Episode 38: Food
Daily activities like eating, drinking, and sleeping often go unnoticed or underappreciated in our modern lives. Very little attention is given to them until a problem arises and these needs are not being met. The Gospel of John pays much closer attention to these items: water for drinking and bread for eating. The provision of these items lies in the realm of God’s provision, especially since the vastly rural nature of the time period places their lack of availability at a far greater risk. They are necessary for living. Yet, Jesus seems to communicate that the life of the ages he is bringing entails an entirely different menu.
In the Old TestamentThe Old Testament opens with God instructing Adam to eat from what is provided; the first command is a positive command. “From every tree in this paradise you are to eat food, only you are not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. (Genesis 2:16-17 LXX).
In the prophetic writings, hunger and thirst are recognized as objects which God can prevent for those who follow after him. Isaiah 49:10 states, “They will not hunger nor will they thirst, nor will the burning heat strike them, not even the sun itself, but the one who has mercy will comfort them and lead them through springs of water.” Yet hunger and thirst also represent objects which result from disobedience to the same LORD. Micah and Hosea echo one another. “You ate yet you were not satisfied at all,” (Micah 6:14 LXX) and They ate yet they were not satisfied at all,” (Hosea 4:10). Not only does God provide food and drink, the food and drink the LORD provides is fully satisfying.
Elsewhere in JohnIn the scene at the well in Samaria, Jesus’ disciples have left him to seek provisions for their travel, particularly some food to eat. When they return and observe Jesus speaking with the woman, they were amazed. Rather than addressing the spiritual conversation that had taken place, they return to the concern of their stomachs. When they offer Jesus food, he turns it down. His stomach is not his primary concern. Instead he has available to him food which they simply don’t yet understand, doing the work of the one who sent him. (John 4:31-34)
The concern for food takes a more central stage when Jesus inquires of his disciple Philip how to obtain food for the crowd following them. Philip cannot fathom the resources necessary for obtaining sufficient food for such a vast crowd. Another disciple, Andrew, expresses his doubts that what a child has made available will be sufficient. Jesus, however, took the loaves and fish and provided enough food to fully satisfy the 5000 who were there. (John 6:1-14) The crowd seeks out Jesus on the next day near Capernaum looking for more food. At this point Jesus challenges them to work for the food that satisfies for the life of the ages and not that which goes bad in a day or two. (John 6:26-27)
When they question what this kind of food might be, since it won’t be manna from heaven, Jesus engages in a lengthy, highly controversial discussion over what this type of food looks like; essentially it is himself.
Then Jesus spoke to them, “I speak truthfully to you,
unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink the
blood of the Son of Man, you have no life in yourself.
The one who eats my flesh and who drinks my blood
remains in me and I remain in him. Just as the father
of life sent me and I live because of him, even so the one
eating me will live because of me. This is the bread
which came down from heaven, not like your fathers
who ate (some bread) and died; the one eating this
bread (which came down from heaven) will live in the
ages. (John 6:55-58)
Unfortunately, many who had followed Jesus up to this point turned around because his provision was not what they had in mind.
After Jesus’ resurrection, the disciples have returned to Galilee where some of them are out on the lake fishing, but not having any luck. Jesus appears in the early morning and, after they recognize him and come to the shore, he invites them to eat what he has prepared. Once they have brought the miraculous catch of fish to the shore, not allowing it to go to waste, he feeds them from what he has already provided. The disciples have no response for him at this time. He provides them with bread and fish for breakfast, they also have a bountiful catch for later. What could they possibly say? (John 21:1-14)
Jesus does not find himself subject to the restraints of the normal human body when it comes to food. When he is weary and resting, he does not need the food his disciples bring to him. After he provides food in abundance for those hungry and away from their homes and they seek him for additional nourishment, he encourages them to seek a different kind of food. When he appears to his disciples in the early morning, he has already prepped a meal sufficient for them. Food, in its raw form, is not presented as the most significant factor for human existence. Indeed, Jesus as the Word Become Flesh demonstrates that a more important nutrient is available, one that nourishes into the life of the ages.
This nutrient is found in Jesus’ word to Peter later in the final chapter. Jesus reminds Peter not to be so concerned about others, but to “follow me.” (John 21:19, 21) This is the same call that is given in John 1:43 to Philip. It is the essence of the message communicated in John 6 to the crowd. “I am the Bread of Life; the one who comes to me will not be hungry, and the one who believes in me will never be thirsty.” (John 6:35) The nutrient that appears to be missing in the lives of those who hunger is a willingness to embrace the Word at the Beginning with God. This type of encounter provides full satisfaction and refocuses the concerns of the individual from the recurring need for physical food to a fulfilling, and fully satisfying, provision of human nourishment.
Take 5 Minutes More
In a country with such abundance of provision of the necessary elements for life, with places to purchase food or drink on nearly every corner of a main street, we often overlook our dependence on God for life itself. Take a few moments to consider how you might be more aware of your dependence upon God.
- What does it take for you to be fully satisfied when you eat or drink?
- How often do you turn to food as a substitute for emptiness in another aspect of your life?
- How can you modify your daily routine to become more aware of God’s provision for you, in abundance or scarcity, so that you might be among those for whom he protects and provides for in our daily activities?