In search of Jesus
Author and writer Philip Yancey tells of an experience he once had as he presented several dozen slides to a group of students in the U.S. showing the way that Jesus is portrayed in a variety of other cultures. He then asked the students to describe what they thought Jesus looked like. Nearly the entire group suggested that Jesus was tall (which was very unlikely for a first-century Jew). Most said he was handsome, and no one said overweight. Yancey then showed them a BBC film featuring “a pudgy actor” playing Christ. Some students found the film offensive. Yancey concluded that our “glamorized representation of Jesus says more about us than about him.”
In John’s Gospel (chapter 6, verse 24) we find that verse; “Once the crowd realized that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into the boats and went to Capernaum in search of him.”
After the feeding of the 5,000, the crowds of seekers knew that someone quite unique was in their presence. Here was a man with wondrous powers. A magician might pull a rabbit out of a hat, but no magician can take five small barley loaves and two small fish and feed this huge crowd. Any reasonable person would say it is simply impossible. There are witnesses that were there and saw it happen. The question was, “What kind of man is this?”
There are many people who would give anything they own to find him. They may not realize it. Some might not even know his name. But still he is the greatest need they have. Who are these people searching for Jesus?
Those looking for Jesus may be those on the verge of losing hope that need Jesus. In hospital beds, at foreclosure sales, in addiction centers, all over this nation there are people who are fast losing the last vestiges of this critical commodity — hope. It has been said that we can live many weeks without food, a few days without water, but not an hour without hope.
People who are on the verge of losing hope need Jesus. If you have fallen on hard times, concerned about your job, concerned about family members, concerned about your own health, are the same types of people who came searching for Jesus, had seen him multiply the fishes and loaves. They knew he could help them with their problems. For some, it was the first glimmer of hope they or anyone had ever given them. Jesus cautioned them that he had not come to minister to their physical needs but their spiritual needs. He did not come to give them bread that spoils, but the bread which he came to give, he promised them, the rest of life would fall into place.
People that have no purpose for living need Jesus. This is a larger group than those without hope. There are many people today bored out of their minds with life. They buy nicer and nicer toys, and they enjoy them less and less. They are sated with things, but bereft of any driving purpose for their lives.
What happens when you run out of things to look forward to? What happens when life is flat, when it seems that it no longer holds any mystery or meaning or purpose? That’s when you need Jesus!
This is to say that people who have a great emptiness in their lives need Jesus. This is why we run out of hope, this is why we have no purpose — when we are empty within, there is no reason to go on.
Dr. Harry Emmerson Fosdick was pastor of Riverside Church in New York City. He was one of the most influential pastors in America. Fosdick once wrote something you and I need to hear. “The saddest failure of the church is not hypocrisy,” wrote Fosdick. “I bear witness after many years in the ministry that I have run into very little conscious, deliberate hypocrisy. But the saddest failure of the church,” Fosdick continues, “is that there is so many who have never gone beneath for form of religion to find the power which is at its very heart.”
I think Fosdick was talking about many of us. We have the form of religion but not its power. Even though we believe all the right things, there is that God-shaped vacuum within us. Our lives are empty and we can never be satisfied until we feast on the bread that only Christ can give. We may be an officer in the church, we may be a teacher in Sunday school, but if we have never really opened ourselves to Christ, then we have never feasted on the bread of life.
Jesus told the crowd who came seeking him that they needed bread that endured unto eternal life. They said to him, “Sir...give us that bread.”
Jesus declared, “ I am the bread of life. Those who come after me will never go hungry, and those who believe in me will never be thirsty.”
Is there an emptiness in your life today? Have you come in search of Jesus?