“Everyone ate and was satisfied. They picked up twelve baskets full of pieces of bread and fish.” (CSB – Read the chapter)
When was the last time you were really and truly satisfied? Follow up question: What was the vehicle for that feeling? Was it perhaps a really good meal? We cooked steaks on New Year’s Eve and they turned out really, really good. We also made some cheese fondue that was right on point. By the time I finished eating, I was satisfied…but a little too full which kind of spoiled the effect. I listened to our oldest taking the lead on a group project while he was in virtual class from my office the other day. He did an absolutely superb job of it. It was like all the little things we’ve told him about getting along with others clicked in place at once. That was pretty satisfying. Whenever I finish a particularly difficult metal model (like the Stormtrooper I’m working on right now), that brings a pretty satisfied feeling with it. How about you? Being satisfied is a good feeling. Well, it’s a feeling that comes part and parcel with the kingdom of God.
One of the more pernicious myths about the Christian faith is that it is a vehicle for a lifetime of feeling repressed and unsatisfied. You see this myth popping up all over the place. Think for a second about how many movies feature a character who is a professing Christian in some capacity learning that a life of real satisfaction and meaning will come when she learns to walk away from her restrictive past and into a much freer future. As soon as he learns to loosen up and live a little, he finds the joy that was always missing from his life.
Footloose is a great example of this. John Lithgow’s Reverend Shaw Moore is a fire and brimstone, small town preacher who is firmly committed to the sinfulness of anything that might be construed as fun. No drinking. No card playing. No smoking. No cursing. And without a doubt, absolutely no dancing. The sake of the souls of his flock are just too precious to risk losing them to one of those dangerous habits. By the end of the movie, though, everyone has learned to loosen up and live a little. Having some faith is fine, but learning to let go of some of it in order to enjoy the fullness of life is really the way to go. Christianity by itself is inherently unsatisfying. You have to have a little sin in the mix just to keep things interesting.
My response? Hogwash!
This myth, as enduring – and sometimes justified – as it may be, is little more than a particularly clever deception of the enemy that has been keeping or otherwise pushing people away from the faith for centuries. As our culture has become more and more entertainment driven over the past few generations, it has become an even more effective tool in this regard. But it’s all a lie.
It’s a lie we’re reminded of right here at the tail end of Mark’s telling of Jesus’ feeding the 5000. When Jesus finished providing food for what had become the equivalent of a pretty large city for that day, everyone was satisfied. Everyone had enough. There was no one who needed anything more. They had all eaten their fill and were satisfied.
That satisfaction they felt was primarily in response to the meal they had been given, yes. But it pointed forward to an even greater satisfaction that is promised by the kingdom of God. As I said yesterday, we serve the God of abundance, not the God of scarcity. In His kingdom, there will be no more need. No one will go without. No one will have to save and scrimp just to have enough to get through the day. There will be enough. More than enough. We will be supremely satisfied. Contentment will be the law of the land.
Imagine that for a minute. Given just how much need is in our world and even just how often we are discontent with our circumstances, it’s actually a bit hard to imagine. It’s hard to conceive of a world in which everyone will be satisfied. We talked about the Broadway hit Hamilton last week. One of the other themes out of that gem was that Hamilton was driven forward to accomplish all that he did – both for good and for ill – by his inability to ever finally be satisfied. The warning Angelica gave to her sister, Eliza, was that he would never be satisfied.
A lack of contentment is a dangerous thing when it is unleashed in our lives. It leads us to pursue more and more and more; more than we need. More, even, than we want. And for what? A fleeting feeling that is quickly replaced by a fresh demand for more. Like our appetite for food always returns after a few hours, our appetite for more in this life, more from this life, returns every time we think we’ve gotten it mastered. If we’re not careful, seeking short-term satisfaction becomes a highly addictive drug that never quite delivers on its promise.
Not so in the kingdom of God. What Jesus offers us there is satisfaction. He offers contentment. He offers a deep-seated sense of peace and wholeness. He offers a world in which everything is right. It’s not a world that’s here yet. But it is on the horizon looming larger all the time. And if we’ll let Him, He’ll give us a taste of that eternal satisfaction now. Just like He did the crowd gathered by the sea that evening. Stop running around looking for satisfaction in places you’ll never be able to find it. Instead, turn to the One who guarantees it, and has never once failed to deliver. You’ll be glad you did.