Posted on Tue, Jul 28, 2015
July 26th 2015
Gospel Text: John 6:1-21 “Jesus Gave Thanks”
Feeding the Five Thousand
After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, also called the Sea of Tiberius. 2 A large crowd kept following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick. 3 Jesus went up the mountain and sat down there with his disciples. 4 Now the Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near. 5 When 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?’ 6 He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do. 7 Philip answered him, ‘Six months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.’ 8 One 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?’ 10 Jesus 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. 11 Then 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. 12 When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, ‘Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost.’ 13 So they gathered them up, and from the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets. 14 When 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, 17 got into a boat, and started across the lake to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. 18 The lake became rough because a strong wind was blowing. 19 When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the lake and coming near the boat, and they were terrified. 20 But he said to them, ‘It is I; do not be afraid.’ 21 Then they wanted to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the land towards which they were going.
Do you remember the question I asked you last week? Something like, “If you could have super knowledge, power, or ability, what would you do?” In one week, my attention has been drawn all over the world and to households right in our neighborhood, and there were so many times I wished I had that power to just make things right, heal people, house people, restore hope, speak the truth in love, and basically just heal the world and all the people that live on our precious little marble spinning in the vastness of space.
The text about the feeding of the five thousand is found in all the Gospel texts; but there is something different about John’s text, he relates the miracle to the Passover. We have to remember that it was in the celebrating of Passover that Israel really understood what it meant to be freed from the bondage of slavery and to be a new nation built upon faith in their Saving Go and that God is faithful. In his Gospel, John is trying to tell his young church and us, that it is through Jesus, all people, from the Jews to the Gentiles, are made free to be people of faith, free from the bondage of fear and hopelessness to a people bounding in creativity, faith and service. In the saving act of Jesus, through God’s acting to save us and provide for us, we are filled and equipped to be the People of God in the world. The text is more about becoming free through faith, than a miracle involving fish and bread.
The text is very familiar to us all, but there are some important details we need to explore. They are sitting on the side of a mountain, actually a sloping field where they can see all the people that have come to see and hear Jesus. It is safe to assume that some of the people coming to hear Jesus were the ones cured, or were related to someone who was cured, and their expectations from Jesus were high. From their high viewpoint, the disciples were able to watch all the people coming up the mountain to hear Jesus. Jesus turns to Philip and says, “Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?” It is a strange question because it is just a great set up for an important teaching opportunity. Jesus knows what he is going to do, he is about to do a great “God thing,” that will shake up his disciples and move them out of their “logical, natural order” comfort zone, into an amazing “living according to faith and wonder,” totally “uncomfortable for them, living in the dependence of God” zone. As usual Philip and Andrew are clueless… They aren’t looking for God in the moment, even with Jesus sitting with them, they are not anticipating something wonderful about to happen. When Jesus asks, “‘Where are you going to buy bread for all these people?” He really isn’t asking them “where or how” to feed the people, Jesus is challenging them to “anticipate God doing something amazing.” “Don’t think! Just go and feed the people.” Can you imagine Philip and Andrew’s response? What would be our response? We live in the same conditions as that day, people are hungry and they need to eat… individually we can’t do what Jesus commands… what should we do?
The disciples, stuck in the realm of reality and human limitations, they are limited to thinking only about what they can do according to the concept of salaries and budgets. It would require six months wages to feed these people, ONE MEAL. Then, as if it was a big help, Andrew says, “Look at what the kid has! He has five barley loaves and two fish!” Which is equivalent to, “Let’s give the 5000 plus people the kids one and only “Happy Meal!” Five barley loaves and two fish are not a great deal of food in this situation. I wonder, “What is Andrew thinking? Is he just grasping for straws pointing out the boy with the tiny bit of food, he seems to interested in stealing the boys loaves and fish in order to fulfill Jesus’ command? The point is that even a hundred loaves and fifty fish would still be a drop in the bucket in order to feed over 5000 people. The number isn’t the point of the story; the point is that if they are being called to do accomplish something that was far beyond their human abilities. Ordering his disciples to feed a multitude of people when they have nothing is exactly the same thing as Jesus commanding us, “…you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” The second is this, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” There is no other commandment greater than these.’” (Mark 12:30-31)
The ability to feed 5000 or 50,000 people with nothing but what you brought to church today, is the same as being able to love God and neighbor on your own. On our own, we can’t love our awesome, powerful, and all Creating-God… How do I know this? Because if human-beings can’t even love their neighbor, which is proven day in and day out all across the globe, how could we ever even dare to come before our amazing God, full of goodness and grace, and withholding all shame, say, “I love you Lord!?”
Another day, another gun killing and no leader with courage enough to make common sense change; Another day, another suicide bomber killing in the name of religion… talk about humanity being far from the Love Commandment given by God to all three major religions; Another day, more homeless people on the streets living under the noses of people with six or seven figure salaries; Another day and another story about a senior living in fear because some politician is talking about “reforming” or taking away or privatizing Medicare, Social Security, the only safety net they have that have been paying into all their lives… now being threatened by people more interested in profit than the welfare of our citizens.
The text talks about Jesus ordering the disciples to feed 5000 healthy people. Now, we are being commanded to respond to 805,000,000 undernourished from around the world. Or one in nine people are suffering from undernourishment around the globe. http://www.worldhunger.org/articles/Learn/world%20hunger%20facts%202002.htm#Number_of_hungry_people_in_the_world
And rather than hearing about these facts in the news, more attention is paid to the “saga” of Chris Brown being stuck in the Philippines… or what Donald Trump is saying about someone else.
We are so far from being able to love, or even care for neighbors, that “loving God” seems as crazy as the disciples being able to feed 5000 with a few fish and loves…
Therefore, as is necessary, Jesus takes charge of the situation; and he takes the fish and loaves from the disciples, and before anything, Jesus GIVES THANKS! Our salvation, and our being able to perceive according to faith begins with JESUS GIVING THANKS.
Jesus begins the miracle with Giving Thanks and this is crucial; in this action, Jesus is telling everyone around them, that God is the one in charge here.
Do you remember those verses about giving thanks at all times? While the disciples are panicking, Jesus was doing just this, giving thanks.
With these texts, I could talk about the importance of service to the poor and hungry, but that is too obvious. We all know about the issues that point to our broken world that I mentioned earlier. We hear the stories about the hungry, suffering, lonely, persecuted, lost physically, emotionally or mentally, everyday. At the point we realize that we too, like the disciples can’t even dream of fulfilling Jesus command by themselves, we still are commanded to do something. Though it may feel counterintuitive, begin by giving thanks.
The disciples are being commanded to feed the crowd, but can they do this on their own? What are the two most important commandments Jesus gives to the disciples and us? To love God, and then to love our neighbor as ourselves… how close are we at fulfilling these commandments on our own as the disciples are at being able to feed the crowd?
Love our neighbors on our own? Fail. Love God on our own? Fail. Can we even love ourselves on our own? We can’t even love ourselves without some enormous word of forgiveness, grace and mercy from Jesus Himself. This is the primary concern people have when they come to talk with me. How can God love me? I’m no good. I haven’t been good, I’ve done this, and I’ve done that… No one could love me… especially God…
This is what we keep saying to ourselves… But when Jesus looks at us… Jesus gives thanks God for the you that you are right now. Not the you that you think you may become on our own, according to the latest self-help book. Picture yourself right now, and imagine Jesus looking you into your eyes and giving thanks… Can we handle that? That is the meaning of today’s Gospel.
On our own we are as lost as the disciples trying to figure out how to feed thousands of people with only the lint in their pockets… or like a bunch of fearful sailors trying to paddle against a wind on a dark and stormy night.
Right now, Jesus is in command. In the middle of the crisis, in the middle of joy, in the middle of life, Jesus takes the bread, gives thanks, and then shares with ALL people, no judgment, just blessing. When we gather in this place, in the middle of situations we know we cannot control on our own, we are called to this Holy Place, and during our time of worship, for sake of our forgiveness, Jesus breaks the bread breaks and gives it to all who have gathered. No judgment, just blessing. Then, in order to show us how much we are loved, even in the middle of our many crises, Jesus pours wine into the cup and says this is His Blood given for us, for the forgiveness of our sins. No judgment, just grace.
You will soon receive the Body and Blood of Christ; given for you for the forgiveness of sin… what did you do to earn this gift? About as much as the people in the crowd that came to hear Jesus teach and be healed from their sins.
What can we do? The prophet Micah said it so well, you will find it even printed on T-shirts.
He has told you, O mortal, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8)
“And may the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7)
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