Bayou City Women’s 2018 Summer Bible Study Project studied the gospel of King Jesus in his own words. We walked through his statements in the Book of John where he declared himself to be the great I AM. He did so indirectly many times, but also just flat out said he was God. The answer we were seeking was if he is who he says he is, what does that mean for us? What we learned is that Jesus changes everything. I got to be part of a study group, and I thought I’d share some of my notes over the next few weeks from the teaching time for each chapter. This isn’t a synopsis of the study, but rather pieces of my personal research and my testimony and a few fun nuggets I found along the way.
Week 1: The Bread of Life
We all need something. And we all seek out ways to fill that need.
When my daughter was very small, one year old, she got really sick. She was wasting away…she looked like a starving child — dark circles under her eyes, boney arms and legs, her little belly was distended, and she had pale, sallow skin…it was awful. Her doctor and my husband and I were getting more and more concerned. And I was confused. I had spent years learning the best way to feed and care for kids. I fed my family a super healthy, organic, whole foods diet. I made my own yogurt for crying out loud! But she was finally diagnosed on her third birthday with an autoimmune disease that causes the body to attack itself when you eat wheat. I changed her diet and she almost immediately got better. Her proportions evened out. She gained muscle and fat. She started to grow taller and her feet shot up three shoe sizes over the summer. Her hair, skin, and nails were glowing and healthy. I was so relieved and happy, but I was also devastated. I blamed myself. I beat myself up for missing the clues for so long. I hated that what I thought I was doing right was actually hurting her. What I needed in that moment in time was security. I was trying to fill that need by grasping for control. And it quickly crumbled into fear – and shame.
Maybe security isn’t what you long for, and maybe fear isn’t what you struggle with.
Maybe you seek approval. Your life is full of distractions and you feel like you’ve never done enough, you’ve made too many mistakes, you’ve wasted too much time. Do you struggle with shame?
Maybe you crave success. You try to reach it by being everything for everyone. And you’re exhausted.
How about love? That’s a big one. Anyone or anything you depend on to fill that hole in your heart will fail. Every time. Are you disappointed?
Reputation — you are so focused – maybe even obsessed – with being a good Christian, being the best at what you do, having the biggest, cleanest house, the most well-behaved kids, looking a certain way, eating a certain way, being smart, being witty, being talented, being useful. The striving never ends.
Power — you know what’s one way I’ve noticed I am tempted to grab at power? Gossip. Bragging. Wanting to see and be seen. Or even just trying to live on my own steam. Pouring myself out, day in, day out. Not stopping to rest, or feed my soul. Have you ever hit rock bottom? Have you ever seen your power completely give out?
Maybe you seek comfort. You’re isolated, avoid the hard stuff, maybe it’s even made you run from your God-given calling.
Maybe you’re hurt. Legitimately hurting. A lot of us are. You need healing. You’re suffering in pain or unforgiveness or both. Or maybe you’re living under the weight of anxiety or depression. And you’re not sure how to fix it.
Our temporary fixes for our needs come at a cost.They leave us still empty and still in need for something that will actually sustain us. I know this doesn’t even begin to cover all the needs represented in our community. What are you longing for?
Jesus offers us eternal satisfaction for all our hurts and all our needs…his bread forever silences the ache of fear, shame, anxiety, unbelief, distraction, indulgence, and pain. He offers us eternal life. And this week we studied the definition of eternal life in the words of King Jesus himself. This simple, yet profoundly wonderful truth: eternal life is to know God.
From Isaiah 55:
“Come, all you who are thirsty,
come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without cost.
Eternal life (knowing God) is for everyone. Verse 1 says, “come, all who are thirsty…” Some of translations say everyone, anyone, whoever. All. We are all invited to this table.
In John 3:16, which most of you probably know by heart, Jesus said, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” In this context, “the world” doesn’t mean the natural world around us, the earth. It means all of humanity. Every person. Regardless of gender, age, race, status, religion. This is a radical message. The Jewish people would have been surprised to hear that God loved the world outside of Israel. Until the gospel of Jesus, the only people considered the children of God were the children of Israel. But God’s promise to love and provide is for us all, and we see that here in Isaiah and also in one of my favorite verses (which by the way, we studied Foretellers last summer). In Hosea 2:23. God says, “I will show my love to the one I called ‘Not my loved one.’ I will say to those called ‘Not my people,’ ‘You are my people’; and they will say, ‘You are my God.’”
God loves the world. That was surprising to the ancient Jews. Maybe it’s surprising to you too. In 1 John, we’re actually told not to love the world. So what about this apparent disagreement between God loving the world while commanding us not to? Carson’s commentary says: “There is no contradiction between this prohibition and the fact that God does love [the world]. Christians are not to love the world with the selfish love of participation; God loves the world with the selfless, costly love of redemption.”
So when we love the world, we become a part of it. We enter into it and it changes us. God loves the world sacrificially. He enters into the world, into our lives, our hearts, our minds, our very souls. And he never changes. That’s why we are to be his hands and feet, laying down our lives, with our eyes fixed on him. Because he changes us. Jesus changes everything.
Back to Isaiah 55: “…come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat.”
The only qualification required to be welcome here? Thirst. Hunger. Need. Remember that everyone has a need? Maybe we are allowed to feel the pain of this world to remind us that we thirst for something. For someone. In fact, God created us with a need for him, and so our longing for him actually comes from him. We were created to live in holy unity and worship of God. But that communion was broken long ago in the Garden of Eden. Genesis 3 shows our fall from grace: Genesis 3:1-6 (NIV)
The temptation of Eve was brilliantly evil. It was two parts. The snake made her question if God really could be trusted to meet her needs. He also told her the fruit would fulfill what she really wanted, and desired, and was made for. So she ate it. Adam did too. And we’ve been striving and struggling to fill our needs with that which does not satisfy ever since.
The good news is that while he created us with longing, he is faithful to give us satisfaction. Psalm 81:10 says “I am the Lord your God, who brought you up out of Egypt. Open wide your mouth and I will fill it.” He didn’t give up on us in the Garden. He has pursued the hearts of his people – you, me, everyone – over all of time. Because not only did he create us with a need for him, he desires us too. He wants to make a way, to fix us, to adopt us, to invite us to the table. He is so faithful to fulfill our needs and give us life eternal.
We see in Isaiah 55: “…come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.” What bargain are we being convinced of here? God is inviting us to make eternal life our own. To possess it. And then to eat it! To feast on it! Why should we be willing to trade all we have and all we are on earth for this life he offers? Because his bread fills every need forever.
Matthew Henry’s commentary puts it this way: “We must buy necessary provisions for our souls, be willing to part with any thing, though ever so dear to us, so that we may but have Christ and his graces and comforts. We must part with sin, because it is an opposition to Christ, part with all opinion of our own righteousness, as standing in competition with Christ, and part with life itself, and its most necessary supports, rather than quit our interest in Christ. And, when we have bought what we need, let us not deny ourselves the comfortable use of it, but enjoy it, and eat the labour of our hands: Buy, and eat.”
Yes, be willing to give up everything for the sake of knowing Jesus. But don’t miss the celebration of feasting on the Bread. Look once more at Isaiah 55: “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.”
I do the yard work at my house, call me crazy but I enjoy it, and one day in July I decided to mow the grass about mid-morning. It took me a bit to get to a stopping place in my day (because kids), so by the time I got outside, it was noon. I didn’t last long before I started to feel overheated and could only think about the mug of ice water I had set aside. But I pushed on, trying to get a little more done before taking a break. By the time I stopped the mower, I nearly bolted to the garage to get a drink.
People who are thirsty would take just plain old water, and be glad of it. Drinking water in ancient Israel was usually collected in a cistern during the rainy season, and there were some wells, springs, and pools for water. But for the most part, drinking water wasn’t that enjoyable, and mostly for survival.
Here in Isaiah 55 we see that we are offered more than just survival: God provides wine and milk. These were staple beverages of the tribe of Israel. Wine was an everyday part of jewish culture and was used in every religious ceremony and celebration. It was also used medically, in housecleaning, and in dyeing cloth. Here in Isaiah 55, wine represents the joy of the Lord. Ancient Israelites didn’t drink much cow’s milk. They much prefered sheep or goat’s milk. To them, milk meant nourishment, gentleness, abundance, even wealth. In this passage, milk represents the comfort of the Lord.
So in this verse, we have no money, and we’re buying something that doesn’t cost anything. That’s a strange way to buy something. Why is eternal life offered freely, through grace alone?
Eternal life — knowing God — is so valuable a price can’t be set on it. And God’s disposition isn’t of a seller anyway. He’s a giver. And on top of that, but eternal life has already been bought and paid for by the blood of King Jesus.
Jesus is the Bread of Life — and he replaces temporary gratification with eternal satisfaction. The choicest fare. He offers himself. But in John 6 verse 66, we see that many of his disciples turned away from following him. Why did they — and so many of us — give up? Maybe you don’t believe he is who he said he is. You don’t believe he’ll do what he said he’d do. You’re trapped in your temporary fixes.
To understand why we turn aside or never follow him in the first place, let’s ask a different question: Why did his faithful disciples stay? Peter answered this question in John 6:68 when he said, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.” The faithful don’t know about God, they actually know God. This is the key to a lasting faith, it’s the key to eternal life. Eternal life is knowing God.
What if we were a community of people who truly knew God. What if we stopped chasing approval, success, love, reputation, power, and comfort. What if we. just. stopped. And let Jesus exchange all that we are and all that we have here on this earth for what we truly need: a relationship with him. Let’s go from knowing about God to actually knowing him. We want to root out the places we have stopped short of receiving him. We want to shine the light of the Gospel of King Jesus into those places and allow him to give us eternal life in every way. Come and feast.