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written by Constance Morgenstern

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Background for "Jesus, Feed Us"

Every human being knows what it’s like to be hungry. Maybe that’s one reason the story of “Jesus Feeding the Five Thousand” is the only one of Jesus’ miracles recorded in all four Gospel books of the Bible (Matthew 14:13-21, Mark 6:30-44, Luke 9:10-17, and John 6:1-15). You could say we relate to it on a “gut level.”

Although this story is rich in so many ways, let’s just focus on the basic human need of food: A crowd of over 5,000 had followed Jesus. Actually, they had sort of chased him (Mark 6:30-34) to a remote place to get or witness more of his healings and teachings. Late in the day, far away from any town, the disciples started wondering about feeding that crowd of people. Even if they had been close to a town, the disciples didn’t have near enough money to buy the needed amount of food.

Still, at Jesus’ direction, they did go to find out what food was on hand—it’s five barley loaves and two fish from a boy. And, when Christ gives thanks and divides that boy’s lunch, it fully satisfies the more than 5,000 people of the crowd. Plus, it produces 12 baskets full of extras! Such a wonderful, abundant, comforting miracle of Jesus Christ! So, it’s no wonder that, according to John 6:16, the crowd was ready to make Jesus their king!

Jesus slips away at this point, but again, the crowd locates him. If Jesus could save them the constant labor of obtaining food….

But here’s when Jesus shifts things: In John 6:27, he urges the people to not work for temporary food, but for food that lasts for eternal life. And he says later, in verse 35, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” (NLT)

There is indeed such a thing as spiritual hunger or spiritual thirst. You’ve probably heard the saying, “Man does not live by bread alone.” The longer version adds, “rather, we live by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD." (NLT) It’s Deuteronomy 8:3, which is also quoted by Jesus in Matthew 4:4. (See also Job 23:12, Jeremiah 15:16, Ezekiel 2:8 and 3:1.)

Jesus, himself, was intensely aware of how he needed to be “fed” by spending time alone with God. He often left the crowds or even the disciples to pray (e.g. Matthew 14:23, Luke 5:16).

A need to feel God’s presence, like a hunger or thirst, is also expressed by various Psalm writers (Psalm 42:1-2, 63:1-5, 143:6), as well as the Apostle Peter (1 Peter 2:2).

In my own life, a morning “quiet time” is especially where I feel blessed by ideas, insights, and nudges. If I don’t get that sense of flowing “input,” I get stale and cranky.

Moving ahead to John 6:48-51, Jesus repeats, “I am the bread of life” and begins to compare himself to manna. Manna was the miraculously appearing “bread” that helped sustain the Israelites in the wilderness after their dramatic escape from slavery in Egypt (see Exodus 16). The memory of God’s provision through the manna was so important that a golden jar of it was put away into the Israelites' Ark of the Covenant (Exodus 16:31-34). Yet, Jesus stated how the ancestors who ate the manna, eventually, did pass away, but that people who eat of him will live forever.

Not surprisingly, the hearers of those words were shocked, and they debated what Jesus meant about "eating his flesh." (John 6:52-58). We, as current Christians, can understand their puzzlement because Jesus spoke similar words at the Last Supper, when he instituted the practice of communion (Matthew 26:26-29, Mark 14:22-25, Luke 22:19-20). Jesus told us to eat the bread—as his body—and to drink the wine—as his blood—for remembering him.

While I, myself, don’t entirely understand how Jesus uses the bread and wine to nourish us, I sense that it does. I take communion, trusting Jesus, and I do feel enriched by it. I imagine how it powers me and even gets incorporated into my own body and being! It is a personal encounter with Christ, and it does remind how Jesus gave himself for us.

The wonderful sense of communion—as unearned and freely given—also shows up in Isaiah 55:1-3. For me, it’s a favorite Old Testament passage! Verse 2 of our song borrows from it by speaking of heavenly waters. Revelation 22:1-2, as well, describes that water flowing abundantly from God and Christ in Heaven. Or consider images of Christ as shepherd, leading his flock to flows of quenching, living water (Revelation 7:17 and Psalm 23:2)! Or consider Jesus' offer to the woman at the well to accept the "water" he could give, which would spring up within her to eternal life (John 4:4-26)!

Verse 3 of our song speaks about breath or air. Specifically, it references John 20:22, in which the Risen Christ, appearing to his disciples, breathes on them to impart the Holy Spirit. Now the Holy Spirit offers many strengths to believers. (See our studies for “At Pentecost.”) However, for this song, I’ve chosen “inspire,” because of insights/ideas/nudges that I believe come from God. I’ve chosen “uphold,” while thinking of the wonderful “Eagle’s Wings” image of Isaiah 40:31. For “invigorate,” I was thinking of the life-giving-ness of the Spirit (e.g. John 6:63), or perhaps the bracing effect of a wind on the sea. For “empower,” I was thinking of Pentecost, and the creative force that the Spirit provides the church in this world (Acts 2:1-21).

Verse 4 of the song basically expresses the reason I wrote it. It seems to me that all these images in the Bible connecting God and Jesus with food, air, and water, just say this: We need Christ! We need him, both for living now and for God’s offered life after death. This is reaffirmed in the last line of the song, with a reference to John 14, verse 6: Christ is our way home.



Direct Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.


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