Like a child who plays with the box instead of the precious gift inside, we don’t often realize what is most valuable and important. Like a person who loses money in a scam or spends a fortune for fool’s gold, we can miss a great treasure if we cannot tell the genuine from the fake.
A paralyzed man, brought with great effort by his friends to Jesus, was told “Your sins are forgiven.” (Matthew 9:1-8). The greatest problem this man had was not his paralysis, but his sinfulness. Jesus solved his greatest problem; however, an observer might have pitied him since he was not immediately healed. Jesus gave him the better thing first. If you were the paralyzed man would you have been satisfied leaving the presence of Jesus with your sins forgiven but your legs unhealed? Yet, he would have received the greatest gift even if he was forgiven but not healed! Thankfully for him, he was spiritually and physically healed.
We don’t always want the better things
The rich young ruler (Mark 10:17-25) came to Jesus asking about eternal life. When told that he would need to forsake his earthly possessions in order to possess it he was disappointed and turned from Jesus. He thought he wanted eternal life but in reality he wanted his earthly treasures. He forsook the better, eternal things for the temporary, earthly things. Now his possessions are gone and he is in eternity. He should have wanted what he needed: eternal life and a spirit without covetousness.
The multitude that followed Jesus as recorded in John 6 tasted the greatest spiritual food: the message of heaven from the Son of God. He spent much time teaching them and fed them miraculously, multiplying bread and fish in abundance. Jesus left them that night and crossed the Sea of Galilee. The multitude awoke to find him gone and loaded boats to chase Him across the sea. Jesus confronted their shallowness and rebuked them for seeking the physical bread instead of the spiritual bread. When Jesus tried to persuade them to seek the spiritual food they turned their back on Him. They were short sighted and missed an eternal feast because Jesus wouldn’t give them daily bread for their stomachs.
Sometimes we develop a preference for the physical things because they are seen. The spiritual cannot be seen and often we must wait for the greater things. Ultimately, we have a problem because we don’t want what we need.
Struggle between wants and needs
The woman at the Samarian well (John 4) also sought physical relief, desiring the water that would keep her from coming to the well every day. Jesus had eternal gifts but she was seeking physical answers. Jesus’ remark about her relationships may have indicated her attempts to fill her emptiness with relationships. However, seeing her real need and the ability of Jesus to fill that need, she desired what she truly needed: Jesus and the eternal water He offered. As one commentator noted, those who thirst for the physical water wake up thirsty every day and those who try to satisfy spiritual thirst with physical means wake up thirsty every day. Earthly pleasures, relationships, and other attempts to fill the spiritual hunger will not satisfy and the hunger will remain. Only the eternal can fill the emptiness.
Satisfying our deepest need
When many in the multitude turned from Jesus, He asked His apostles if they wanted to turn away. They knew that only Jesus had the food to nourish their deepest hunger and said, “To whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:66-68). Those are blessed and filled who hunger and thirst for righteousness, Matthew 5:6. We are rich when we store up heavenly treasures, Matthew 6:19-21.
He must not be just a part of our life but to be our life, Colossians 3:1-4. When He is our life, that hunger can be filled. We must want it more than the things of this world. We must want the words of eternal life, the righteousness that can fill us and satisfy our hunger, and the spiritual treasures on earth and in heaven. We must make sure that we truly want what we really need.