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Who He Really Is

John 6:22-40
4th April 2004

A Parliamentary Inquiry will shortly commence into the race riot that occurred in Redfern. I know the area well. In 1993, after the South Sydney Council garbage collectors banned the collection of garbage from Everleigh Street because of physical attacks upon them. The garbage had piled high for more than a year in foul, rotting heaps outside houses, I organised teams of volunteers to join with me on Saturdays in shovelling up the garbage into dump bins. We cleaned the streets so people might have a sense of dignity. Then, as President of Sydney Rotary, I organised scores of men to work with me in The Block area in rebuilding a two-storey house that had been gutted in the previous riots. The Aborigines, when they discovered we were all business and professional men and we were not being paid, and we were not working under court orders in community service, were amazed. Every Saturday underlined my sense of despair at the plight of urban aborigines.

I remember spending two days and nights with black community leaders in the Redfern Aboriginal Medical Centre. We listened to a great Negro leader, Dr John Perkins, a friend of mine since we spent six days together in 1982 at a Conference on social responsibility. I had brought John to Australia, in the hope that this man might show our Aboriginal leaders how to discover control over their lives, and personal satisfaction. John grew up in a dirt poor sharecropper’s family deep in Mississippi. His mother died as he was born, and his alcoholic father gave him and the other four children away when John was seven months old to his grandmother. She had 19 children, many of whom still lived in the one tiny shack.

His brother was brutally killed by a policeman in a racial incident after returning from World War 2. His sister was killed by a drunken boyfriend. John Perkins shifted to California and worked as a janitor. He served his country in action in Korea. He became a steel mill employee and a union organiser. Then, after marriage, while taking his child to Sunday School, he started listening and found Christ. He found God as his heavenly Father. Now John Perkins found his life had meaning and satisfaction.

He wanted other people to know Christ as well. He wanted the poor sharecroppers on Mississippi, the homeless, the poor, the hurting, to realise that Christ was their answer to despair, alcoholism and powerlessness, so he went back to Mississippi. John started helping people help themselves and to break the cycle of dependency on welfare. He began a day-care centre, a gymnasium for teenagers, built a playground, a housing co-operative, a food co-operative, a health centre, a church. New houses were constructed and a new pride came to the lives of some of America’s dispossessed. Then he established a national program of helping America’s poor to help themselves. John had no education except what he picked up along the way. But that was some achievement. Today he is listed in the “International Who’s Who of Intellectuals”. He has been honoured by universities and has lectured in more than 150 universities around the world. His principles are to be found in his many books. We hoped Dr Perkin’s visit would speak to our Aborigines who share the same poverty of the Negro sharecroppers of Mississippi.

John Perkins says that we inherit three basic needs: “One is the need to belong and to be wanted. Of course, this need is best satisfied in a family household, where there is a mother and father who wants you. This is the foundation for human development, and no person, government program or agent, regardless of how well intended, can ever replace that need for the family. The second inherited need is for significance and importance. The need for dignity is planted in every human being and is forever crying out for the affirmation that “I am somebody”. When this affirmation is not received human growth is severely limited. The third human need requires a reasonable amount of security and safety. When this need is not met the result is a life of fear — one of the most powerful human emotions.”

John Perkins is right. But I would add a fourth, one need that is only met when the first three have been met: we have an inherited need to be satisfied. The baby’s first cry is for the breast, for food, warmth, security. From then the child cries for satisfaction, for dry clothes, food, toys, amusement, or for whatever is prohibited. The child and then the adult continually searches for satisfaction. People seek satisfaction in all directions. Some seek satisfaction in fulfilment of physical achievement. The young man with rippling muscles standing in front of a gymnasium mirror, is only satisfied when he is pumping iron. Another feels satisfied only after a good meal and fine wine in a restaurant. Another feels satisfied only after a difficult financial deal has been accomplished and the dollars are in the bank.

Another feels satisfied running in the rain up a steep hill with the wind against his face. Another feels satisfied curled up in a warm bed with a good book. Others seek satisfaction through a sexual conquest. Sexual conquest satisfies some people as nothing else does, and a denied person frustrated to his limit may rape and kill simply to be satisfied. Others seek satisfaction in the accumulation of things. They buy, steal, acquire, gain, obtain, procure, borrow, and purchase on credit anything in the hope that Things will give them satisfaction. Jesus said: “Watch out and guard yourselves from every kind of greed; because of person’s true life is not made up of the things he owns, no matter how rich he may be.” Luke 12:15. We must learn that “life does not consist in the abundance of our possessions.”

Others seek satisfaction in the achievement of power. Little dictators have wielded political power, conquered armies and built empires to satisfy their lust for power. Businessmen have lied, cheated, manipulated, and bought their way to the top to satisfy their desires for money as the means to power. The story continues of peoples’ search for what satisfies. The irony is that whatever we gain has the same effect as drinking sea-water: the more we have the more we want, and the more we want the less we are satisfied. That was precisely the response of crowds who had been fed miraculously by Jesus on bread and tasty salt fish when they found themselves miles from home, at sunset, on the edge of the Jordanian desert. Jesus took the offered meal of a small boy whose mother had insisted he take something to eat with him, and provided enough from it to feed them all.

Jesus sent the disciples back in the only boat there, and He stayed with the people. The next morning, after a stormy night, they found him gone. He was over the other side. The wild storm had blown some fishing craft that were out on the lake overnight to their shore. They crowded into these and rowed back to Capernaum. They found Jesus teaching in the synagogue and said: “Teacher, when did you get here?” Jesus answered “I am telling you the truth: you are looking for me because you ate the bread and had all you wanted, not because you understood my miracles. Do not work for food that spoils; instead work for the food that lasts for eternal life. This is the food the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has put His mark of approval on Him.” So they asked Him, “What can we do in order to do what God wants us to do?” Jesus answers, “What God wants you to do is to believe in the One He sent.” (6:25-29).

Three things were wrong: they had eaten all they wanted but were still not satisfied; they did not understand the miracle; and they thought they pleased God by doing something for Him. Never satisfied! So they asked: “What miracle will you perform so that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? Our ancestors ate manna in the wilderness just as the scriptures said: “He gave them bread from heaven to eat.” v30-31 They argued: give us bread and fish daily and we’ll believe you. Moses gave heavenly bread that kept on coming for 40 years while our ancestors were in the wilderness. Why don’t you give us bread and fish for every day? But Jesus knew their hunger was deeper than food:

“What Moses gave you was not the bread from heaven; it is my Father who gives you the real bread from heaven. For the bread that God gives is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” Still thinking of physical bread they respond: “Sir give us this bread always”. Jesus tells them that satisfaction can only be found in believing in Him. “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never be hungry; he who believes in Me will never be thirsty.” v32-35 Never hungry! Never thirsty!

Here was real satisfaction! This bread alone could satisfy our deepest needs. Jesus affirms: “For what my Father wants is that all who see the Son and believe in Him should have eternal life.” (v40) Jesus repeats: “I am telling you the truth: he who believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate manna in the desert but they died. But the bread that comes down from heaven is of such a kind that whoever eats it will not die. I am the living bread that came down from Heaven. If anyone eats this bread, he will live forever. The bread that I will give him is my flesh, which I give so that the world may live.” (v47-51).

Here Jesus comes to the point of our deepest need: We need to belong. Jesus offers us a Heavenly Father and the family of God who gives us self-worth, self dignity, a life of meaning and purpose. We need to break our cycle of dependency. Jesus offers us bread that satisfies forever. We need to feel significant and important. Our alienation from our Father has been reconciled by the offer of His own flesh in our place. Now we can live as a child of God, we are somebodies!

We need to feel secure and safe. No wonder we are satisfied! When we believe in Jesus we have the only bread that satisfies, because He meets our deepest needs! “Jesus saves and keeps and satisfies”. He went straight to the heart of the matter. “You have seen wonderful things. You have seen how God’s grace enabled a crowd to be fed. Your thoughts ought to have been turned to the God who did these things; but instead all that you are thinking about is bread.” It is as if Jesus said: “You cannot think about your souls for thinking of your stomachs. Don’t work for the food that perishes but for that which lasts for ever and gives eternal life.” Centuries earlier Isaiah asked: “Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which does not satisfy?” Isaiah 55:2

There is physical hunger that physical food can satisfy. There is spiritual hunger that food can never satisfy. There is a deep hunger which can be satisfied only by Jesus. There is the hunger for truth--in Him alone is the truth of God. There is the hunger for life--in Him alone is life more abundant. There is the hunger for love--in Him alone is the love that outlasts sin and death. Christ alone satisfies the hunger of the human soul. Jesus is the bread of life. The hunger of the human heart is ended when we know Christ and through him know God. The restless soul is at rest. The hungry heart is satisfied. When Jesus comes, the hunger and the thirst goes. The human heart finds what it was searching for and life ceases to be mere existence and becomes a living in peace. Even beyond life we are safe. On the last day when all things end we are still secure. The offer of Christ is life in time and life in eternity.


  • Barclay's Daily Study Bible (John)


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