The most famous miracle Jesus performed was the feeding of the 5,000. All four gospels record it, but in John’s account there is a small detail the others don’t include. He records in chapter 6, verse 9 that the loaves Jesus used were barley loaves. Barley was a cheap grain. Rich people ate wheat bread. Barley loaves were for poor people. The meal provided was by no means extravagant or impressive. It was adequate and it was filling, something on the order of a modern-day peanut butter sandwich.
Even so, after that, the people followed Jesus around like puppy dogs. They wanted more bread, more barley loaves. What Jesus wanted to give them was beyond their imagination. For almost fifty verses, John records the conversation Jesus had with the crowd, trying in vain to get them to see beyond the bread, to see that in the very same way He had satisfied their physical hunger, He was more than capable of satisfying the deep needs of their souls.
He offered Himself. They settled for barley loaves.
I know I do the same thing. Jesus offers me more. He encourages me to see a bigger picture. He longs to give me a clearer vision of Himself, but I am focused on the here and now, on myself and my comforts and my needs. I respond like the crowd, “Just give me the bread.” The cheap bread. The barley loaves. And I settle.
I determine His words are too hard, His path is too counterculture and I decide to move back out to the fringes of following Him. That’s a dumb move. He has the words of life, the words of eternal life and the words that infuse me with life now.
I’ll miss those words if I settle for hanging back, digging through a basket of leftover barley loaves.