said to them “You are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you” (John 6:26, 27). The point of Jesus’ miraculous feeding of the crowds was not simply that he could multiply loaves and fish and satisfy physical hunger. As the Gospels indicate, the act was a “sign,” a pointer to Jesus’ ability to satisfy the deeper hungers of the human heart. Bread goes stale, gets hard, has a short shelf life, and as Jesus said, “spoils.”
Obesity is a major problem in the United States, and yet the well fed can still stand in front of a full refrigerator looking for something to eat. Often the real problem is not hunger, but boredom, loneliness, dissatisfaction, purposelessness—in short, emptiness. Again and again the Scriptures tell us that having more “stuff,” whether more “toys” or more food, won’t fill our emptiness.
In the wilderness, the Israelites constantly complained to God for more and better food. The psalmist writes, “He gave them their request; but sent leanness into their soul” (Psalm 106:15, King James Version; other translations read “sent a wasting disease among them”). Jesus insisted there is only one bread that truly satisfies: “The bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world” (John 6:33). No wonder the crowd then responded, “Sir, . . . always give us this bread” (v, 34),
We have come to this table, not because we are hungry for a little piece of bread and a tiny glass of grape juice, but because we desperately need “the bread which comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die” (John 6:50).
Prayer: O Lord, with the crowds by the Sea of Galilee, we say, “Always give us this bread.” Bless now this bread we break, this cup we drink. As we take them by faith, may we feast in our hearts on him who is the living bread and the true vine. Amen.
Robert F. Hull Jr. is retired professor of New Testament, emeritus, at Emmanuel Christian Seminary in Johnson City, Tennessee.