Read John 6:1-21
1Some time after this, Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee (that is, the Sea of Tiberias), 2and a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the miraculous signs he had performed on the sick. 3Then Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down with his disciples. 4The Jewish Passover Feast was near.
5When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, "Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?" 6He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.
7Philip answered him, "Eight months' wages would not buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!"
8Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, spoke up, 9"Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?"
10Jesus said, "Have the people sit down." There was plenty of grass in that place, and the men sat down, about five thousand of them. 11Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish.
12When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, "Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted." 13So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.
14After the people saw the miraculous sign that Jesus did, they began to say, "Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world." 15Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.
16When evening came, his disciples went down to the lake, 17where they got into a boat and set off across the lake for Capernaum. By now it was dark, and Jesus had not yet joined them. 18A strong wind was blowing and the waters grew rough. 19When they had rowed three or three and a half miles, they saw Jesus approaching the boat, walking on the water; and they were terrified. 20But he said to them, "It is I; don't be afraid." 21Then they were willing to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the shore where they were heading. (NIV)
We are going back one chapter. Last week I skipped chapter 6 and would like to go back and look at it. Although, no one asked why did we skip chapter 6 or remind me we skipped it. Don’t know why, but I did. Trying to be in a hurry, I guess.
At the end of chapter 5, Jesus was in an argument with the Jews. John tells us that because of Jesus’ teaching, the Jews tried harder to kill him. Jesus’ teaching can really rub people the wrong way. He calls us to a higher place and so often we don’t want to go there. In chapter 6, we continue to see the struggles people have with His teaching. Even the disciples struggle at time.
John tells us that Jesus travels across the Sea of Galilee. There he once again encounters a large crowd that has come out to listen to him. Jesus has taught them all day and it is getting late. The people who were there had made the journey by foot around the lake. When you go to the Sea of Galilee and stand in Capernaum, the place Jesus left and look out, you can see the towns all along the edge of the sea. It would have been easy to see what direction the disciples headed and to go around on foot to meet them there.
So we know that the people are tired. They have been bringing their sick with them. And now Jesus, filled with compassion for this crowd, asks his disciples, how can we feed them. He asks Philip, so believe because we know Philip came from that area. It would be a natural question to ask a hometown person, “Where can we get some food?” But Philip responds, not with the ability to get food, but the utter impossibility of paying for it.
People have debated for centuries about what kind of miracle this was. Some say Jesus actually made the food appear from nothing. Others say that each person only took a small piece of bread or fish like we do at communion and it was a sacrificial meal. I think this is the least likely event to happen. And the third possibility is that the people actually had food, but were not willing to share their food with others and the miracles is that people moved people from being selfish to being generous. Many believe this because almost every Jew carried a “basket” with them with food for lunch. This was so that they could always maintain the strict dietary laws when out working. This was probably the type of basket that Jesus had the disciples collect what was left over.
And while these are neat to debate, there is a better meaning for us to see. We see the reaction of Philip and the reaction of Andrew. And then there is the reaction of the little boy. Philip represents the view of life that says some problems are just too difficult, even for God. This is a persistent problem I have seen in my years of being a pastor. People and churches see a problem and think it is impossible. But there are others like Andrew and see something different. They see a problem that has been caused by a call of Jesus on their lives. Jesus called on the disciples to feed the people. To me, Andrew represents those who say, when we bring our resources to Jesus, no matter how meager they may seem to the world, Jesus can do great things with that.
And there is the attitude of the little boy who said, I will give my all, even it seems like a drop in the ocean to the problem before us. There are many stories where the small gift of one person began a great movement. I love to share the story about a middle school special ed student who heard that one of the teacher’s son’s was sick and needed and operation. The teacher needed to raise nearly $200,000 before the hospital would schedule the operation. This special ed student gave all the money he had, $30 to help. It was the first gift. But as others heard about his gift, within a few months, the amount exceeded money needed.
This is to me that most exciting point. We can look at problems as impossible, or we can take those problems and put it in the hands of Jesus with the resources we have and sit back and watch what will be done. But what is always so crucial, we must bring what we have. Too often, we don’t see that Jesus can use what we have. We view it as small or insignificant. But in Christ’s hands, nothing is small or insignificant.
I know I have had times when I looked and thought things were impossible. And there were times when I took what I had to Christ in prayer and watched as he did something beautiful and often, something I never imagined. I did not see the possibilities, but Christ did.
Where are you on the spectrum between Philip and Andrew? Do you have times you are more one than the other? Are there times where you are somewhere in the middle? Do you resonate with the actions of the boy who gave his lunch? Have you ever given God all you had wondering if it would even be accepted, let alone make a difference and seen God do something might with that offering?
Questions. Comments about this passage, not just what I talked about.
Blessings and Peace
I have to admit that this passage has always been a puzzlement to me.The cynic in me has always questioned how the actual process of the expansion of the fish and bread hppenned. Maybe that is just a sign of my stage in my walk. In response to your question on where I am in the spectrum of Phillip and Andrew, I vary. When I lean on my feelings or the circumstance I can feel overly generous or fearful. I do recall one time in particular where I was living paycheck to paycheck and I gave my tithe even at then knowledge that rent money was not going to be there. A few days before my rent was due, I received a check from my parents for the exact amount I was short. Another time a man came up to my while I was at a gas station and told me he needed $26.00 to have the money for a hotel room for him and his wife who were looking for temporary accomodations for the night. I looked in my wallet and I had exactly that amount.
To all particpants, what are your thought to help stay more steady in your response to future circumstances?