(Based on John 6:25-40.)
How many of you have ever heard someone say to you in a very direct, pointed manner, “Don’t spoil your appetite!”
Let’s think about what that person means when they say that. Usually the person saying those words to you is someone who loves you and only wants what is best for you. Usually the reason that they are saying those words to you is because they have worked very hard to prepare something for you and others that will not only satisfy your hungers, but also nourish you and be a great blessing. And most of the time, all of this is connected to a special event, like Easter or Thanksgiving or Christmas, where friends and family get together to celebrate a great gift from God. And as that command is echoing in your ears, you realize that you now have a choice. You can fill your stomach with cookies or some other kind of food that does not really satisfy, or you can look forward to the real food and the real celebration that is to come.
And, in a way, Jesus is saying, “Don’t spoil your appetite!” in John, chapter 6. Earlier in the chapter, John records for us how Jesus fed more than 5,000 people on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee. After that event, people followed Jesus when he went to a different location on that lake. John records for us what happened.
25 When they found him on the other side of the lake, they asked him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?”
26 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. 27 Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.” (John 6:25-27a)
When Jesus fed those 5,000 men plus women and children, it was a miracle given not only to show that Jesus cares about people’s everyday physical needs, but also as a sign given to show that Jesus really is the Son of God with authority from his Father in heaven to teach God’s truth, to forgive sins and to give life. And if one of us observed this miracle and caught the part about Jesus being compassionate about human needs, but we missed the part about Jesus being the Son of God with authority to teach, forgive, heal and give life, the main point of the miracle would be lost to us.
To the people who were following Jesus around the Sea of Galilee, he was a ticket to a never-ending buffet of bread and fish where one could endlessly eat all that they wanted for free.
And Jesus is saying to them and to us, “You are missing the whole point! You are spoiling your appetite for forever food by filling your bellies with temporary food. And temporary food will never fully satisfy and it will never really last.
If anything, the challenge of discerning between temporary food and forever food has become more difficult for those of us whole live in first world conditions in the 21st century. Most of us do not have to worry about where our next meal is coming from. We just open up our fridge or pantry and there it is. We have more choices about what to do with our lives and our leisure time than any group of people ever has had at any time in human history. The average person now has more access to more information than they ever have had before. With the technology that is readily available now, people are able to do things that science fiction writers only dreamed of a few decades ago. We have a virtual smorgasbord of choice, information and opportunity before us.
So what are you going to do with your one and only life? Are you going to spend your life working for and filling yourself with what is temporary? Or are you going to spend your life working for and filling yourself with what is eternal?
In the movie Ratatouille, during a key scene with his father, Remy says, “If you are what you eat, then I only want to eat the good stuff.”
Take a look around the room. Every person that you see is an eternal being. God has made us to live forever and every human being is going to live forever. Some are going to live with God forever. Some are going to live without God forever.
Because we are eternal beings, we have eternal hungers, needs and desires. The problem with working for and filling ourselves with the things of this world is not that those things are necessarily bad. Many of them are good. However, when we fill ourselves with the good things of this world, we spoil our appetite for eternal food, which is what we really need. Jesus said, “I am the bread of life. Who ever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” (John 6:35) Jesus promises us fulfillment of all of our eternal hungers and desires. But this means that we need to take a look inside of ourselves because many of us (or at least me) don’t even know what our own eternal hungers and desires are.
Do you thirst for acceptance? Jesus says, “All those the Father gives me I will never drive away” (John 6:37). Jesus totally and completely accepts you down to the core of your inner being. Drink deeply of that truth and your eternal thirst for acceptance will be quenched.
Do you struggle with health problems or a suffer with a wounded soul and so you hunger for healing, wholeness and health? Jesus says these words to you, “For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day” (John 6:40). Jesus has already begun healing your soul to give it health and wholeness. And with Jesus as your Lord and Saviour, when you draw your last breath and death claims your tired and worn out body, your titanic struggle with sin will be over. For a time, your soul will rest in Jesus, but that is not what we look forward to the most. No, the day we long for will come when Jesus returns to this world in a way that all will see him. He will raise us from the dead and recreate the dust of our old bodies into new resurrection bodies that will never grow old, never get sick and never die. We will live with Jesus in the new heaven and earth forever, where all things will be made whole, right and true, just as God originally intended for things to be. Make a regular meal of that truth and your eternal hunger for healing will be satisfied.
Or do you crave significance? Do you long to live a life that counts for something good that will last for all eternity? Jesus speaks to you and says, “For I have come down from heaven not to do my own will but to do the will of him who sent me” (John 6:38). Jesus is showing us what a life of true significance looks like. God gives us the freedom to go our own way, but when we do that we are like a kid kicking a ball around on a soccer field in the middle of a thunderstorm. Nothing much is going to be accomplished and great harm could result. But a soccer player that follows the direction of a competent coach and who plays in sync with the rest of her team experiences what true soccer is really like and is able to accomplish great things.
True human life happens when we willingly submit our will to the will of Jesus and seek to glorify him instead of glorifying ourselves. And what is the will of Jesus? To lose none of those that his Father has given him and to raise them all up at the last day. What brings Jesus glory? When our lives point others to him.
Jesus is inviting you to participate in the greatest rescue mission that has ever happened. Rest in Jesus and his unconditional love for you. Let his love, his acceptance of you, his healing seep down into the deepest, darkest corners of your soul. You are precious and adorable in the eyes of your heavenly Father. The Holy Spirit has chosen to make your body his temple. As you follow God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, our loving and living God will accomplish great eternal things through you. Feed on this truth and your craving for significance will be fulfilled.
Jesus loves you and only wants what is best for you. Jesus has worked very hard to prepare something for you and others that will not only satisfy your eternal hungers, but will also nourish and bless you. Jesus is getting ready for a special celebration where people will be gathered from every tribe and nation to celebrate a great and wonderful gift from God, and you are invited!
Don’t spoil your appetite!
(Shared at Walnut Grove Lutheran Church, Langley BC on March 13, 2016.)