Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
John 4:31-32 “In the meanwhile his disciples besought him, saying, Master, eat. But he said unto them, I have food to eat that ye know not of.”
The disciples expressed concern for Jesus. He had been weary when they left Him. Knowing Jesus had to be hungry, they offered Him food. Their suggestion provided Jesus the chance to give them a lesson on priorities.
In His soulwinning encounter with the Samaritan woman, Jesus= deepest, innermost desire had been satisfied. The incident made Him forget His hunger. Salvation of the Samaritans (and others) was of utmost importance to Jesus.
Enthusiasm for a great task can lift a person above and beyond physical necessities. To achieve their objective, soldiers in battle and athletes in competition often push on without food or rest.
Abraham=s servant would not eat till he fulfilled his master=s errand (GN 24:33). Samuel would not sit till David was fetched and anointed (I Sam. 16:11).
Jesus was not downgrading meeting our physical needs. Hunger and thirst are not sins. Nothing is wrong with eating and drinking. The Lord=s Supper illustrates food and drink can symbolize beautiful impulses.
Christianity does not kill or mutilate any human faculty. The goal of our faith is to help us use our faculties purely, unselfishly, moderately, in ways pleasing to God.
Jesus did not intend to elevate the spirit by killing the body. His mission was to make us see the two in right relation: spirit over body. The spirit must master the body.
Our spirit is superior to our body. The body=s needs are to be filled as means of helping our spirit accomplish the will of God. When means are elevated to ends, when body dictates to spirit, manhood sinks into animalism.
Wants of the spirit are more important than those of the body. In the USA, materialism seems to be breaking down the spirit=s priority over the body, even among Christians.
Nothing seems more capable of stamping out enthusiasm for holy obedience than luxurious life-styles. A mark of genuine Godliness has always been the downplay of over-indulgences in physical gratifications.
Moderation is a mark of believers. Vegetables and water brought Daniel and his friends better health than all the wine and dainties of Babylon=s palace. APut a knife to thy throat if thou be a man given to appetite@ (PR 23:2). John the Baptist lived on locusts and wild honey (MK 1:6). Jesus had nowhere to lay his head (LK 9:58).
A spiritual fact of life is, the less we use, and the less we feel a need for, outward goods, the more we realize our need for spiritual, inward goods. A desire to live for Jesus includes a deliverance from over-dependence on earthly things.
Our Master said, AMan shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God@ (MT 4:4). Something higher than stuff makes life worth living. Physical thrills, excitements, and indulgences cannot satisfy. Even when the physical is stuffing itself with delights, our starved spirits cry out.
John 4:33 ATherefore said the disciples one to another, Hath any man brought him anything to eat?@
The Twelve missed the point. Jesus rightly said He had food they Aknew not of.@ The disciples totally misunderstood, taking His comments literally.
Nicodemus did not understand the new birth. The Samaritan woman misunderstood living water. Now the disciples did not understand the food.
Jesus refused to give up on them (and us). As with Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman, Jesus used the disciples= misunderstanding as a vehicle to convey valuable truth.
John 4:34 AJesus said unto them, My food is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work.@
Jesus= obsession was to please the Father. If He did this, nothing else mattered. His was not a spasmodic obedience, as ours is. His devotion was the very essence and being of His life.
Jesus had long been about His Father=s business, even as young as age twelve. The Devil tempted Jesus with the world, and Galileans offered Him a crown, but Jesus never swerved from His main purpose. Pleasing God was Jesus= element. He felt comfortable there.
Jesus= food was not only to do the Father=s will, but also to finish His work. In our text, the word Afinish@ (teleioso), means to bring something to its intended result, as in the sense of perfecting it. In a way everything Jesus did was perfect and complete, but we can also say, nothing was complete until the cross.
On the cross, nearing death, Jesus, knowing all things were now accomplished (tetelestai, John 19:28), cried, AIt is finished,@ (tetelestai, John 19:30). At Calvary the work Jesus had been sent to do was brought to its intended result. He truly did His Father=s work perfectly.
In our era the Father=s work has become our work. Jesus said, AAs my Father hath sent me, even so send I you@ (John 20:21). We must, as Jesus did, delight in doing the Father=s will and work.
Beginning in prayer, and then advancing to every other phase of life, we must be moving from selfishness, AMy will, not Thine,@ to ANot my will, but Thy will@ and then on to AMake Thy will my will@ and on to AThy will is my will.@
As we grow more like Jesus, we become more obsessed with seeking and doing Father=s will. For the maturing believer, life becomes a matter of wanting less of our desires, and more of God=s. This is a reliable sign of spiritual health.
Any person following Jesus= example and feeding on His food will grow spiritually, and be nourished. Feeding on our own will and desires results in spiritual bitterness and malnutrition.
Obedience to God is the food of spiritual health, keeping our spirit strong and well-nourished. Feed the heart with God=s will, and all will be well.
As we pursue Christlikeness, we need to consider what caused Jesus to give Himself wholly to His Father=s work. A two-pronged love was the foundation of His obedience. He loved the Father; He loved people. Love for God and others is the secret of successful spiritual work. Nothing more absorbs or more satisfies than successful effort for the Father=s cause or for a person we love.
The work of the Lord drags in our hands, not because the work is not worth living and dying for, but because we lack adequate love for the Sender who sends us and for the ones to whom we are sent.
Those who have given their lives in total surrender to missions have mustered their strength from love for God and for people. Since Jesus loved Father and people, His assigned task of bringing the two together was His delight.
Jesus wept over unrepentant Jerusalem, but did not weep on the cross. He even told the women not to weep for Him. Redemption was His work and, even in anguish, gave Him ultimate satisfaction. His joy was in the work itself.
We must learn the same way of living. ALet this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus@ (Philippians 2:5). Many work for human applause or visible results. We need a higher goal.
Our delight must be in God=s work itself. Our work may not be successful by the world=s standards, but if it pleases the Father, we have succeeded by having done our duty, and fulfilled the task aright.
The Christian life becomes much easier for us when we learn to delight in God=s work. Spartans marched into battle singing songs and proud to fight. When Persians approached battle, there could be heard the crack of whips by which officers drove cowards to the fray. It took few Spartans to defeat many Persians.
We should never have to be forced into reluctant action for the Lord. Our service for Jesus should be full of irrepressible life. Where is our love? On things above or things of earth? Our answer makes all the difference in the world.