Have you ever seen those videos of things that are oddly satisfying? They’re all over social media on Facebook, YouTube, and TikTok, and they’re videos of things that we as people find satisfying to watch. The people in the videos might be power washing a wall covered in dirt, or laying down tiles that all come together in a pattern, or they organize a space in a way that makes everything fit perfectly together. Even if you’ve never seen videos like this, you know what it feels like to do something that gives you satisfaction. What satisfies me is when I get to mow the grass at the seminary for my job on the grounds crew and I get the lines perfectly straight, or if you ask my wife it’s when I actually put my dirty clothes in the laundry bin and not all over the bedroom floor, but we all love to do things that are satisfying, in fact I’d say that we all crave satisfaction. That’s why sleeping in your own bed after traveling feels so good, it’s why you want to eat a giant meal after eating nothing all day, and it’s why you always want an extra day during the weekend to rest at home and do nothing, because we all crave satisfaction. The problem is though, that even when you feel satisfied, you know at some point you’re going to need more sleep, you’re going to want to eat again, and even when you might be ready for Monday morning, you’re going to start looking forward to next weekend pretty quickly. The truth is, we are never fully satisfied in anything.
The people living in Jesus’ time during the 1st Century were no different. They had needs and desires that they wanted satisfied too. So when Jesus takes a few pieces of bread and a couple fish, and multiplies it so that it’s enough to feed five thousand men and their wives and children, the people are going to want more at some point. So when Jesus did this near his hometown, the people followed him to the other side of the Sea of Galilee and wanted to see him do more miracles. They wanted him to satisfy their need not just for food, but for a savior who would give them everything they wanted, and what they wanted was for Jesus to be their king, to make Israel great again, to give them all the answers, to tell them what stuff they needed to do to be good people and get in a right relationship with God, and they wanted Jesus to prove that he was their savior, by doing more miracles. Because like they said to Jesus, ‘even Moses made bread come out of heaven, what are you going to do to prove that you’re greater than Moses?’
They wanted Jesus to show them that he was who he said he was. They were missing the whole point of what Jesus was saying, that multiplying bread, healing the sick, walking on water, all of these things weren’t going to satisfy them. They’re like getting a good night’s sleep, eating a giant meal, or watching an oddly satisfying video, it’s great while it lasts and it is a good thing, but it’s not going to fully satisfy you. You’ll always be left craving more and you’ll never be fully satisfied no matter how much you get. The people weren’t taking Jesus at his word, “I am the bread of life that has come down from heaven. Believe in me and what I’m about to do for you, die on the cross and rise again, and you’ll be fully satisfied, and I won’t lose you”, and they were looking for some other temporary gift from God that just like the bread that God provided for the Israelites in the wilderness, would sustain them, but wouldn’t fully satisfy them. They were relying on the things that Jesus was providing to satisfy them, instead of Jesus himself, and they wanted Jesus to be their king based on the gifts he gave them and not on who he said he was.
What about you, do you rely on the good gifts that God gives you to satisfy you instead of Jesus? Do you act as if your identity and worth are only as good as what you can achieve or what you have or maybe even what your kids can achieve? Do you turn your success at work into a metric for your own happiness and security (If I can just get that raise or that promotion, if I can just make it to the end of the quarter, then I’ll be satisfied)? Do you rely on the community and people around you to satisfy your need to feel loved and appreciated? , or do you find your identity, your worth, your happiness, your security, and your desire to be loved, in what Jesus has already said about you and what he has done for you on the cross and in the empty tomb?
I mean don’t get me wrong all these things are great, and God blesses us with possessions, achievements, success, good health, and people around us because they are all good things, but when you think these gifts become more important than the one who gives them to you, then you’re doing the same thing the people in Jesus’ hometown were doing. You’re sticking your hands out to God asking for more bread and things that are pleasing to you, when what he really wants is for you to be satisfied in what he has already given you in Jesus. You and I try to find satisfaction in the gift instead of in the Giver, and we try to find completeness in things that aren’t Jesus. I know I do this in my life, like when I worry about the numbers in my bank account more than my generosity, when I am more concerned with the worries in my own life than the mess that’s in my friend’s life, and when I avoid bringing up my faith in conversations because it might just be too uncomfortable for me. I’m sure if you think about it, you’ll find that you focus more on the gifts that God gives you, rather than on how he has given you eternal life in his Son Jesus.
If you find yourself putting what Jesus gives you before what Jesus has done for you, which we all do, know this, that when you find yourself trying to satisfy whatever unfulfilled need you have in something that’s not Jesus, remember what you have heard and learned from Jesus himself, and what the people of his hometown failed to understand. That the things in this world while they might be good, while health, success, wealth, community, achievements, and everything else that God gives you might sustain you and keep you going, they will never fully satisfy you and they will always fall short, but Jesus will never fail to satisfy you and he’s already done it, and he will never fall short or let you down. Jesus came down from heaven to give you the ultimate gift of himself up for you so that you could have a spot in God’s presence. He died on the cross and walked out of the empty tomb so that you can walk out of the grave just like he did when he returns, maybe even today. He has made you a part of his family by making you new and forgiving you all of your brokenness. And he will return to raise you and all others from the dead and bring you into the new world that he is preparing for you where you will be completely satisfied because he will give you everything you could ever want, identity, worthiness, love, community, security and eternal life with him forever.
God has brought you here today to hear this Word that your sins are forgiven because of Jesus and what he’s done for you on the cross. But what about those who aren’t in this room today? What about the people outside of this Church, people in your neighborhood who chase after satisfaction in the things of this world? You have the call from Jesus himself to share the message of forgiveness with them too. That might mean simply starting a conversation with your coworker or neighbor that you’ve never really talked to before. Offer them some rhubarb pie. Invite them over for dinner, engage in a real and meaningful relationship with them. Pray for them, and trust in the Holy Spirit to guide and help prepare you to share the news of forgiveness and new life in Jesus with them. If you are more interested on how to do that, come talk to me after service, I’ll give you some resources and materials that have helped me grow in my relationships and spiritual conversations in my life.
Let me leave you with a short story written by famous Russian author Leo Tolstoy, and he titled this story, “How Much Land Does a Man Need?”. In this story, a farmer who has a great deal of land thinks to himself that if he has just a bit more, then there’s nothing that he’ll ever need or want for. He’ll have it all figured out and he will have security, stability, and everything else that a man could ever want and be completely satisfied! And he gets an offer, that for one thousand rubles, he can have as much land as he can walk in a day from sunrise to sunset. So he gets up early and goes out all day walking all the land that he can, but he realizes that he stayed out too long, and he has to run all the way back to where he started, to claim his land before sunset or he gets nothing. And he runs back as his servants cheer him on and gets back to the starting line just as the sun sets and they celebrate, only to find out that he died of exhaustion, trying to get all the land that he could. And his servants bury him in a grave six feet long, that’s how much land a man needs.
Jesus said to the people who demanded to see a miracle greater than Moses, “Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die.” When you chase after God’s gifts or something else that isn’t Jesus, like the farmer in the story, you will never be satisfied and you’ll spend your life chasing after something that can never truly satisfy you. Don’t solely chase after God’s gifts that he blesses you with, but remember that Jesus has given you himself, his own body, the Bread of Life who offers you complete satisfaction in his presence forever in a new creation, where He will satisfy your every need. A creation where you no longer have to constantly chase after satisfaction in your relationships, your success/achievement, or even by watching oddly satisfying videos, because Jesus gives you everything you could ever imagine and he satisfies you completely with himself. Amen.