Commentary by Walter Albritton


January 21, 2007


Only Jesus Can Satisfy Our Hunger and Thirst for God


John 6:34-40


Key Verse: I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. – John 6:35


Novelist Marghanita Laski was a professed atheist yet she wrote mostly about religion. Not long before her death Laski said to a Christian friend, “I envy you Christians; you have someone to forgive you, and I don’t.”

Her sad words surely validate Blaise Pascal’s classic assumption:  “There is a God shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator, made known through Jesus.”

Laski evidently spent her entire life without ever discovering the difference that Jesus could have made in her heart. She could not bring herself to believe that there is a God like Jesus and that only Jesus could satisfy the emptiness of her life. She was hungry and thirsty for God yet unwilling to believe that her need could be satisfied by receiving Jesus into that God-shaped vacuum in her heart.

She knew a lot about religion but did not know God. Jesus said the Pharisees were in this same predicament. They were up to their eyebrows in religion but they did not know God. They were looking for a Messiah who would recognize their authority and their righteousness, not one who would boldly declare that he had come down from heaven to be the living bread and the living water for all people.

The Pharisees wanted a Messiah who would do their will, not one who would upset their apple carts by doing the will of his Father. After all, the claims of Jesus were downright impossible; what right did he have to say that he was the bread God had sent? Or that he was the living water? Such absurdity they could not accept!

Yet Jesus declares that he is indeed the true bread that satisfies and the water than quenches the thirst of all who come to him and drink. Some in every age find this hard to believe, just as the Jews balked at believing it. Admittedly no one can accept Jesus’ claims except by faith. But that is exactly what God asks of us – faith! Genuine faith enables each of us to believe that Jesus is everything he says he is and that he has the power to do all that he says he can do.

Seven times Jesus says emphatically “I am.” Each of us has to decide how to respond to his claims. We can decide that he was confused or crazy to make such statements about himself. We can decide that this was the Gospel writer John talking, not Jesus. Or we can decide that what he said is absolutely true. This is the choice of faith. This choice enables each of us to receive Jesus Christ into our hearts, thus to be reconciled to God and saved from our sins.

The word “whoever” in our text is an important and beautiful word. By using this word Jesus tells us that it is God’s will for all people to be saved, that salvation is available to anyone who repents and receives Jesus as Lord and Savior.  “Whoever” includes everyone! This means that God sent Jesus to be the bread of life for all people everywhere, including all those who have embraced other “religions” or no religion like Laski the atheist.

As long as there is still one person in the world who has not received Jesus as Savior, the church must remain in mission. God’s will is for every person to have the opportunity to receive the salvation that comes from acknowledging Jesus as the bread of life.

Most of us know what it is like to be satisfied with physical bread. Our hunger is gone. We want no more. To receive Jesus gives us that same satisfaction spiritually. It is what the hymn writer asks for when he says, “Bread of heaven, feed me till I want no more”! (“Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah”)

Once it was my privilege to host a gracious Methodist bishop from India on a visit to America. His words still ring in my ears: “In my land many are starving; they are hungry for bread for their bodies. But while many need bread to eat, even more they need to know Jesus so their souls can be nourished by the Bread of heaven.”

The good bishop stressed the need for our missionaries to make Jesus known as well as to help them feed the hungry. He was right and it remains true that the missionary enterprise must be holistic, focused on the spiritual as well as the physical needs of people everywhere. We cannot remain faithful to the gospel if we neglect either one.

The satisfaction of a good meal will soon give way to hunger. But when Jesus fills us with himself, we experience eternal satisfaction. We have found what was missing and we realize nothing else can satisfy the soul like Jesus. The word for this soul satisfaction is peace, the sweet peace that only Jesus gives when he fills that vacuum in the heart. This peace is God’s assurance that our “eternal life” has begun and that it will last forever!

When my friend John Felton was dying, he did not tell me about his suffering, his politics or his accomplishments. He told me about his Savior. He said it all when he said, “Jesus is everything.”

I think that is what Jesus meant by saying that he is living bread and living water. When we have him, and he has us, we have everything we need – now and forever – so we are never hungry or thirsty again!

Isn’t this too good not to share it with everyone? Let’s do it!

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