Our kids have always attended public school. With that, we’ve always tried to address the issue of the lunchtime meal fairly with our children. What would you like for lunch? Did you want to eat what the cafeteria provided or to take your lunch? If so, what would you like to eat? Neither option was a gourmet meal. Everyone knew that. What would you like for us to do for you?
For our oldest, it ended up coming down to convenience for him. For our youngest, it has come down to nutrition. Both our kids are funny. I guess we’ve been funny as parents, too. The kids have proven to not be so finicky over the years which helped. As parents, we’ve stuck to a budget while still offering options. All of this involved conversation and negotiation, experimentation and appreciation. What a lot of work to keep kids happy!
Last night, I read a portion of John 6. In this portion, Jesus speaks to a crowd that followed him from one side of the Sea of Galilee to the other. This was a very intentional effort on their part. They did not want to lose contact with him. At the beginning of John 6 a growing crowd assembled near Jesus, and he asked Philip where they could buy bread to feed such a large crowd. It was projected that half a year’s wages wasn’t enough to buy what would be necessary to feed such a crowd. Then a child’s lunch was pointed out by Andrew, but what difference would that make to feed so many? Jesus then takes it, breaks to up and distributes it in order to feed everyone. Everyone is fed and leftovers collected. Very cool.
These that followed him the next day to Capernaum were looking for Jesus because they had eaten their fill of bread the day before. Jesus then speaks to them about their lives.
Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal.
It is believed that in Jesus’ day there were, what are now called, people of the land. They were believed to be culturally, economically, and perhaps religiously, disenfranchised folks that had no land or resources of their own, and it was these particular folks that were attracted to Jesus’ work and message. It could be said that these in John 6 could fit that description. Hungry, disconnected, wandering people mystified by the feeding of thousands with a kid’s lunch through the blessing hands of this itinerant rabbi.
These could be migrant workers who followed the seasons to find work, or they could be itinerant laborers who followed the rumors of where to find work. Regardless, they worked to find him who fed them yesterday, and then he tells them today not to work for food that perishes. How insensitive could he be? Sorry, the food that perishes is the only food my family can eat. They’re not finicky. They’re just human.
Ya know? Jesus does care about our hungers, but we’re not supposed to define ourselves by our hungers or hurts or scares. In Mark 8, he’s confronted by the professionally religious who ask for a sign. He tells them one won’t be given to this generation. He gets in a boat to go across the lake and warns his friends about the yeasts of the Pharisees and Herod. They can tell he’s upset and say to one another, “It’s because we have not bread.” No, folks, bread is not an issue for your Lord. He understands hunger and knows what it is. Like he told his friends,
“Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes, and fail to see? Do you have ears, and fail to hear? And do you not remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you collect?” They said to him, “Twelve.”
The learners (disciples) of Jesus were to learn of his divinity and be witnesses of it in the world, as well as, to do as he did in this world to point to and advance the Kingdom of God. THIS IS WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE WHEN GOD REIGNS – AND HE DOES! Feeding the hungry is supposed to be easy for us because it was easy for him.
What are your true hungers? Jesus wanted the crowd who followed him in John 6 to know what they were truly hungry for. In fact, as the story continues in this chapter, he tells them they will only be satisfied ultimately by eating his flesh and drinking his blood. With that, virtually everybody leaves him except for his disciples. He asks if they’re next to leave. Peter tells him they have no place to go (a new configuration of the people of the land). Peter then says, as Bill Johnson puts it, “When you speak, we come alive inside.”
The physical hunger was addressed by Jesus, and, in fact, he wanted his close friends to understand and perceive that all the needs of this world can be addressed by us because they were addressed by him. He is our source. If the Spirit leads you in passion to feed the hungry, trust this same Jesus will provide for you or direct you to resources to feed thousands miraculously and lovingly. Alleluia. Lack of resources or knowledge should not impede us. It ought to be easy for us.
The church’s business is not to work from a place of human ingenuity (or even passion) to get the work done. For Jesus’ friends, it’ll begin and remain in relationship with him – clinging like a loincloth (Jeremiah 13:11) – to meet the needs of the world. Feeding the hungry (whatever the hunger is) is supposed to be easy for us because it was easy for him.
Seeing the hungry fed and prisoners of all forms and fashions set free miraculously positions all the witnesses of such to confess freely and confidently, “When he speaks, we come alive inside.” Feeding the hungry is supposed to be easy for us because it was easy for him.