Meanwhile, the disciples urged Him, “Rabbi, eat something.”
But He told them, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.”
So the disciples asked one another, “Could someone have brought Him food?”
Jesus explained, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to finish His work. (John 4:31-34)
I’m going to express my thoughts on this red letter passage in a roundabout way, so stay with me.
My friend Marge and I just studied sin, and then the cross, with a friend. Doing so made me think more about my own sin, and how Jesus died for me personally. I lose touch with this sometimes. It’s hard for me to remember the raw hard truth that my sin was, and is, serious enough to put me on “death row,” and Jesus took my place there.
Reading the Old Testament has actually helped me with this. I’ve been in Numbers, and I see there so many times that the Israelites complained, and how displeased God was when they did so. I think right now this convicts me about my sin more than anything else. Because I’ve realized lately how much I complain, have self pity, or just feel discontent. I could certainly have been one of the ones who was killed in a plague, or bit by a snake as a consequence for their grumbling.
Yet God was ultimately merciful to the Israelites. At one point he had Moses put a bronze snake on a pole, and everyone who looked at that snake was healed, instead of dying for their sins. (Numbers 21:9) I can picture myself there with the rest of the Jews, whining and being irate, and then watching in utter horror as the ground became a slithering mass of snakes that were sinking their fangs into people right and left. I would have been sure that I was doomed, as I saw everyone around me falling to the ground and writhing in death throes. Then, I can imagine the absolute relief I would have when Moses brought out the bronze snake, and I realized that even though I deserved the punishment, God had been gracious and spared me.
That bronze snake is a foreshadowing of Christ on the cross. And as I picture it so clearly, I can see how much the cross saved me, even as the bronze snake saved the Israelites.
What does this have to do with today’s red letter passage? Well, one way I’ve been working on my disgruntled attitude is to tell God “thank you” for the situations that make me want to grumble or have self pity. I tell him that I’m grateful to go through each challenge, because they remind me of how much I need God, and that he’s the only one who can truly meet my needs.
They remind me that I have spiritual food to eat that others know nothing about. And what wonderful food it is! I should remember this food always. But when life is going well, it’s easy to forget.
I love that Jesus was so much in touch with the spiritual food. He goes on to describe his sustenance: “My food is to do the will of the Father and to finish his work.”
I’m sure that I don’t fully understand this, but as I get older, I’m understanding it more. Last week I felt very restless. I felt so motivated to do something worthwhile with my time, and not just spin my wheels. And the thing that felt most worthwhile was to do things for God. I was very grateful that my husband and I rode our bikes on Saturday morning to the local park where they were having a City Market. We met some great people and had good conversations. We were outward focused. It felt so much better than sitting at home.
I know my husband has been feeling this restlessness too lately. He works all day, and that’s productive. But he’s been longing to do something more. So he joined a local organization that helps get people out of poverty, and he’s been volunteering every Tuesday night. He loves it.
The challenge for us from today’s red letter passage is, first, to seek to have a greater recognition of the spiritual food that’s available to us. Thanking God in hard times is one way to have this, because it opens our eyes to our spiritual hunger and focuses us on God as the one who satisfies that hunger.
The second challenge for us is to seek to to satisfy our restlessness by doing God’s will and work. Working at a job is good. Recreation is good. But our souls long to have purpose. They long to be lined up with God’s heart. Doing God’s work is truly food for the soul.
Ah, it makes me sigh when I think about how sometimes I can’t even see my own sin and spiritual poverty, yet Jesus could see the spiritual to the point of filling his soul.
But it also inspires me. I know that as we learn about Jesus, and the whole Bible, we surely will also understand more about the food that others know nothing about.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. . . Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” (Matt. 5:3, 6)
Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare. (Isa 55:2)