Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.” But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” So the disciples said to one another, “Has anyone brought him something to eat?” Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work” (John 4:31–34, ESV).
Jesus enjoyed meals. Throughout the Gospels, He often taught and worked miracles in the context of a shared table. Think of the feeding of the five thousand or the Last Supper. It’s easy to see that Jesus liked sitting down to a satisfying meal.
But eating wasn’t the central motivation in His life. Sometimes He went without food for extended periods (like His fast in the wilderness described in Matthew 4). In John 4, Jesus chose not to eat food while the disciples took time for a meal in town. They left Him by the watering hole and came back later. Meanwhile, Jesus had an extended conversation with the woman at the well—and transformed her whole life.
“Jesus hungered most for pleasing God.”
“Rabbi, eat,” the disciples urged when they came back. They must have brought a to-go box. But He turned them down, saying, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” His answer caught them by surprise. Talking amongst themselves, they wondered, “Has anyone brought him something to eat?” They couldn’t grasp that He might skip a meal, that He would choose not to gratify His hunger for food. They likely thought, Man, when we’re hungry, we eat! How can He not feel hungry?
When He told them He was eating a different kind of food, they must have wondered, Did He do a miracle? Did He make some food out of thin air? Has He been holding out on us?
Knowing their thoughts, Jesus clarified, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.” In Jesus’ priorities, obeying His Father ranked far above satisfying mere physical hunger. Jesus hungered most for pleasing God. Here, as elsewhere in the Gospels, Jesus’ perspective was, “not my will, but yours, be done” (Luke 22:42b). He had a task to finish for God, and skipping a few meals was fine. Some things are more important than food.
Sometimes we forget that. We fixate on satisfying ourselves and not on the will of God. The satisfaction of a fine meal fades quickly. In contrast, the most lasting satisfaction in life comes from knowing we have done as the Lord wanted us to do. Our lesser hungers only leave us feeling empty, frustrated, or discouraged—and hungry again soon.
God shouldn’t be our casual interest or occasional appetite. If we know Him, then He provokes a hunger in us for Himself. So where does hunger for God’s will and work fit into your list of priorities—above or below food? It’s easy to let our tangible, physical appetites distract us from what really satisfies. Hunger for God is the best kind of hunger, and doing God’s will brings the truest satisfaction.
Heavenly Father, You depict eternal life as a place of feasting, not fasting, and I look forward to that. I realize, though, that here on earth, food can become an unhealthy priority in my life. I can eat poorly and too much. Forgive me for letting those physical needs dictate my priorities. Please give me a better, healthier perspective on food so I can set aside my physical appetites to pursue Your will. I want to hunger deeply for You and to find my satisfaction in You. In Jesus’ name, amen.