Satisfied and Free {31 Days}

“When they were satisfied, Jesus told his disciples, ‘Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost.’ “ ~John 6:12

Just getting by seems to be a common refrain. I hear it in the casual “We’re hanging in there” and in the desperate “We’re barely hanging on” of recent conversations.I hear it too in the whispers of my own thinking.

There is a great want—a ravenous ache—for more than what we have. More sleep. More money. More friends. More purpose. More understanding. Some quite literally are hungry for more food.

Hunger—that ever-widening pit of not having enough—can be a prison, with bars of remembrances separating you from what you have and what you think you cannot live without.

The Gospel of John tells us the story of large crowds who are following Jesus because of the signs {miracles} he has performed; they are wowed by the possibilities (Jn 6:1-15). Water to wine (Jn. 2:1-12). Dang, no longer will the drought leave us with a deficit of grapes. A healing from a remote location (Jn. 4:46-54).  Imagine the revenue to be made from the satellite feed. And then you heard what this guy Jesus did when he found Lame Larry at the Pool of Infirmity (Jn. 5:1-15)? He sends him out walking on his own two feet for the first time in thirty-eight years. Inconceivable!

No wonder the crowd is pressing in on Jesus with toddler-like impetuousness, “Do it again, Jesus! Do it again!” Their hopes go grand scale. “With Jesus on the scene, we could hit the jackpot.” Maybe they all begin to narrow down their three wishes for the genie in the bottle.

But looking only to be wowed can find us leaving with more wants and disappointments than with which we came. ‘Wow’ doesn’t need relationship. It can survive and thrive in a crowd of many.  

But hunger, that’s personal. Anyone who has ever had to beg or borrow for food knows this.

The grumbles of the people’s stomachs growl, their hunger reminding them they are not free.  The ‘wow’ of watching miracles in someone else’s life will never adequately substitute from personally receiving from Jesus. “Jesus, we’ve been in this wilderness of want so long. Where is our promised land?”

Jesus motions to the expanse of the green pastures, “Sit in my sanctuary. This is the place for all the hungry. You are empty. I will fill you.” There is freedom on the grassy plain where Jesus transforms your common need into absolute dependency. It is the place where he shows you your hunger is not what is broken–He made you to hunger for him. 

I may pay more taxes if the Bush Incentive expires. Yet I will still be full. You may lose a friend, your job or your house. Your candidate may lose the election. You may lose your health. You could lose everything you think you need. Yet still you can be full. Jesus only empties what he knows he can fully satisfy.

Jesus takes borrowed bread—the ordinary barley variety, offers a prayer of thanks, breaks the loaves and gives each person—all 5,000 of them—more than they could imagine. The tyranny of want and not enough buckles and surrenders to satisfaction and more than enough.

In reflection, I have been one person in the crowd of many, following Jesus because I know he’s capable of the spectacular. I’ve been wowed by the extraordinary, all the while remaining silently imprisoned to an unrelenting hunger for God in the ordinary places. Haven’t we all been desperately hungry?

So Jesus takes bread—the substances of the daily to show us what being free indeed looks like. It is receiving from Jesus in the ordinary, everyday places. It’s looking to him for every need, not just the looking holy on Sunday variety.  It’s the confidence that in all of the not enough places Jesus has more than enough. He satisfies completely. 

The One who made us knows best our longings. He knows we will be hungry for food and friendship and meaning. Like Philip, we will count our coins and come up short to meet our needs (Jn.6:7).  It’s so easy to think we are the ones who need to come up with the money and flour and yeast and oil, like we’re the baker or something. No, freedom is found when we realize we are the beggar, hungry and in need.

When our hunger drives us to Jesus…He will satisfy.  When we give up trying to feed ourselves with bread we don’t have…He will satisfy. When we stop demanding signs and wonders and accept that our need for him is so much more simple–daily bread for our hunger…He will satisfy. “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want” (Psalm 23:1). Receive the Bread. Give thanks. Be filled.

Satisfied and free. Free indeed! 

Do you have a story of a time that Jesus richly satisfied you in a time of great need? I’d love to hear it!

This month I’m participating with The Nester in her 31 Day challenge to write every day on a topic of choice. I’m writing this month on how Jesus make us free. Because he does and without him, we’re just a hot mess of a captive. 

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