Jesus is having the largest picnic in the world! Just think—5,000 people present is an awful lot of people to feed. It all began on a sunny day by the Sea of Galilee. What a wonderful place for all to get together. When Jesus and his disciples got to the top of the hill and sat down to relax is when he noticed the crowd had followed him. Since he was the big excitement in town during the holiday festivities, you and I probably would have followed him, too, just to see one more person healed or to feel the hem of his robe, and to hear the fire his words stirred within us.
Jesus knew how he and the 12 disciples felt—tired and hungry! As he looked out at the crowd watching them slowly make their way up the hill, he knew how they felt too. Jesus turned to Philip and asked him a question to see how far Philip had grown in his faith. Often teachers test their students to see how they would handle a situation. Jesus uses the same technique; “Hey, Philip, how are we going to feed all of these people?” I’m sure all the disciples heard the question. Philip replies, “There is no way we can feed this crowd! Two hundred denarii would not buy enough food for them all.” (One denarii was a day’s wage back then so 200 was an exaggerated figure.)
Philip closes the subject with no hope whatsoever. Andrew, on the other hand, offers a little hope.
It’s been correctly assessed that there is no way they can buy what they need, so what does Andrew go and do? He takes into account what they do have. There’s a lad here with five barley loaves and two small fish, but what are they among so many? I can just picture the gleam in Jesus’ eye as he hears the second answer. The first answer was, “There is no way we can do anything.” The second answer was, “Well, this is what we have, but what do we do with it?” Jesus is now going to have to show them what he can do with what “little” they have.
Now Jesus organizes them. He tells the disciples to make the crowd sit down. The people were put in groups of 50. Do you see the beauty of his organizing of the crowd? Think of the problems he eliminated with that command. Have you heard stories before of people standing in line to buy tickets and they are afraid there won’t be enough that pushing and shoving begins? Well, when you’re sitting down it would be hard to push and shove for food or anything else. Jesus knew just what he was doing.
Jesus does what he does best—take the five barley loaves and the two fish and raised them up to give thanks to God for them, blessed them, and divided them among the disciples and sent them out to feed his sheep. The feeding of the 5000 is one of many stories in both the Old and New testaments where something small was given over to God and blessed, and whether it be loaves and fish, or time in a day, or oil in a lamp, or oil in a jar, God blessed it and provided something great from it.
Jesus was a great economizer and environmentalist. He didn’t let the leftover food go to waste, as he had the disciples gather it all up in baskets. The Bible doesn’t say what they did with the leftovers, but I’m sure they didn’t go to waste.
You know, one of the most fascinating things about Jesus and the Bible is they are both very much alive. Jesus is still organizing, God is still blessing, and the Holy Spirit is still enacting in lives of people today. This passage challenges our lives today. God knows not only what our needs, wants, and desires are, but also the needs, wants and desires of those within our church’s reach.
There is one tough question for us to answer! How will we offer the physical and spiritual bread of life to be given so the people inside and outside the church walls will be fed? How will we answer Jesus? “Lord, we don’t have millions of dollars to spend to provide for all the ministries that are needed,” or “Lord, we can offer our gifts of talents that are needed in special places.” We can ask God’s blessing on those gifts that we have and then go out to accomplish our appointed task. God wants us to take the step in faith to allow Him to use the “small” things in our lives to do great ministry. Are you ready, this really is a tough question.
After the crowd was fed and they were all satisfied, Jesus felt that they were going to come after him to make him their king. Well, I guess he didn’t want any part of that so he took to the hills to pray.
After Jesus left, in the evening, the disciples went down to the sea, got into their boat and headed back across the water to Capernaum. It had grown quite dark by then and Jesus hadn’t returned. A huge wind blew up, churning the sea. They were about 4-5 miles out when they saw Jesus walking on the sea, quite near the boat. They were scared senseless, but Jesus reassured them, “It’s me. It’s all right. Don’t be afraid.” So they took him on board. In no time they reached land—the exact spot they were headed to.
The next day the crowd that was left behind realized that there had been only one boat, and that Jesus had not gotten into it with his disciples. They had seen them go off without him. By now boats from all over had ulled near where the crowd had been fed and realized that Jesus was gone and wasn’t returning. They loaded into Tiberias’ boats and headed to Capernaum, looking for Jesus. When they found him back across the sea, they said, “Rabbi, when did you get here?” Jesus answered, “You’ve come looking for me not because you saw God in my actions but because I fed you, filled your stomachs—and for free.”
Jesus also told them, “Don’t waste you energy striving for perishable food like that. Work for the food that sticks with food that nourishes you lasting life, food the Son of God provides. He and what he does are guaranteed by God the Father to last.”
They still questioned Jesus just what did they have to do, just give us a clue about who you are. They must have been “slow” in thinking as they had all just been fed with five barley loaves and two fish. I don’t know how Jesus could keep his cool with all those people questioning him. But he finally says that “I am the Bread of Life. The person who aligns with me hungers no more and thirsts no more, ever. I tell you this explicitly because even though you have seen me in action, you don’t really believe me.”
This story goes on and on with Jesus’ teaching. It was too much for the lot of them to swallow, and they argued among themselves not really understanding Jesus’ teaching. That is why they did not get behind him when he gave us his life for them and also for us.
Let us not forget what Jesus did for us and for the world. All he wanted was for us to know that he was the Bread of Life. AMEN.