Hunger and Thirst
A Sermon for John 6:24-35
Nicodemus had faith: Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.’
And Jesus said you must be born again.
Nicodemus didn’t get it: How can anyone be born after having grown old?
The woman at the well was beginning to understand: Jesus said; those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.’
But the woman didn’t quite understand: Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.
The crowd was hungry: Jesus said: Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life.... the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.
But they did not understand. They said to him, ‘Sir, give us this bread always.’
And they were thinking of bread that comes in loaves.
Jesus said; ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty... To get this bread... you believe in him whom God has sent.
We all know what it means to be hungry and thirsty. We need food.
On Wednesday mornings, just before I arrive at the church, after I have been riding in the cold for an hour and a half, I ride through the warm wafting scent of the Arnott’s Biscuit Factory. Sometimes the smell almost makes my stomach cramp; it takes on a life of its own and begs for food. It can be a little struggle not to ride straight past the church to On The Run, and buy Tim Tams and Scotch Fingers.
Hunger and thirst drive us. And if we stop to think about ourselves, we know that the hunger is for more than food. Sometimes we literally eat too much in an effort to sate a deeper hunger; a desire for something that material food cannot provide. We have a deep longing for connection, for love, for beauty, for acceptance, for safety, for permission to stop, for meaning or purpose ...
... we feel it in many forms, and describe it in many ways; this hunger caused because we are separated from God, locked out of the garden, and wandering, toiling in sweat and dust.
This is what Jesus is talking about when he says I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty... He is talking about filling this void and satisfying this longing, so that we can be filled, and whole, and at peace.
It says that to get this bread... you believe in him whom God has sent.
We sometimes foolishly think this means that if we believe the right things, we will be happy. It doesn’t mean “believe” like that. It says, in the Greek text, “believe into.” It means allegiance. It means we hitch our wagon to Jesus’ star. It means we follow him and do what he asks, and it means going out on the frontier, and it will often be hard, and perhaps far from safety.
Will that mean we are happy?
It doesn’t say happy, actually. It says hungering and thirsting will be filled. That’s joy; something far deeper, and much more persistent than happiness that just happens. It means we can walk past all the biscuit factories of life, and not be distracted, because we have something better. It means we can suffer physical hunger, and yet still be filled because we have something better.
We will be finding connection, love, beauty, acceptance, safety, permission to stop, meaning and purpose ... all those things for which we hunger, however it is we describe them. Joy will become full.
Don’t seek to be happy by having a nice house and clothes.
Don’t seek to be happy by owning your church.
Don’t seek to be happy by believing the bible in the right way.
Maybe don’t even seek to be happy...
Seek to follow where Jesus is pointing us. And hungering and thirsting will be filled.
Direct Biblical quotations in this page are taken from The New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Please note that references to Wikipedia and other websites are intended to provide extra information for folk who don't have easy access to commentaries or a library. Wikipedia is never more than an introductory tool, and certainly not the last word in matters biblical!