John 6:35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.
Whatever this utterance by Jesus means it cannot mean that the true believer will never have spiritual wants or desires. It cannot mean that he will never doubt. It cannot mean that he will not experience times, perhaps even lengthy times of doubt and fear and feelings of an empty soul. Can it? No, it cannot. It means that once a person has truly come to Christ, they will not look elsewhere for their spiritual sustenance. It means, as Carson says in his commentary on this verse, that “there is no, longer that core emptiness that the initial encounter with Jesus has met”. There will be doubts. There will be times of great emptiness of heart. But they will not result in abandoning Christ for other things or other people. The feelings of emptiness of soul will cause one to flee to Jesus Christ, not abandon Him. God Himself uses such seasons of emptiness to bring us to a joy in Christ that makes it all worthwhile. Jesus will never be the reason for desiring other. Jesus Christ satisfies. And the child of God in his darkest days, struggles to get back to no one else but Christ himself.
This seems to be where so many of us miss it. While claiming to hang on to Christ we seek out other philosophies or techniques, or psychologies to help find contentment, inner peace, untroubled souls. We imbibe the values of the culture and wonder why the thirst that Jesus said would not come – comes. It appears that we believe that Jesus can get us to heaven but we need more than Him before we get there; other than Him, better than Him, more than Him, to find a satisfying life.
Jesus Christ is the only way to God. He is the only way to God after we die and enter into His presence. And He is the only way to God before we die and seek to live a life that has meaning and purpose and peace of soul and mind. It sometimes looks like we want to keep Jesus as our ace up our sleeve just in case He was right about how to have eternal life while at the same time not finding that He is sufficient for us in the hurly burly of everyday living. Of course, we will not, or cannot bear to, abandon Him completely. So we keep “believing” in Him for the big story at the end, while putting our faith in what Paul called “empty deceit”, “human tradition” and “elemental spirits of this world” (Colossians 2:8).
People who “believe” in Jesus and yet find that Jesus does not satisfy their thirst, will be very reluctant to admit that such is the case. Some will say that they have not abandoned Jesus, but only the traditional ways that a system has built around Him. They will say the church has destroyed the real Jesus. They will say that the system, the organization, the unbiblical traditions that the church has built up over two thousand years has masked, or hidden or even destroyed what true Christianity is all about. But for all the ways some of those accusations may be true, it does not explain why, in their quest for the real Jesus, they are still thirsty.
I have made no secret of the fact that I have suffered with depression for most of my life. My mother was seriously mentally ill and all of her progeny managed to inherit various aspects of her mental state. I thirst for mental and emotional well being. I have no time for those who believe that mental health is the one thing that all believers are guaranteed to have simply because they are believers. That is a lie. It hurts people and causes untold grief to real believers who think that their mental struggles are because of counterfeit or inadequate faith in Jesus Christ. Sometimes medication is necessary. Sometimes we will find help from people who do not know Christ. Sometimes medicine and psychiatry can do some good – sometimes. But none of that means that we should be looking to the religions, philosophies, and values of the world to find something that the sovereign Saviour of the whole created order cannot supply.
The Bible thoroughly equips us for every good work. We are born again by the living word of God and it is sharper than a two edged sword that cuts even with the ability to divide soul and spirit. The God who supplied that is not telling us that we can find true inner peace and contentment in philosophies that deny Him.
Jesus-satisfies-the-soul. “Well”, the response echos back, “He hasn’t satisfied mine”. And of course we are meant to believe that this is Jesus’ fault. The understanding is that if we keep up our end of the bargain, then He must keep up His. I believe, now why isn’t He coming through? But we do not come to faith in Christ with the understanding that He must now give me what I really want. Jesus is the goal, and for those who have Him as their goal He is very satisfying. But if our goal is peace of mind, or money, or health and wealth or a sense of purpose or any number of even good things, then Jesus just becomes an avenue for getting what really matters to us. That is not saving faith. That is God denying, self destroying, idolatry, disguising itself as faith. It is putting the sovereign Creator of all that is, the God Man, the Saviour of the world, the judge of all things, in the same category as a ticket to your favourite band or sports event. The goal is the band. The ticket is what gets us to the band. We will regard that ticket with great reverence but only because we need it to get to what really matters. Is Jesus our ticket? Yes, in a sense, Jesus is the ticket. He is also the fare that buys the ticket. But most of all, He is the event. And until we realize that and come to value Him above what He can do for us in terms of the temporal blessings of life, we will have great hunger and great thirst and when we encounter texts such as John 6:35, we will be perplexed. When Jesus is the prize at the end of the race and when, in all of life’s struggles, we keep our sights set on Him as we run the race, we will find Him very satisfying. Set your sights on anything else and Jesus will be an obstacle that gets in the way of the real prize. And there will be great emptiness of soul. The souls of those who claim to have Jesus but do not, will be more empty than even those who reject Him altogether. It cannot be otherwise. At least those who reject Christ have their lives in order enough to chase after what they want without pretending that they want something else.
The Gospel is not just about getting to heaven later on. It is about having our sins forgiven and living a life of worship. That worship starts now even while we wrestle with sin and all kinds of troubles. It will continue in the eternal state without sin and troubles. And both here and now, and there and then, we will find Jesus very satisfying, never hungering or thirsting.