Sermon for August 22, 2021

Are You Satisfied?

John 6:56-69

 

Are You Satisfied?

    Are you Satisfied? The past few weeks we have been thinking about Jesus feeding the five thousand and the aftermath. There was the miracle of Jesus feeding so many with so little. In this the people encounter the providence and the care of God as they came together to learn and share in a meal with Jesus. This was a sign meant to demonstrate who Jesus was, so that people might believe and find eternal life in him. However, the people instead saw only the miracle of plenty and full stomachs, and so they wanted to make Jesus their king. They searched for Jesus because they had eaten their fill of the loaves. They found Jesus, but instead of getting more food for the stomach, Jesus wanted to give them food for their spirits, and eternal life. Instead of given them bread from the land, Jesus offered them the bread of heaven. He would give them himself. He told them that he was the bread of life and that they needed to eat his flesh and drink his blood. They needed to make his life their own if they wanted to truly live and never hunger again. That is what Jesus offered them and us. In so many ways God has called us and made Godself available to us. God is with us, within us, and seen in the people around us. God’s word has been given through scripture, through Jesus, and in the spoken word today. And so now I have to ask you…Are you satisfied? Have you found the spiritual truths and substance in life so that you will never go hungry, or are you somehow always searching and yet never satisfied?

    That at first may seem like a strange question, but it is a relevant one. How often is satisfaction in life something that people seek after, and yet never really find? We obtain things, but we are never completely satisfied.

 

Where do we find Satisfaction?

    I like to order items from Amazon.com. I think that it is amusing that when I receive my order, mailing label always says it comes from Amazon’s Wish Fulfillment Center. It is like Amazon.com sees itself as a magic genie in a bottle. They fulfill wishes; except you must pay for them. Amazon likes to advertise itself as a company that is changing the world –I guess through instant gratification.

    Does having a company like Amazon.com to fulfill our ever wish bring satisfaction to life? I think you know as well as I that the truth of the matter is that the bread of the land never really satisfies. If a person gets what they want one day then there will be other needs or wants tomorrow. People will hunger again. This is the issue that Jesus knew all too well. True satisfaction even our deepest wishes cannot be found in the material things of life. Jesus said, “The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing.” Satisfaction in life doesn’t come from material gain or the physical satisfactions of life. There must be something more. It was this something more that Jesus wished to give to the people of his time.

Faith in Christ is Satisfaction

        Let us consider our text. The people came to Jesus because their stomachs had been made full, and they wanted more. They were hungry for the substances of this earth. They wanted more bread. They wanted an earthly ruler. They wanted a new society that would be a better place where they could live by their own laws. Not all their wishes were bad wished. Who doesn’t want a better world?

    Jesus however proved to be a really poor politician, because he failed to make any earthly promise to his audience. Instead, Jesus stood plainly and clearly before them and offered himself. He said, “I am the bread of life, and whoever eats of this bread will live forever.”     He called his flesh food and blood drink.

    Because of this strong and forceful parable many of those listening to him turned away. They quit following him. The scriptures say, “When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?” They were not satisfied. They did not get more bread to eat. Their attempt to make Jesus a king was rejected, and Jesus offered them nothing else but the physical nature of his body. They were not satisfied because they could not believe or understand what Jesus was telling them.

    Finally, Jesus turned even to those 12 who were his closest friends, to Peter, James, John, Andrew, and the rest and asked them “If they too wished to go away.”

    What would you have done if you were they? Would you have been satisfied to stay or would you have let the waves of dissatisfaction wash away your resolve to follow? Jesus had a growing ministry, the possibilities of 1000’s of new followers and he let them slip away. He may very well have been able to establish an independent Jewish nation, and as his disciples could have shared in the glory. Wasn’t that the idea of being a Messiah, but now Jesus went and said and did all the wrong things and the campaign for a new world collapsed before it got started. As I said Jesus was a bad politician. Where was the consensus building and compromise? One should not go around talking about cannibalism unless you are deep in the jungles of New Guinea. The disciples perhaps had a good reason for calling it quits, but notably they did not. Simon Peter answered Jesus, “Lord to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.”

    Despite it all Peter was satisfied. How are we to understand this. From where did Peter gain his satisfaction when there seemed to be so much reason to be dissatisfied? What made the difference? Why did Peter and the others stay when many left?

Well, for Peter and the other disciples who stayed, I think it was primarily a matter of who they believed Jesus to be; rather than whether or not their expectations were being met. Peter and the others stayed because they believed Jesus was indeed God’s chosen one. They believed him when he said that his words were life and spirit. They believed when he declared that he would raise them up on the last day and give them eternal life. They believed that they would one day indeed see the Son of Man ascend to heaven, and the right hand of God.

Stanley Jones tells of a missionary who once got lost in an African jungle, nothing around him but bush and a few cleared places. He found a native hut and asked the native if he could get him out. The native said he could.

“All right,” said the missionary, “show me the way.”

The native said, “Walk,” so they walked and hacked their way through unmarked jungle for more than an hour.

The missionary got worried, and asked, “Are you quite sure this is the way? Where is the path?”

The native said, “Bwana, in this place there is no path. I am the path.”

Peter said to Jesus, “We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.” His statement was an affirmation of faith in the person and promises of Jesus. He did not have to understand everything right away, because he believed in the one who was speaking to him. Peter’s decision and the others was based not upon numbers, food, social activism, a more logical theology, finances, the promises of a new government, or anything else that we can lay our earthly hands on. Satisfaction came in believing in Jesus as the Son of God. All the rest in this life then becomes teachable moments, and the opportunity to learn and grow, and follow the one who is the path.

    Those that left, did so, because they were judging Jesus not according to who he was, but according to whether his words were what they wanted to hear. If Jesus had proclaimed a gospel of plenty the people would not have walked out that day. If he had said stay with me and you will always have bread to eat; your stomachs will be full; then the people would have stayed. They would have been satisfied and waited expectantly for more to eat. If Jesus had declared himself the Messiah and promised to lead an uprising against Rome, the people probably would have stayed. If Jesus had played the part of being their wish fulfillment center they may have been satisfied for the moment, but the problem was that mostly the people wanted things from Jesus, but they were not interested in receiving Jesus into their very lives. Many were not satisfied, because in a way they did not like what was on the menu –the flesh and blood of Christ. Give me what I want but not what I need. They sought after the things of the flesh but not the Spirit.

Will you be Satisfied in Christ

    Today is not any different. The truth is still the same for the church of today as it was for the disciples. Christ is still our eternal satisfaction, and in him are the words and power for eternal life. I think that often we are still challenged to get it right. Often life can be awash in trying to obtain the things we want. We want our wishes fulfilled. Pause for a moment and ponder what is it that you really want? Without doubt not all of our wishes and wants in this life are of a material nature, but upon that list of wants what have we done with the very body and blood of Christ? For that matter what kind of a person was Jesus that his wish was to give himself away? What affect should the nature of his life have upon us? Do you see where I am going? To be satisfied we must consider the spiritual nature of life. Maybe the physical realities of life, or the declining numbers of our general church should concern us. Maybe the things we want in life may capture our attention, but they are not the things to permanently fix our eyes upon if Jesus is first in our lives and our hearts. There is a whole greater world of life being poured down upon us, because of the one who gave himself to us. Our satisfaction within life will never be found in what we might gain, but satisfaction comes in knowing the one who can bless us with life which can never be taken away.

    Satisfaction is to be found in the person Christ. St. Augustine wrote 1600 years ago . . . “Our hearts are restless until they find their rest in God.” He echoed what King David wrote 3000 years ago in the Bible (Psalm 107:8,9), ” . . . give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for men, for he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.” We don’t have to understand it all. We don’t have to build, or own, or get anything other than a faith that brings the Spirit of Christ to be within you. It is that Spirit that produces hope and it is that hope which will not disappoint.

If you find this, then you will be satisfied in all things. Amen.

Published by Rev. Russell

Pastor at the Lake City United Methodist Church in Lake City, Michigan.

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