We have several people living at home right now and sometimes that results in some challenges. One thing that sometimes causes problems between us is that there is a wide variety in how the heat is distributed in the different parts of our house. The master bedroom and one of our daughter’s bedrooms are located over the garage, so those rooms are often cold in the winter. However, while we are freezing, the boys’ bedroom downstairs gets so hot that they have trouble sleeping at night. So one of the things over which we sometimes have contention in our home is the thermostat. What is that thing going to be set at? Who is going to set it? Which room do we want to have at a comfortable temperature when we set that thermostat? These are all important questions in our home.
Just like there is a thermostat for the furnace in a house, we could say that there is a thermostat for the human soul. For all of us there is something that adjusts the drive and direction of our lives. There is something that determines where we focus our lives, how much energy we burn and how much heat we produce. The question is: Who or what is setting the thermostat of your life?
Some people believe that we are driven by our appetites, that our inner desires that determine what we do and where we go. There is even something called Appetite Theory which some counselors use in their counseling practices. What they do is help people to understand what their appetites are and then guide them in ways to appropriately feed those appetites. The idea behind this theory is that we tend to be happier people when our appetites are satisfied.
The problem with this theory is that it fails to account for the fact that people hunger for something more than what the things of this life can satisfy. When God created us, He built eternity into the human heart, and though we try to fill our longings with things or people or experiences, we soon find ourselves hungry again. So we keep going back again and again to get food for our soul and we end up becoming addicted to gifts from God that He meant for good—things like food, medicine, technology or relationships. Our lives then become toxic because it is our addictions that are setting the thermostat of our lives.
But God wants something more for us than the life that we are now living. God wants us to thrive in life through a relationship with His Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus is who we really need for Jesus satisfies our hungry soul. In John 6, verse 51, Jesus says, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If you eat this bread, you will live forever. The bread that I will give you is my flesh, which I give so that the world may live.” (John 6:51) So what does Jesus mean when He says “I am the living bread that came down from heaven?
The first thing that will help us to understand what Jesus is saying is to realize that God uses familiar necessities to teach us about eternal necessities. God uses the familiar, ordinary things that we need in everyday life—things like water, bread and breath—to show us the deep truths that are important for us in our forever life with God, which we have already started living.
When God does this, when He uses familiar necessities to teach us about eternal necessities, God is saying to us, “You know that you need these familiar things—you know that you need water, you know that you need food, you know that you need breath—but I’m trying to tell you that you are more than a physical body with appetites that need to be met for you to survive. You are an eternal being with a body and a soul and I created you for life with me. Your needs go much deeper than food, clothing and shelter. Your soul needs things that only I can give you.”
God continues, “When your soul hunger is satisfied by Me, everything will be different for you. For then you will be living life with a soul that is satisfied in Me, so you won’t be pulled in multiple directions by your unsatisfied hungers. You soul will be centred in Me, so you will have both roots to keep you anchored and direction to keep you on track when others try to lead you astray. You soul will have life in me, so you will be dependent on nothing, other than me. I am faithful and you can live your life in confidence knowing that I am always with you and you are forever safe with me.”
Though God communicates all these things through the word pictures that He uses like bread, water and breath, each of these metaphors communicate something slightly different. Breath can only come from a living being, so when God breathes the breath of life into the first human, He is giving him life from His own life (see Gen. 2:7). After Jesus rose from the dead, when He breathed on his followers and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit” (John 20:22), Jesus was giving His followers supernatural life with the Holy Spirit from the supernatural life that He has in fellowship with the Holy Spirit. The use of breath shows us that we need life from the living God.
Water is a necessity that comes from the ground or from a flowing river. It is not something that we can create or produce. So when Jesus uses water to communicate about the gift of life He gives, He is emphasizing its mysterious supply. For example, He uses the word picture of an artesian well when He said to a Samaritan woman at a well, “The water that I will give them will become in them a spring which will provide them with life-giving water and give them eternal life.” (John 4:14) The use of water shows us that we need a continuous abundant supply of life within us from God, but how He does this is a mystery to us.
Bread is a different kind of necessity from breath or water, for it is the product of natural growth and some processing. Bread starts with a grain seed that is buried in the ground and then becomes a plentiful harvest of more grain. That grain is crushed so that its goodness can be released. The flour that is produced by crushing the grain is then cooked with an intense fire so that it becomes something altogether different, something more fragrant, nourishing and pleasing than it was before. The bread that results becomes a reliable source of life for others.
Jesus is the Bread of Life because He was crushed by the weight of the cross that He carried for us, but through that crushing cross, God’s life-giving salvation was released into all the world. Jesus is the Bread of Life because He was baked by the intense heat of suffering for the sins of the whole world, but through that suffering we get to enjoy the sumptuous flavour of God’s forgiveness. Jesus is the Bread of Life because He is both the Son of God from heaven and the seed, or descendant, of the first woman, Eve, and like a wheat seed, He was buried in the ground, but that has resulted in a bountiful harvest of people who have life because of Him.
There are things that we need that we can only get through Jesus, things like forgiveness, a new identity as a beloved, forgiven child of God, and unconditional love and acceptance. We need the meaning and purpose that comes from knowing that Jesus helps us to live a life that really matters, not only now but also for all eternity. We need the sure and certain hope that comes from knowing that one day Jesus is going to come back to this world and make us and all things right and there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain. Our soul hungers for these things and Jesus is the Bread of Life that gives them all to us for free as we trust in Him.
With Jesus as the Bread of Life that nourishes our souls, we naturally let Him set the thermostat of our lives. With Jesus as our Lord and Saviour, we do not need anything else, so we naturally let Him determine the drive and direction of our lives. And with Jesus feeding the core of our being, He will produce light, heat and energy through our lives that will be far, far beyond anything that we could hope to generate on our own. As we rest in Jesus and He works in and through us, He will set the temperature of our lives at just the right setting to make an eternal difference in the lives of others.
Today, on this altar, the Bread of Life is with us. Jesus tells us that in this sacred meal of Holy Communion, He is present in the bread and the wine with His Body and Blood. Jesus wants to nourish you, encourage you and give you more new life through this special meal which we will soon enjoy. Jesus wants to feed your hungry soul. Amen.
(This message was shared at Walnut Grove Lutheran Church in Langley BC on April 22, 2018. It is based on John 6:25-59.)