(September 12, 1990)
It was empty. What a rip-off. Someone had taken the eye drops out of the container, put it back on the shelf, and let some poor, unsuspecting customer (me) buy an empty box. I was annoyed and disappointed.
It reminded me of my oldest child’s first temper tantrum. He was hot and bored and his aunt didn’t have any ice cream so she offered him an empty cone. He took one look inside it, threw it and himself on the floor, and let the whole block know he was not very happy.
I didn’t do that. Instead, I went back to the store where they promptly gave me what I wanted. The clerk said it happens all the time; first time for me.
On the way home, I thought about some people who, no matter what they try or buy, wind up with a lot of “empty boxes.” That is, they follow the television commercials or someone’s endorsement and go for new jobs, new cars, blind dates, or business ventures that up front look promising, but for some reason, nothing ever satisfies them. I’m not immune. There have been several products that appeared attractive to begin with yet left me with a sour taste, wishing I hadn’t wasted my time, money, and energy.
Part of the problem is expectations. Think of it; if I thought I was buying an empty box, I wouldn’t have been disappointed. If my child had looked for a nice, light snack, an empty cone would have filled the bill.
This issue of expectations even enters into how people react to God’s Son. In the New Testament, a whole crowd of people turned away from Jesus and stopped following Him simply because He didn’t deliver what they expected.
The scene was Capernaum on the sea of Galilee. Along comes this Man with the uncanny ability to multiply a few loaves of bread into a whole bakery -- enough to feed several thousand tired, hungry people. Can you imagine what a modern food marketing board would do with Him?
It was long before cartels and food chains were invented and there were no advertising and promotion executives in the crowd but as they talked about Moses and manna from heaven, Jesus knew they were thinking along those lines. He would have to set them straight.
His speech began: “... I say to you, Moses didn’t give you that bread from heaven; but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven; for the bread of God is He which comes down from heaven, and gives life unto the world.”
For a few moments, what He was saying sounded maybe even better than bread. He continued: “I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.”
That sounded okay too -- but it wasn’t exactly what they had in mind. Some of them were thinking of their stomach, some their pocketbooks. How could a man who called himself “bread” do either one any good?
As they grumbled and tried to understand what He was talking about, Jesus went on to explain how God sent Him, the Bread of Life, to the world that sinners might be saved... not from mere physical hunger but from spiritual death. And at that point, they may have been intrigued -- but then He added: “I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world... Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you.”
That did it. They wanted food and profit, not any weird relationship that smacked of cannibalism. Jesus went on to explain, “It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh profits nothing: the words that I speak unto you are spiritual words, and words of life...” but to no avail... “From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.”
Only a handful stuck around to find out what true bread really was. Later He asked them if they would leave too but they knew He alone had “the words of eternal life.” Those few were prepared to give up prior expectations and receive what He came to give... not demand what they themselves desired, and what they got was not an empty box.