I Can't Get No Satisfaction
They saw him as a means to their satisfaction, instead of the source of it.
In Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Harry is living with his Aunt’s family. He laments because he wakes up to realize that today is his cousin Dudley’s birthday. If you’ve read the story you know that Dudley is an incredibly spoiled and selfish little boy, so events like this only further amplify his bad attitude. His parents get him several gifts, but Dudley grumbles that there is one less than last year. His parents explain that these gifts are quite a bit bigger than last years, but it’s too late. Dudley has already gone into a full-on meltdown and can only be pacified by additional gifts, of which his parents promptly promise to get.
Grumbling. That’s what Jesus sensed as he spoke to those who called themselves his disciples in John 6:60-71. He could sense their frustration, irritation, and lack of satisfaction, despite just having their fill of bread. There is no doubt that this scene would have pulled the reader back to those stories they had grown up on; the story of the Israelites journeying through the desert on the heels of liberation and being fed endless manna (the bread that fell from heaven). But what did it lead to? Grumbling. Despite God’s liberation, guidance, and provision, the people of Israel grumbled and yearned for the life they used to have back in Egypt.
It makes this narrative even more powerful when Jesus claims that he is the “bread of life”. He is the liberation, guidance, and provision that only God can provide because he is God. Yet the people grumble. They find themselves in the same position as their ancestors who had gone before them.
Why is it these people can’t see that Jesus is the endless bread of life? Why can’t these people accept the words he is speaking? Why can’t they be satisfied in Jesus? It’s because they were concerned about filling their stomachs instead of their souls. They wanted to use Jesus instead of be used by him. They saw him as a means to their satisfaction, instead of the source of it. Like Dudley, they wanted the gifts, not the giver.
Jesus finally turns to the Apostles and asks, “You don’t want to leave too, do you?”. That is the question Jesus asks all of us. When we are finally confronted by the reality that God didn’t save us to give us nice things, keep us from danger, or provide a life of comfort, we must decide whether we will leave or stay. Jesus’ offer is that in staying we can finally find the hope, joy, and love that lead to a meaningful eternal life, instead of settling for the things that lead to a vapid temporal one.