As my husband is on a mission trip I get to eat all the things I enjoy and he doesn’t. Of course I can eat them whilst he’s home but it’s a ‘treat yourself to your favourite’ vibe in his absence. Beetroot and feta salad or a broad bean burger isn’t really a meal for a bloke is it? Besides it’s comfort food. It’s interesting why and how we do that isn’t it? Those choices remind me of someone and happy memories, so I enjoy the taste all the more. It feeds me on an emotional level as well as nourishment.
Humans seem to do that with activity too. Carly Houselander puts it like this, ‘Strangely enough, those who complain the loudest of the emptiness of their lives are usually people whose lives are overcrowded, filled with trivial details, plans, desires, ambitions, unsatisfied cravings for passing pleasures…. They have no sense of being related to any abiding beauty, to any indestructible life: they are afraid to be alone with their unrelated hearts.’ We need to be connected to life and people in some way and filling it up with ‘doing’ can sometimes just fill the void for that moment – something extra is missing and we yearn to be satisfied. All those temporary foods, things or activity, however pleasant, don’t fill that yearning emptiness in a lasting way.
This follows on from my last blog on Cleophas walking on the road to Emmaus. He has been connected to Jesus. He’d been in the group called a disciple and he had lots of information and experiences of Jesus but knew something else was missing. Whilst talking it all through he didn’t regonise Jesus was there all the time with the answer. He was connected and associated to Jesus but still missing that vital part of engaging with the new life Jesus brings. That is until they break bread together and Jesus took them a little further to open their eyes to communion – Life in relationship to Him.
My thoughts have taken me to John 6 and the large gathering of men who Jesus fed with the bread and fish the boy provided. The people have enjoyed His teaching and the provision of their needs being met. It’s pretty incredible that so many people eat a meal that filled them all up and still there was some left over. That’s a lot of food Jesus made so understandably they want Him to stick around. They come up with a plan to make him King .
This man can lead us and rule our kingdom.
He can be the one responsible for our well being and set the order we need.
He can provide for us in every way. They’re on to a good idea until we notice the word ‘ by force’. Those 7 letters change the intention completely. It suggests that they are not willing to submit to His ways but actually want to control Him instead.
They need Him for a certain service but are not going to give Him a free hand.
Perhaps it’s the comfort food vibe again of meeting their needs of being associated and connected to him and each other and having the blessings of signs that are so good and comforting. It certainly provides for their emotional and physical needs but it’s limited there. With this type of king we can still be in control, not Jesus. I said it last time: there are so many who clearly seem to be steeped in Jesus’ Spirit,–it is evident from the way they live and love–but they haven’t yet, for whatever reasons, recognized who He is or how close He is to them. We’re all like Cleophas and this group of 5000 men sometimes. We go to church, are connected to Jesus, love the profound teaching, the signs that get shared in testimonies of how God provided our physical and spiritual needs, how He does miracles for us breaking out in our midst. We’re connected to the body, the people we are journeying with and the order and the ‘food’ for us and to us that it provides.
And yet Jesus ‘withdrew’ v 15 because He didn’t resonate with that. Not because He didn’t care for them, He’d demonstrated His heart towards them already, He’s not leaving them – He’s at it again going a little further to see who wants to come into the fullness. He’s beckoning us on to follow. He wants everyone to understand it’s not about the ‘food’ we eat, be it physical nourishment or activity that sustains us – it’s about ‘ is to take them, and us, on into feasting on Jesus and the Life He offers in and of Himself, not the signs that are pointing to Him. He’s going a little further to explain it’s not about being a king ruling over a body of people, but about ‘His body’ only.
As Jesus begins to unpack what is going to satisfy our deepest longing He explains that they came because of the signs and the bread when really He wants us to understand we can feed on Him. What???!! what’s the difference? Well it’s the jump from ‘the body’ to ‘His body’. Jesus brings it right back to Him being the living bread that gives Life. He highlights that we don’t need to work for teaching, fellowship or signs but for the ‘true bread’ that endures with lasting satisfaction that completely nourishes and sustains us. This food isn’t a comfort for a quick fix but the one that satisfies all the yearnings deep down in all of us. It’s Jesus Himself. He’s the food we need to consume. If we really want to make Him king then Ephesians 1 v 23 explains, ‘And God put everything under His feet and made Him head over everything for the church,which is His body,the fullness of Him who fills all in all.’
It’s Christ actual body that is the fullness, not the people, or gathering that are eating it that brings the fullness. Not ‘the body’ of people as the church but HIS body. His flesh that is all in all. It’s Christ Himself. I’m not denying the benefits, blessing or function of the body being connected: I’m recognising that Jesus wants to make Himself central and then we get the rest anyway.
It’s a hard one to understand and we can identify with the people who
- grumbled, repeatedly about it v 41 v 43
- dismiss and limit Jesus. Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? v 42 Jesus can’t meet my needs He’s just another man like me, ( interesting that they feel they know Jesus’ father Joseph instead of the Father in Heaven who draws and teaches us everything)
- said, ‘This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” v 60 perhaps they want their ears to be tickled with nice comforting thoughts again not a challenge to press in.
- decided to walk away. ‘ v 66 perhaps they are satisfied with what they have received and experienced so far and go home.
Jesus presses the point. The flesh with it’s desires are no use to us at all. What ever type of ‘food we eat’ it’s temporary: the experiences of Jesus we have in teaching, fellowship and signs are just that- signs pointing us a little further to the fullness. It’s all pointing us to Jesus’ body in Spirit. The words He speaks to us are Spirit and Life. He is the word become flesh, all things were made through Him and for Him and to Him and that is what He gives us as the living Bread. He gives Himself, willingly. He doesn’t want to be king externally by focus, he wants an internal kingdom in us by speaking directly to us words of Spirit and life. When we partake in this food we are in communion and feasting!
That’s the right kind of flesh we need to eat that’s His body. When we hear this in the spirit we are sustained in a totally fresh way. We can receive Jesus and take the words and life He offers into our spirit and our very being is energised and built up. We are healthy and satisfied in a way that physical food or the body only imitates. When we consume Jesus we are being in his presence and conscious of His life nourishing us. When we eat His body we are then consumed with His love and beauty and who He is to us and in us. Then Life blossoms and bursts out everywhere, we have everything we need. Life.
So the invitation stands, who wants to come a little further? Let’s eat the Bread He offers. Jesus Himself, and be like the disciples who said, ‘give us this bread always’ and echo the words of Peter,