I Have Food That You Know Nothing About
In John chapter four you’ll find the account known as, “The woman at the well.” One of my favorite parts of this story is when Jesus’ disciples return from their expedition into the nearby town to buy food. It seems that they find a lot of activity around Jesus and they were concerned that he ought to eat something. But He replies to them in the tiniest of parables when He says, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.” But the disciples didn’t hear a parable; what they did hear was that He had food hidden or something. So Jesus had to explain:
My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish His work. Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. Even now the one who reaps draws a wage and harvests a crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together.
In your lives, you’ll have ample opportunity to work on one project or another with your church, and you can have a great time with your brothers and sisters in these endeavors. But there’ll be those times when you do something, almost on a whim, and it will turn out to be amazing and satisfying. When it happens you’ll realize that you’ve just been involved in a sort of miracle, something that cannot be attributed to mere happenstance, and it’ll be wonderful. Here’s one of the few examples in my own life.
Many years ago, one summer afternoon, I was driving from Nashville to Chattanooga. Early in the journey, I saw a man hitchhiking and without much forethought, I decided to give him a ride just as I was passing him by. I pulled into the emergency lane and slowed to a stop. As he approached the car I got a closer look at him and realized that he was quite scary looking. For a fleeting moment, I thought about peeling out of there before he could get in. But I didn’t.
He was quiet as we drove along. His head was shaved and he had lots of scars and tattoos. He said that he’d just gotten out of prison and was trying to get to Florida. When I asked him what he was in prison for, he dryly answered, “murder,” as he stared emotionless out the window. As we drove he began to nod off as he fought sleep. I told him he could recline his seat if he wanted, but he would not allow himself that kind of vulnerability with a stranger, and I understood that. So I was quiet.
Wanting to witness to him in some way, and being a little afraid myself, I decided to plug in a praise and worship cassette. I thought that that might, at least, ease his mind a little in his weariness. As we drove I began to get an inkling that I ought to buy this man some food, and so a struggle began within myself. All I had on me, you see, was a credit card, and I didn’t want him to know that I had it. After all, I was already thinking about my plan if it turned out that he wanted to carjack me in Chattanooga. So I put the matter of buying food for him to rest. I would not be stopping … or so I thought.
Somewhere in rural Tennessee, between Nashville and Chattanooga on a Sunday afternoon where businesses were scarce and most were closed, a sudden loud noise and vibration from underneath the car startled us. I came to a stop and learned that, though it was still holding air, the outer part of the tire had departed.
It so happened that an exit was right in front of us, so I followed the ramp up to the stop sign as I contemplated a tire change. To my surprise, I saw two things that changed everything. An open tire store on one side of the road and across from that a Golden Corral. This was a rural stretch of I-24. It was on a little two-lane road that happened to intersect the freeway, and there weren’t lots of businesses around; there were only these two as far as I can remember. But what’s important is the fact that I then realized that God wanted this man fed, and He was going to feed him, and I was going to be the one He used to do it.
The whole experience became one that I think only a Christian can appreciate. It was the maker of the heavens and the earth, the creator of all things, deigning to use me in his work. I can tell you that there’s nothing like it in the world. I drove up to the tire shop and told them to replace the two rear tires, then I offered the hungry soul with me an all-you-can-eat feast. It was a special treat to watch that man eat and to see the excitement in his eyes.
But I too was fed in more ways than a physical meal. I was fed by doing God’s will and his work. And when we are fed in that way, it’s better than the best of the best in gourmet feasts. Most of us, I’m convinced, have very few opportunities like this to actually see God’s hand move. But I am also convinced that it need not be quite so rare. That day I missed a golden opportunity to share the Gospel. Today I would have no problem to almost immediately strike up a conversation concerning His good news. Then, as a new Christian, I was afraid. I don’t know why. As I’ve introduced the Gospel to more and more people it has gotten much easier to do. That day was a blessing to me more than it was to that poor man. He didn’t hear of God’s redeeming love from me, as he should have, but I caught a glimpse of God’s sovereign hand at the price of two tires and two meals.
I’ve learned since to reject outright the notion that the Gospel is preached without words. There are many, many organizations and people who expend themselves in alleviating human suffering. But if that’s all they do, then their cause is lost from the outset. Preaching the Gospel is the only hope that the reason for their suffering can be addressed. Jesus said that fixing up the outside of a man was nothing more than whitewashing a tomb full of dead men’s bones. He prefers that we deal with the heart through the Good News of Man reconciled with God.
I pray for you, therefore, dear children, as you walk through this life that you will feast on doing the will of him who sent you and finishing His work. The field is indeed white for the harvest, so I pray that you will go forth, and reap a barnful of food that you will find eternally satisfying.