Sermon, Sunday July 29, 2018, Pentecost 10B
Some time after this, Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee (that is, the Sea of Tiberias), 2 and a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the signs he had performed by healing those who were ill. 3 Then Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down with his disciples. 4 The Jewish Passover Festival was near.
5 When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming towards him, he said to Philip, ‘Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?’ 6 He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.
7 Philip answered him, ‘It would take more than half a year’s wages[a] to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!’
8 Another 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?’
10 Jesus said, ‘Make the people sit down.’ There was plenty of grass in that place, and they sat down (about five thousand men were there). 11 Jesus 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.
12 When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, ‘Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.’ 13 So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.
14 After the people saw the sign Jesus performed, they began to say, ‘Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.’ 15 Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.
16 When evening came, his disciples went down to the lake, 17 where 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. 18 A strong wind was blowing and the waters grew rough. 19 When they had rowed about three or four miles,[b] they saw Jesus approaching the boat, walking on the water; and they were frightened. 20 But he said to them, ‘It is I; don’t be afraid.’21 Then they were willing to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the shore where they were heading.
It must have been scary to be on the far side of sea, but good things happen with Jesus on the far side of the sea.
That is where Jesus leads his friends and the searching crowd. Like a peloton chasing the breakaway rider in the Tour de France, the crowd is in pursuit.
It must have been such a big day. This feeding of thousands is the only event that all four gospel writers record, other than the Crucifixion. Here, even the very different Apostle John, lines up with the others, Matthew, Mark and Luke.
It is all about bread. It a sign of God’s feeding. It is a moment of overwhelming satisfaction of body, mind and spirit. It is a moment where the Old Testament they know in their bones, off by heart, comes to life right before their eyes.
Jesus is up a mountain as Moses was with the Lord often, as Elijah was too.
Jesus sits down to teach. Same as Moses and any of the great prophets and rabbis. They sit to teach God’s word to the people.
The Word is the bread upon which all life is sustained.
There is not enough food for hungry people. Same with David and his band of soldiers when David gave the Ok to eat the consecrated bread in the temple. Same when Elisha fed 100 people from twenty barley loaves, and they had some left over (2 Kings 4:42-44)
Jesus “gave thanks” (Eucharist) to God. Only John tells us that this feeding occurred at Passover time. Again – Jesus is the new Moses, the Prophet of prophets and more. He is the bread and the life and the way and the truth and in him is life to the full (John 10:10).
The point? Jesus himself is doing it all. In other words, Jesus is more and everything. He is the bread for living. He is deep satisfaction for living. He is the food and the provider of the food for life in God’s grace.
Many are already believing something about him. Some are sure that Jesus is a prophet. But now they see this sign and eat their fill and they can vision him as not only prophet but king!
Is this the moment when they finally get the new king long promised to rule over them and lead them to victory and freedom as Moses did and the prophets promised?
Is this the power king of worldly status and means who will get the world in shape by power and politics and military means?
Seems not. Jesus rejects this king making stuff. He is everything and more but not that kind of King. He is a bread king, a heart satisfaction king, a life to the full king beyond mere politics or power.
But where are you in all of this? In your longing for satisfaction and fulfillment in your life, where are you with Jesus?
Are you Phillip? He seems to be only able to see the practical impossibility of the situation.
7 Philip answered him, ‘It would take more than half a year’s wages[a] to buy enough bread for each one to have a bight!’
Phillip can see just how little they have and just how big is the need and concludes that all the tea in China would not be enough to deal with their lack of ability to feed people.
Are you Andrew?
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?’
Andrew does more than be overwhelmed by the lack of ability. He seems to go down the “Mr fix it” road. He does some reconnaissance. He sees the need and gets to work in his own strength and frame of reference. But his own ability is found severely wanting. He finds the boy only has a bit of bread and a couple of fish.
Which road do you go down when things are beyond you? Do you find yourself unable to be anything but overwhelmed by your lack of ability like Phillip? Are you Andrew who hops into action to try and fix it and fight it in your own understanding and ability?
As for the people, the sense a good thing.
14…they began to say, ‘Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.’
Why wouldn’t they want Jesus to be that king they need? I too want to be without suffering and oppression. I want good things and the good life and this guy can deliver it. Let’s make him the man of power and influence to dominate and control the world!
They fall for old trap. They want what the king can give but not the king. They want trouble-free life without receiving the Bread of Life. They want the power without the suffering, the glory without the cross, the perfection without the struggle.
15 Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.
Staying overwhelmed in our own inadequacy or trying to overcome them by fixing themselves our way on our terms, or wanting what Jesus can give but not a relationship with Jesus is denying Jesus for who he really is. This is our eternal problem.
Here’s the irony of John’s telling of this feeding King: The One who is already King has come to open his Kingdom to people; but in their blindness, people try to force the King to be the kind of King they want; thus failing to get the King they want and losing the Kingdom life he offers. (Bailey in Morris, John, p346).
Are you losing the Kingdom this King offers because you are searching for your own version of ‘King”? Are you content to stay overwhelmed by your lack of ability, or disinterested in the satisfying of human needs of others with the Bread of Life?
Have you concluded that it is better to play it safe, keep under the radar of Jesus’ mission to let his Kingdom come here?
Are you so active and reliant on your own ability and understanding about life that you are missing his life at work in you and in others around you?
Are you so busy trying to fix things that you refuse to be fixed? Are you wanting the things that God can deliver without a living relationship with this, and only this Jesus, the Bread of Life?
Are you wanting the good things of God without the Bread of God – the Word of Jesus?
If you are one or all of these or someone else, eat the bread and come to the water. They are good food and good place.
Come out to the far side of the sea and see his mastery of even the wind and the sea. Know your own immersion in his water of grace where the evil one was knocked off his throne and you were seated with Jesus on his.
Feed on him, the Servant King, the new Passover Lamb, slain for all of our misguided belief and overwhelming fears. Take the bread in your ears and in your mouth. He is life beyond your problems and in them.
With Peter and the others, let the stranger/ghost be your teacher, mentor and friend, as well as Saviour Servant King. Let fear of an unknown God subside and welcome this human God into your boat and let him take you to the destination with him.
Why? Because good things happen with Jesus on the far side of the sea: Satisfied soul, healed body and mind; peace with the One who created the land and the sea and all their creatures, patience in suffering, wisdom in decisions, love in hate, his power in weakness, his forgiveness for an empty and wayward heart.
He is all and more and he satisfies any hungry body and spirit with the very presence of God up the mountains, on the shore, at home or away. He is is bread for you today.