A few years ago, I was given the great privilege of an opportunity to visit Israel. I traveled with a group of Christian journalists for a week, and we visited sites throughout the country. Among them was the ancient city of Capernaum.
Capernaum was Jesus’ home during his ministry in the Galilee area. It also was the site of several biblical events and some of Jesus’ most well-known teachings. Today it is a collection of ruins from ancient times, including some remains of the synagogue from Jesus’ day. Birds were singing and roosting in the shade of olive trees as we walked through Capernaum, which sits along the shore of the beautiful Sea of Galilee (actually a freshwater lake).
Among the biblical events that took place in Capernaum was Jesus’ declaration that “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty” (John 6:35).
This statement was shocking to those who heard it because they interpreted his words in terms of physical food. The crowd had come to Jesus for more “miracle food,” having just seen him multiply five loaves and two fish to feed thousands.
Jesus’ statement is shocking in our context as well, because we are surrounded by so many competing goods and distractions that promise to make us happy. We may go through life moving from one empty promise to the next, without even truly feeling–let alone identifying–our spiritual hunger.
What Jesus promised was not food to temporarily satiate our physical hunger. Instead, he contrasted the “bread of life” with the manna God had provided his people in the wilderness. This kind of bread, Jesus himself, is spiritual sustenance, which gives true, everlasting life to those who partake of it. Only Jesus can satisfy our soul’s hunger.
I find that life presents a daily struggle to seek the Bread of Life and to sustain myself with what Jesus offers in the face of so many distractions and so many promises of happiness and fulfillment. In fact, most days I fail completely. I unintentionally try to fill my life with so many other things so that I don’t feel my spiritual hunger.
What Jesus gives us is so basic–bread. He satisfies our hunger and thirst. Rather than the “empty spiritual calories” the world offers, this is what we need.
“Yes, I am the bread of life! Your ancestors ate manna in the wilderness, but they all died. Anyone who eats the bread from heaven, however, will never die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live forever; and this bread, which I will offer so the world may live, is my flesh” (John 6:48-51).
© 2013 Amy Simpson.