Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News
May 25, 2014
Are the claims of Jesus too astounding to believe?
Jesus claimed many astounding things about himself. I can understand why some people balk at believing the claims Jesus made.
Imagine one of your neighbors saying to you, “I am the bread of life.” You would probably figure he had had a stroke. And you might reply, “Yeah, right. Well, see you later” as you walked away.
Yet you would admit upon reflection that we all have hungers of the heart that cornbread and biscuits cannot satisfy. We need some kind of “spiritual” bread that will nourish the soul.
Even some atheists acknowledge this need. Though a professed atheist, novelist Marghanita Laski wrote mostly about religion. Not long before she died Laski said to a Christian friend, “I envy you Christians; you have someone to forgive you, and I don’t.”
Her sad words validate Blaise Pascal’s classic assumption: “There is a God shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator, made known through Jesus.”
What Laski was looking for was “the bread of heaven,” what Jesus claimed to be. She was unable, or unwilling, to believe that there is a God like Jesus and that Jesus could satisfy the emptiness of her life. She was hungry for God.
She knew a lot about religion but did not know God. The Pharisees, according to Jesus, were in the same predicament. They were up to their eyebrows in religion but they did not know God. They were looking for a Messiah who would recognize their authority and their righteousness, not one who would boldly declare that he had come down from heaven to be living bread and living water.
The Pharisees wanted a Messiah who would do their will, not one who would upset their apple carts by exposing their hypocrisy. After all, the claims of Jesus were ludicrous; what right did he have to say that he was the bread God had sent? Or that he was the living water? Such absurdity they could not accept!
Yet Jesus insisted that he was the true bread that satisfies and the water than quenches the thirst of all who follow him. Some in every age find this hard to believe just as the Jews balked at believing it.
Admittedly no one can accept Jesus’ claims except by faith. But that is exactly what God asks for – faith! Genuine faith enables Christians to believe that Jesus is everything he says he is and that he has the power to do all that he says he can do.
Seven times Jesus says emphatically “I am.” We have to decide how to respond to his claims. We can decide that he was confused or crazy. We can decide that this was the Gospel writer John talking, not Jesus. Or we can decide that what Jesus said is true. This is the choice of faith. It is a decision, the Bible says, that enables a person to receive forgiveness for their sins and be reconciled to God. To do so is to eat living bread that satisfies the hunger of the soul for peace with God.
Most of us know the contentment of being satisfied with physical bread. Our hunger is gone. We want no more. Partaking of Jesus as the living bread provides that same satisfaction spiritually. A popular hymn expresses that contentment with this lovely phrase: “Bread of heaven, feed me till I want no more!”
Once it was my privilege to host a Methodist bishop from India on a visit to America. His words still ring in my ears: “In my land many are starving; they are hungry for bread for their bodies. But they have a greater need – to know Jesus so their souls can be nourished by the Bread of heaven.”
The enjoyment of a good meal is temporary; hunger will soon return. But the bread of heaven provides a more lasting satisfaction. Another word for this soul satisfaction is peace, the peace that believers experience when Jesus fills the vacuum in the heart. This peace is an inward assurance that our “eternal life” has already begun.
When my friend John Felton was dying, he did not tell me about his suffering, his politics or his accomplishments. He told me about Jesus. He said simply, “Pastor, Jesus is everything.”
I think that is what Jesus meant by claiming to be living bread and living water. To have him is to have everything we need – now and forever. The claims of Jesus are indeed astounding but the hungers of the heart are never satisfied until you believe those claims.
If this is true then we ought not to keep it a secret! + + +