“Always”

GOSPEL | JOHN 6:27-35

27 “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.”  28 Then they said to him, “What must we do to perform the works of God?”  29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”  30 So they said to him, “What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing?  31 Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”  32 Then Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven.  33 For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”  34 They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”  35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”

“Give us this bread always” (v.34)

This semester has been one of deep personal reflection (to anyone who follows this blog, this will have become redundantly obvious). How all this reflection began, however, is with this question: “What do you want?” Ruth Haley Barton’s book Sacred Rhythms asked me in the first chapter to begin the work of crafting my own personal spiritual rule, or “sacred rhythms,” by first examining my desires.

After taking a bleak January morning to listen deeply to what I really wanted, I discovered a few illuminating points:

  • I want to “be” more than to “do,” but I also want to understand better what I want to “do.”
  • I want more space to be creative, but the space I have I waste on distraction or self-gratification.
  • I want intimacy, fellowship, and love, but I am afraid of offering those gestures to others.

I saw in all of this work that I do not go to the right meal to nourish my deepest hungers. Paul encounters this same dynamic in his own life:

“I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” (Romans 7:15)

This passage from John has recalled all of this examining of my desires to the surface again. The Jews listening to Jesus cry out like nest-bound hatchlings, mouths agape, crying: “Give us this bread always!” (v.34). They have a real spiritual hunger, and they smell a pleasing aroma, and their spirits ache to be satisfied. Jesus sees and hears and understands, and ultimately offers himself: “I am the bread of life.” (v.35).

What I want most can only ever be found in Jesus Christ. He is the answer to all of my questions, he is the meal for all of my appetites, he is the source and end of my pilgrimage. I understand this well, and I understand this not at all. I am able to write this with conviction. But I have yet to really train my appetites to crave the right food: “the food that endures for eternal life” (v. 27), “the true bread from heaven” (v.32), “the Bread of Life” (v.35). I cry out with those listening: “Give [me] this Bread always!”

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