One day, a man dreamed up one-of-a-kind restaurant that was open 24/7 and had every kind of food to enjoy. It was a “local” place where friends and families could meet for a quick snack, or to celebrate life’s greatest moments. It took some time for the idea to catch on – but eventually it did. This local place became the center of the community. People got so used to seeing their neighbors there that they’d miss them if they didn’t see them. A camaraderie was built – unintentionally without anybody noticing. This place soon turned into not just the place to celebrate, but to mourn. It was also the place you could go if you felt down, or you received bad news, or you just didn’t want to be alone. Besides, why not – the people who frequented the restaurant knew you and cared about you. It was a safe place. The owner loved his restaurant, and he loved these people more. He loved the community that filled his place and he loved that everyone felt welcome and loved here.
But he had not been charging a dime for anything. It was all free. Whatever you wanted was on the house. From the appetizers to desserts, it was on the house! Prime rib and lobster? On the house! Of course, as word got out of this “free” place his business grew….but he was left with a tab that exceeded any debt he’d ever owed anyone. He knew it would be expensive at first, but he didn’t expect it to come to this. And it had to be paid, nothing is never truly free, right?
Sadly, he had to announce to his loyal patrons (these people were not just customers, they were his dear friends) that the restaurant could not continue – what started as a great idea has become a burden that he could simply not afford. Eye after eye welled up with tears. Everyone loved it here. They didn’t want to leave. They loved the owner. They began to whisper among themselves: What can we do? How can we help? We need to keep this wonderful place alive? How can we love the owner after all he’s done for us?
After a few moments a young man spoke up from the kitchen. “I’ll pay it! – I’ll settle up the tab!” Audible gasps and whispers of “who is that?” Then it broke into applause. Someone was somehow willing and able to pay a bill that nobody could pay, even if all the customers pooled their money together. After a few moments of high fives and hugs, the people began to gather their belongings and leave. The bill has been paid, the party is over.
“Wait, where are you going?” Asked the young man. Several customers responded: “We are so grateful for all you’ve done for us, you settled our tab. None of us can truly afford to keep coming here, the food is so delicious and the whole experience is so wonderful…it’s just too good of a place for us. We really don’t belong here.”
The young man began to explain that not only did he settle up the current bill, he went ahead and paid all future expenses for his Father’s restaurant. He, too, loved this place. He loved the people – how they cared for each other, celebrated and mourned together. He wanted them to know and experience a community like no other – that they could come here anytime, without money to feel loved. He wanted this community to continue to thrive and so he sacrificed all he had to make it so.
Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. – John 6:35