You know how it is when you have a craving.
We laugh at the sometimes weird cravings of pregnant women. When I was pregnant with our daughter, it was hot, spicy foods. I couldn’t get enough – burritos with extra jalapenos, spicy salsa. It got so bad that I took a bottle of hot sauce into work, so I could add it to whatever we had for lunch that day.
I had to have that hot sauce.
With our son, it was fresh fruit and veggies. I guess if you have to crave something, fresh fruit and veggies aren’t too bad. Unless you’re 8 months pregnant in January and those fresh strawberries you just have to have are $5 a pound.
That’s the thing about craving – you just have to get the thing you crave. You can try to satisfy the craving with other things. But it won’t work. If you’re craving chocolate, eating a carrot just won’t do.
It’s even worse when you have a craving and you’re not really sure exactly what you’re craving. Sometimes in the evening, my husband[i] will start grazing – first a sandwich, then maybe a bowl of cereal, then some popcorn, and so on. One evening, he had started his graze-fest and I commented that I couldn’t believe he was still hungry right after the huge meal we had for dinner. He said, “I’ve got the munchies, but I don’t know what I’m hungry for.”
That’s where we find the crowd in our gospel reading today – they’re hungry, but they don’t really know what they are hungry for.
Last Sunday, we heard how Jesus fed 5000 people from a boy’s lunch of 5 loaves and 2 fish. The hungry people ate their fill, and then decided that this was such a wonderful miracle that they were ready to make Jesus their king on the spot. To stop them, Jesus went into seclusion on the mountain.
Today, the crowd is hungry again. They have a craving.
They seek Jesus out to fill it.
They are surprised that Jesus is not still on the mountain. They notice a boat is gone, so they pile in other boats and sail on over to where Jesus is.
“Jesus – when did you get here?”
Jesus doesn’t answer this question. He knows why they have come. He knows that they have a craving.
He also knows that they aren’t craving what they think they are.
“You are just here because I fed you yesterday and you are hoping I’ll feed you again. You’ve missed the whole point of yesterday’s miracle – it’s a sign to point you to God. You’re focused on food that will fill you for a moment, but then you’ll be hungry again. Let me tell you what you are really craving – food that brings eternal life, bread of heaven. Focus on that.”
The crowd still misses the point. They want to know what they have to do to get that food. They will work for food. What does God charge for this heavenly bread?
Jesus tries to re-orientate their focus from themselves and points them to what God is doing.
“The only thing you need to do is trust-abide-have-faith in the one God has sent.”
“Ok. We’ll trust – just give us a sign. Perform a miracle. Oh say, something like Moses when he fed our ancestors with manna! Yes. Manna. That will do nicely.”
I imagine Jesus just shook his head at this point. Really? A sign? What did they think the whole 5 loaves 2 fish thing was yesterday?
The crowd was craving. They were hungry – they just didn’t realize that their hunger was deeper than just filling their bellies with bread.
The bread satisfied their hunger –for a little while - but it did nothing to satisfy the deeper longing they had.
They don’t know it yet, but Jesus is exactly what they are craving.
We’re a lot like the crowd. We know we are craving something.
We don’t always know what that something is.
So we go on a graze-fest, trying all sorts of things to satisfy our craving. Sometimes we try to stop the craving with things are not so good. It’s easy to think about people who are addicted to alcohol or drugs and say, “They need to realize that that drug, that drink will not fill that deep empty space in their lives. It’s only masking the pain, masking the craving.”
Sometimes we try to fill the craving with things that are pretty good – things like our work, a hobby, our families. We get so invested in the thing we think we are craving that these good things can also become an excess – workaholism, a hobby or interest or sport that takes all our energy, getting so invested in our family that it’s hard to tell where one person starts and the other ends. We can even becomes so involved in church and doing the work of the church that there’s no room for that one thing that we really crave.
I’ve heard it said that we have a God-shaped hole in our hearts. St Augustine said, “You have made us for Yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in You” [ii]
We are restless, flitting from thing to thing, following this fad and that whim, unable to find that place that where we find true rest.
We are craving, hungry, but we don’t know what we are hungry for.
Jesus looks at us and loves us and says to us, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry and whoever trusts-abides-has faith in me will never thirst.”
“What Jesus wants to bring is nothing less than the full realization of God’s shalom which God intended from the beginning. That shalom includes empty stomachs getting filled, but it is much, much more. It’s this much, much more that Jesus is helping people to see as he also fills empty stomachs.”[iii]
It’s that much, much more that Jesus wants you to see as he meets you here, to quiet your craving, to still your restlessness.
What are you craving today?
[i] Permission has been granted for me to share this story! I always ask before talking about family members.
[iii] The Hardest Question, http://thq.wearesparkhouse.org/new-testament/ordinary18bgospel/