Sunday, 24 July 2011

John 6.1-21 [24/07/2011]

John 6.1-21

Feeding the Five Thousand

6 After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, also called the Sea of Tiberias.  2A large crowd kept following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick. 3Jesus went up the mountain and sat down there with his disciples. 4Now the Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near. 5When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming towards him, Jesus said to Philip, ‘Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?’ 6He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do. 7Philip answered him, ‘Six months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.’ 8One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him,9‘There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?’ 10Jesus said, ‘Make the people sit down.’ Now there was a great deal of grass in the place; so they sat down, about five thousand in all. 11Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted. 12When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, ‘Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost.’ 13So they gathered them up, and from the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets. 14When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, ‘This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world.’
15 When Jesus realized that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself.

Jesus Walks on the Water
16 When evening came, his disciples went down to the lake, 17got into a boat, and started across the lake to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. 18The lake became rough because a strong wind was blowing. 19When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the lake and coming near the boat, and they were terrified. 20But he said to them, ‘It is I; do not be afraid.’21Then they wanted to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the land towards which they were going.

          Scripture is always fascinating, it is always multi-layered, it is always abundant in meaning and it is always without failing powerful.  The passage we just heard from the Gospel of St. John is no different – John’s Gospel is often regarded as containing and being a book of miracles, or as John calls them ‘Signs’ that reveal the Glory and purpose of God Almighty in His Son Jesus Christ.  Just a moment ago we heard the stories of the fourth and fifth signs in the Gospel – the feeding of the five thousand and the walking upon the water.  But of course all of these Signs serve the fundamental purpose of revealing and preparing for the ultimate Sign, the ultimate miracle, that of the death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ who is God Himself.

          In the modern world it is all too easy to become disillusioned by sceptical rationalism and scientific obsession and allow these to speak in places they have no right or place to speak in.  It is remarkable how many these days simply dismiss the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand men – and thus more likely nearer twenty thousand people including women and children.   People presume the Gospel writers to have simply exaggerated and lied, or Jesus to have deceived the people.  But I would put it to you that as Christians we believe in Jesus the Christ, we believe in the mightiest act of God – that He came to this world and was born of a virgin, became fully man yet remained fully God, and not only this but that He died and then truly rose again from the dead.  The Christian faith is at its core one of Resurrection – and if we hold that the core of the faith is a miracle so great and overwhelming as the raising of the dead, then why would we doubt that this same man who rose again could feed five thousand, indeed twenty thousand, with only five loaves and two fish!?  And so we must ask whether or not in our own lives we actually sell out to the doubts of society and doubt the mighty of acts of God which He has done for us both in times past and indeed today?  Are we willing to not only declare the essence of the Christian faith: ‘I believe in Jesus Christ…. Who on the third day rose again’ inside Church - but also openly to those who we know outside this building?

Of course Jesus is doing much more here than just feeding the crowd, He is revealing a Sign of who He is.   It is no accident that this occurs at the time of the Jewish Passover – a celebration of when in Exodus the Israelites sacrificed an unblemished and pure lamb and spilt its blood upon the door post of their houses that death might ‘Pass-over’ them.  And in doing so they were freed from slavery and lead out into the wilderness by Moses and were there given manna, miraculous bread from heaven, to eat.  Here, again in the wilderness, at Passover, Jesus provides the people with miraculous bread – but whereas the manna of Exodus could not be collected and kept because it decayed, here the bread of Jesus remains and is collected.  Indeed here the people eat their full and still twelve baskets of bread are left over!    And as we read on through the chapter we find that Jesus is Himself the Bread of Heaven, He declares “I AM the Bread of Life,” that He must be broken for them.  All of this pointing towards the climax of the Gospel at the Cross, which occurs on the Passover itself when the lambs are sacrificed, except Jesus is the true Passover, He is the one who dies once and for all for all our sins that we might be freed from slavery to sin, and in slavery to sin thus in bondage to death.

And that there are twelve baskets of food remaining is in itself no small thing – whereas the manna of Exodus decayed the gifts of Jesus, the Grace of God Almighty, never decay, they are for us and given freely to us in complete abundance, as in Jeremiah 31.14 God Himself declared “My people will be filled with my bounty!"  The free Grace of God given to us in the death of His Son upon the Cross is always there for us; His love and mercy never end and are always there for us to take hold of.  Even when we sink into the depths of the dark oceans of  despair and truly hit rock bottom, it is there that we find, by the Grace of God, that we hit non-other than the Rock of Ages Himself.   Have you ever in your life hit rock bottom, are you at rock bottom right now, are you at the point where you can recognise that you are broken and only at the Cross can you be healed, have you hit and found the Rock of Ages who is Jesus Christ our God?

          And so we have a miracle, and just as we should be, so are the crowds awed by this mighty miracle of God, they are fed from little till they are filled.  In a time when they are themselves in the bondage of slavery to the Roman Empire, when deep and heartfelt resentment that their Promised Land is occupied by a foreign and unclean nation is rife, the seeds of rebellion have been spouting.  Here in Jesus surely is the Prophet of which God spoke in Deuteronomy, where God proclaims another like Moses will come - and Moses was the prophet par excellence, and also understood as the King par excellence - they see Jesus as the messianic Prophet King come to free the people once more.

Of course Jesus is a Prophet, indeed The Prophet, and He is a King, indeed The King, but not as the people understood it and such titles prove inadequate for Him who is God.  They sought a fleshy king and prophet, a military leader, a political captain.  But Jesus was no emperor to be followed by a cult of worshippers like Caesar, but the eternal Lord of Hosts who reigns over all the earth and created all that exists from nothing.  The Crowds saw Jesus as the Prophet King, the New Moses, But Jesus is not only the New Moses He is the true and greater Moses, He fulfils and completes all that Moses failed to do, all that Moses couldn’t ever even possibly do - He reconciles man to God upon the Cross, reconciles man to God in the Passover Sacrifice of his own Body and Blood.    "Jesus would go to Jerusalem not to wield the spear and bring judgement upon the sins of the world, but to receive the spear and bear the judgement of our sins."  That is the God we believe in, the one true God who in Jesus alone offers salvation and freedom, victory and peace.    Do you know this God?  Do you wish to know more of this great Mercy?  Do you desire with all your heart to live the life of Victory?

          And so it is seen that this passage is not an ethical lesson on how to share your lunch, it is a revelation of who God is, what He is about, what He was to do, what He has done, and what He will do for us who He loves with all His heart.   All too often our problem is that we – and I most certainly include myself in this - like Phillip, think too small – we think at the level of the market place, of currency exchange, we think that we can pay our way to heaven in our good deeds, that the ‘good life’ we have led will be enough.  But that thinking is far too small, far too small for a God who is so great that He would come to earth to save us from such very thinking!  Jesus Christ, Jesus our Messiah, Jesus the Son of God, Jesus our Saviour completed the Old Covenant made to Moses, He fulfilled the Law and spoke the final word, not of judgement, but upon judgement.   He offers us the bread of Heaven which is Himself broken for us upon the Cross of Calvary.  And He tells us, time and time and time again that He is the only way to the Father, that He is our salvation, He died for our sins, that He died that we might have eternal life, that we might know eternal peace, that we might have eternal riches, that we might know God Himself.     Do we acknowledge that this is what Jesus says and then actually go and live it?  Do we accept that He truly died and rose again for our Salvation and then act upon it?

Just what Grace!  What wonder!  What majesty! What perfect joy.  To know a God who loves us, so much, that He is willing to be our Passover, to Passover all we do wrong, to Passover and remove all our guilt, our insecurities, our fears, our doubts, our worries, our pains.  What Grace, what a Gospel, what a message to proclaim to a world that quite frankly is broken, that has tried to reach perfection by its own might, by its own knowledge, by its own wisdom, by its own exquisite ignorance.   When all along, Jesus, risen from the dead, having secured our salvation if we believe in Him and what He did for us, has been waiting, waiting for people to turn to Him who made them, to Him who is the Way, is the Truth, and is the Life of all that is.  That is the Christian God, that is the God, the only God, and He is a God who loves us, personally, intimately – what Grace, what a Gospel, what a joy to take home tonight! 

And it is my prayer that all of us may come before this God who gave everything for us, and offer our lives to Him, acknowledge that we cannot save ourselves, that we can never ever be good enough, but that that doesn’t matter because Jesus died to save us anyway, because when we were still far off God came in His Son Christ Jesus to save us from our sins, that when we give our lives to Jesus and confess faith in His life, death and resurrection then in Him and Him alone we ARE good enough, in Him we are given the perfect record we all so desperately need.  And so I pray that we, myself most definitely included in this, may once again hand our whole lives, without reservation, over to the God who Saves, King Jesus.  That we would leave this service of worship to the One True God tonight knowing that in Jesus He came down to earth, died to save us and truly rose again from the dead that with Him, we His children, might share the fruits of His eternal Kingdom.  What a God, What a Gospel!

And so, knowing His love and mighty deeds for us, let us just take a moment of silence to pray to our Risen Lord and once again give our lives to Him.

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