Our deepest hunger can only be satisfied by Jesus
The start of a new year is a time of year when many people decide to make some changes. One of the primary changes that many if not most adults seem to make at the dawn of a new year relates to their diet. After the excesses of the way we may have eaten toward the end of the previous year, we promise ourselves that we’ll start eating better in January.
I tend to make that promise to myself as well. When I look at the pattern of my eating habits, I usually start the year by eating well, then end the year exercising much less caution. I’m probably not alone in that pattern.
Living during the era we live in where food can often be found and acquired in abundance, it can quickly go from being a necessity to becoming a luxury and eventually a vice. It becomes a vice when we begin using it to medicate our emotions. It becomes a vice when we think we can rely on it to satisfy the deeper longings of our souls.
The Bible frequently speaks of our longings as a hunger or a thirst, and there are multiple examples of the Lord using food and water to illustrate the nature of our deeper-level spiritual needs. One of the most well known examples is found in Mark 6:30-44 where Jesus miraculously feeds thousands of people with five loaves and two fishes, but leading up to that event, Christ’s apostles had been involved in another important task.
The apostles returned to Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught. (Mark 6:30)
Prior to the feeding of the 5,000, the apostles had been sent out into the villages in the region, traveling in pairs, preaching the message of repentance, healing the sick, and casting out demons. As their mission concluded, they returned to Jesus in Capernaum and told Him all about it.
I’m guessing these were enjoyable conversations. As I’m sure you may be able to personally attest, you end up with some really edifying and entertaining stories when you dare to teach other people. On Friday nights when my wife and I go out to eat, we purposely drive to a restaurant that’s nearly an hour away so we can spend a long car ride telling each other about everything that took place during the course of our week. Many of our stories are about interesting or entertaining things that took place while we were carrying out some of our teaching responsibilities at our church or at the university where we both teach.
By the way, wouldn’t it be an interesting way for Christians in general to end each day by coming before the Lord and talking with Him about everything we did and taught during the course of the day like the apostles did? I imagine that would be a great way to receive guidance while remaining accountable.
As most of us could affirm, serving people in any capacity, as a parent, a teacher, a leader, or someone who is meeting other needs, can be exhausting. Jesus recognized that His disciples needed a rest, so He suggested they take a brief break together.
And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. 32 And they went away in the boat to a desolate place by themselves. (Mark 6:31-32)
I appreciate the principle Jesus taught in this passage. It’s a principle that can be challenging for some of us to actually put into practice, but it’s very necessary. Jesus encouraged His disciples to find a little time away from the people they were regularly serving so they could find some rest. Is this a practice you’ve made part of your weekly, monthly, or yearly schedule?
When I first became a pastor, I used to mistakenly believe it was virtuous not to take time for rest, but I quickly learned that’s a recipe for bitterness in ministry and hurt feelings at home. So, early in my ministry, I carved out a pattern of taking well-defined breaks at certain points of the week and certain points of the year. I was amazed to discover that doing so contributed to more, not less, productivity, and it reassured my family that they were my top priority. Now that my children are all adults, I promise you I don’t regret the time I blocked off for them when they were young.
The break Jesus took with His disciples didn’t last very long. In many respects, the boat ride they took as they aimed for a desolate place was the primary break they received because more and more people pursued them and sought to be in Christ’s presence.
Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they ran there on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. 34 When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things. (Mark 6:33-34)
The gospel of Luke tells us that Jesus and the disciples went by boat to Bethsaida (Luke 9:10). But as we can see in Mark’s gospel, the crowds didn’t want to lose access to Jesus. I’m guessing that their boat wasn’t far from the shore as they sailed, and as people recognized who was in the boat, large crowds ran on foot to get to the shore before them.
As Jesus looked upon that crowd of people who were eager to hear His teaching and experience His healing, He had great compassion on them. He looked at that generation, a lost and confused group of people, and thought of them as sheep without a shepherd. His heart was compelled to help them.
When I read about this glimpse of the heart of Christ, I can’t help but feel compassion for those who are lost and searching in our generation as well. I see a generation of people that is confused. I see young people who get swept up into all kinds of unhealthy things because they don’t truly know what they’re doing, and I feel compassion for them, not anger toward them. I see adults who are confused as well. Many of those in the older generations believe their answers will be found in political leaders, but they won’t. Until we are found by Christ, we wander through this world like sheep without a shepherd. I’m so grateful for His compassion toward us in the midst of our confusion.
And when it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, “This is a desolate place, and the hour is now late. 36 Send them away to go into the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.” 37 But he answered them, “You give them something to eat.” And they said to him, “Shall we go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread and give it to them to eat?” 38 And he said to them, “How many loaves do you have? Go and see.” And when they had found out, they said, “Five, and two fish.” 39 Then he commanded them all to sit down in groups on the green grass. 40 So they sat down in groups, by hundreds and by fifties. (Mark 6:35-40)
At this point, the disciples were tired. I’m sure they were also concerned about the logistics of handling such a large group of people as the day drew on because they couldn’t even offer them the basics of hospitality, a place to stay and food to eat. So the disciples encouraged Jesus to send them away. The number of men in the crowd was about 5,000, but if women and children were numbered in this count, it wouldn’t surprise me to learn that there may have been between 10,000 to 15,000 people present.
Jesus didn’t want to send them away. He had other plans. Jesus encouraged the disciples to feed them anyway, and He tasked them with figuring out how they were going to do so by assessing how much food they could gather up. John 6:9 tells us that the only food they could find was the lunch of a boy who had five round barley cakes and two fish. I don’t know if anyone else in the crowd had any food hidden with them, but I do find it interesting to observe that it was a child who was willing to be generous to share what He had.
Children are often great examples of faith. They remind the rest of us of what it looks like to really trust God for your daily needs. And Jesus has a habit of taking whatever we entrust to Him by faith and multiplying it many times over. That’s exactly what He was about to do with this boy’s lunch.
And taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing and broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to set before the people. And he divided the two fish among them all. 42 And they all ate and were satisfied. 43 And they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish. 44 And those who ate the loaves were five thousand men. (Mark 6:41-44)
After blessing the loaves and fish, Jesus began breaking the loaves and dividing the fish so they could be shared with the large group of people. I used to think the food may have miraculously repopulated in the baskets as the disciples shared the food with others. I have now come to believe that it was more likely that the miracle of additional food being produced probably took place as Jesus broke the bread and divided the fish. I think the miracle took place in Jesus’ hands, and the apostles came back to Him repeatedly to get additional food to feed the people.
This miracle yet again authenticated Christ’s divine nature and authority. It’s also one of multiple examples of God’s miraculous provision of food that we’re shown in Scripture (Exodus 16, 1 Kings 17, 2 Kings 4).
God’s Word tells us that everyone ate and was satisfied. The people ate until they were full, and still there was food left over. What do you think Jesus was trying to communicate through this miracle?
I think that one of the things He was trying to communicate to us through this miraculous act was that He is the real source for sustenance. Many people go through their lives pursuing what this world offers, thinking it will satisfy them. But every time we eat from the world’s table, we find ourselves hungry again just a short time later.
Real, lasting sustenance and sustainment for our souls is actually found in Jesus. He alone can miraculously feed us until we’re full. He meets the needs of our deepest hungers. We hunger for purpose, family, belonging, a sense of mission, hope beyond our circumstances, relief from pain, the end of sorrow, the restoration of relationships, the end of war, the restoration of creation, and an inheritance in a kingdom that can never be taken away. We find those things in Jesus alone. No one else can truly provide them for us.
It’s possible that you may have heard the story of Jesus feeding the 5,000 many times in your life. I certainly have, but I haven’t always given much thought to what Jesus was really trying to communicate through this miracle. He alone can satisfy the deepest hungers of our soul. If we continue to look elsewhere, we’re going to remain hungry and malnourished. Jesus is the Bread of Life.
Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” (John 6:35)
© John Stange, 2024