One day, tired out by his journey, Jesus was sitting by a well around noon. When a woman came to draw water, he asked her for a drink. She thought that was strange, since he was a Jew and she was a Samaritan, and Jews didn’t share things in common with Samaritans.
He said to her, “If you knew who it is that asked you for a drink, you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”
The woman pointed out that the well was deep and that he didn’t have a bucket. “Where do you get that living water?”
And he said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.”
What else could she have said in reply but, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty”? -- John 4:5-15
We drink to replenish our bodies with water, lest we faint and shrivel up like raisins and die. We drink, and we get thirsty again. We eat, and we get hungry again. The fullness doesn’t last.
One day, Jesus was sitting by the lakeshore. When he looked up and saw the large crowd gathered around him, he gave thanks for a little boy’s lunch, broke the loaves and distributed them to all. They ate as much as they wanted, all five-thousand of them, and the left-over pieces of bread filled twelve baskets.
No wonder they came back the next day, looking for him, and he said to them, “Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life. The bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
What else could they have said in reply but, “Sir, give us this bread always”? --John 6:1-34
We eat in order to grow and to fuel our bodies for work and play, lest we faint and die. We eat, and we get hungry again. We drink, and we get thirsty again. Hunger and thirst are familiar rhythms of our life like waking and sleeping, work and rest, going out and coming in, breathing in and breathing out. The fullness doesn’t last.
When Martin Luther wrote his Small Catechism, he wanted to give children and their parents a resource to study the basics of the faith. In the chapter on the Lord’s Prayer, reflecting on the line, Give us this day our daily bread, he asks, "What, then, is meant by daily bread?”
And the answer follows,
Daily bread includes everything that we need for our bodily welfare, such as food and drink, clothing and shoes, house and home, land and cattle, money and goods, a godly spouse, godly children, godly workers, godly and faithful leaders, good government, good weather, peace and order, health, a good name, good friends, faithful neighbors, and the like.
Our prayer for bread is indeed our prayer for everything that we need for our bodily welfare. We say bread, because we don’t know a more beautiful word for the dailiness of our needs, the fragile nature of our lives, and our dependence on God, the earth, and one another.
Jesus offers us bread that stills our hunger not just for a while, but for good. He offers us water that quenches our thirst not just for a while, but for good. Some of you hear this, and you can’t help but think about one of those late-night infomercials where a salesman praises the benefits of this or that product that will change your life not just for a while, but for good: the pill that will make you both smart and sexy; the crème that will take twenty years of wrinkles off your face; the tonic that will give you your hair back and bring about world peace.
We’re on our guard because we think that somebody’s always trying to sell us something. Jesus isn’t selling anything.
Living water and living bread – this is no two-for-one with a free crystal cross thrown in for good measure, a $69 value for only $9.95 plus shipping and handling. No, Jesus isn’t selling anything. The world sells, but Jesus gives.
The merchants and the marketeers know every dimension of our hunger and our thirst, in ever more sophisticated consumer profiles and with offers tailored to our credit ratings, but the fulfillment never lasts. We drink, and we get thirsty again, and we drink more. We eat, and we get hungry again, and we eat more. We labor for that which does not satisfy, and spend our money for that which is not bread (Isaiah 55:2). And when the bubble bursts, we act surprised.
Jesus isn’t selling anything, he gives – living water, living bread. He gives what only God can give – life, and he gives it abundantly.
When the crowd came to him, he said to them, “You are looking for me, not because you know who I am, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.” In the presence of Jesus, bread was miraculously abundant. He gave them bread to eat, because he never taught people with empty stomachs that man and woman don’t live by bread alone. He gave them bread to eat until even the hungriest among the twelve-year olds said, ‘I’m kinda full’ – and he waited until the next day to teach them that fullness of life is not the same as a full stomach.
What do you eat when the desire behind your hunger is a gnawing hunger for life itself? What do you drink when the desire beneath your thirst is a craving for fullness that will last? We eat our daily bread knowing that we cannot live without it – and sometimes sensing that we cannot live by it alone.
To know and live life in fullness, we need the Word of God, and we need that Word in the flesh – visible, tangible, vulnerable, audible, and edible. We need the bread of life. We need the bread that comes down from heaven for the life of the world. We need the living bread: whoever eats of it will live forever. Fullness that will last.
Jesus points us away from the bakery and the vineyard, from the fields and the stores and the malls and the banks and the credit card bills and yes, from all labor and every broken promise, and he points to himself: I am the bread of life. I give what the world cannot give. I give you what no one on earth can grow or make or sell or buy. I myself am the food that gives life, not the loaves miraculously multiplied.
And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.Suddenly he’s done talking about bread and water, and now he talks about flesh and blood. We can handle talk of flesh and blood; we sometimes speak of our children as our flesh and blood. Jesus is done talking about bread and water, but he continues to talk about eating and drinking:
Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.
We’re not sure what to make of the associations this sets off in our imagination – surely, he doesn’t mean…?
Eating, drinking, and breathing refer to the most basic level of our being, the most fundamental necessities of food, water, and air. Jesus invites us, urges us to relate to him, and through him to God, at that most basic level of our need: Eat me. Drink me. Breathe me. Sleep in my arms. I want you to know me with your intellect and will, but also with your skin and bones. I want you to know me completely, the Word of God in flesh and blood. I want to be your first thought at dawn and your last thought before you go to sleep. And I want to be your daily bread, the light in your eyes, and the fire in your belly. Let me be your life, for I am the life of the world.
The fullness you seek is not more of what you have or what you work for; fullness is what I give – and I give myself. Eat me. Drink me. Know me completely, the Word of God in flesh and blood.
And what do you say in response to this offer of life-giving, life-restoring, life-fulfilling relationship? What can you say?
Give me Jesus; this one is all I need.
When I wake up in the morning – give me Jesus.
When I close my eyes at the end of the day – give me Jesus.
When I am alone – give me Jesus.
When my heart aches and I have no more tears left – give me Jesus.
When evildoers assail me to devour my flesh – give me Jesus.
When I listen to the news and and I can feel my soul drain through the bottom of my feet – give me Jesus.
When my courage shrinks in the freezing grip of fear – give me Jesus.
When I no longer know what a human being looks like for all the wolves in my life – give me Jesus.
When the face of God is nothing to me but a faded photograph from my childhood – give me Jesus.
Give me Jesus; this one is all I need. Good as bread. One loaf for the life of the world. The Word of God in flesh and blood.