There were so many of them. So many following, so many wanting to hear one more word, so many wanting to see one more miracle.
There were so many of them. 5000 or so, in fact. And they’d become incredibly curious about this man who’d been curing the sick. They wanted to see him do it again, not sure what it meant, but knowing that it meant something. And maybe seeing it again would help it all make more sense. Maybe this time it’d be their own father, or mother, or brother or sister or child, who’d be healed.
The crowd had been following him for so long that it was close to meal time. He knew that, and he knew that they’d need something to eat. He asked his disciples, “What are we going to do about this? Where are we going to buy bread for all these people?”
Sending them away wasn’t an option.
Simply telling them, “Tough luck, you should’ve brought something with you” wasn’t an option.
Telling them, “Go find a job to earn some food” wasn’t an option.
“Where are we going to buy bread for all these people?”
Of course, in the Gospel of John Jesus already knows the answer to his own question. He always does. He just wanted to see what his disciples would say. One says, “We’d need half a year’s pay to buy food for all these people!” Another says, “Well, this kid has a couple loaves of bread and a few fish. But it isn’t much.” That’s the best the disciples can offer.
Jesus says, “Make everyone sit down.”
And he took the bread, and gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them. Maybe he said, “Take and eat.” This was truly a miracle!
We find the miracle of the Feeding of the 5000 in all four Gospels in the Bible. It’s one of the only miracles that are included in all four books. You can find the story in Matthew 14:13-21, Mark 6:30-44, Luke 9:10-17, and John 6:24-35.
I love looking at stories in the Bible, especially stories that I’ve heard over and over. I like to look at them from a new perspective. I like to take notice of the details that our Sunday school curriculums leave out. I like to imagine what the different players in the story were doing and feeling. This is a story I’ve heard many times but let’s look from a new perspective today.
It was Passover time in Israel. Passover was their great religious feast, like Easter is for us. That meant a holiday from school, and a holiday from work. That meant that people were taking trips, packing their donkeys and going on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem.
Jesus had healed people of their diseases and his popularity was becoming enormous. He was like a new rock star, and thousands would gather to hear him preach just as thousands gather to hear a rock concert and see a star in person.
We see the disciples had just returned after being sent out in groups of two to preach and offer to heal and expel demons across the country side. The disciple comes back all excited that it really worked they were amazed and astounded and told Jesus of all that they had done.
But it was also tragedy time in Israel. According to the Gospel of Matthew, John the Baptist had just been beheaded. John, the Baptist, was the person that everyone looked to for moral and religious inspiration, and he was just be headed by King Herod. Everyone was stunned by this tragedy, by this enormous loss, including Jesus, who had been baptized by John.
And so it was grieving time in Israel, morning time. People were stunned, and Jesus wanted to get away by himself to grieve, to pray, to remember. The disciples were exhausted from the ministry they had just finished. They wanted to get away to a lonely place so they sailed across Lake Galilee to a remote point, some four miles away, in order to get away from the massive crowds who were following, to be alone, grieve the loss of John the Baptist, and recharge from ongoing ministry.
Jesus took a four-mile boat ride to a more remote, wilderness area, but the crowds could see from the shore where he was sailing to. So the crowds followed along the shoreline, keeping an eye on his boat, and so when Jesus’ boat landed, many of the crowd had already arrived.
And what was Jesus’ reaction to the thousands who had shown up? Irritated? Angry? No, he looked on the massive crowd with compassion, like they were sheep without a shepherd, like people who were in need of spiritual feeding. He taught them and he healed them. He fed them both spiritually and physically.
What we have in this story, a story so important that it shows up in each of the Gospels is the first example of paying it forward, and it was paid forward to the point of abundance. I think one lesson that can be taken from this story is not that Jesus worked a miracle but the miracle happened in the community. I can’t feed 100 or 200 people myself but I can bring in a few cans of food and if everyone does we have a food pantry that is over flowing. I can’t possibly give enough to support all of the missionaries who are sharing Jesus but if I add my little every month to your little every month, we can accomplish something.
Jesus didn’t ask Phillip to collect enough money and buy enough food to feed all the people that were gathered. No Jesus asked what do you have? What can you do? Can you give one? If you have no fish and bread can you offer the people a warm welcome and a place to sit? Or do you choose to be overwhelmed and sit back and say this situation is impossible? So I ask what are you being called to do.
- Family Outreach – we all have family members who need Jesus. It’s easy to put them off as a lost cause because we’re too close to the situation. Your family sees the example of your Christian or non-Christian life in how you relate to them. Maybe they need an ear to listen, maybe Biblical advice in a tough situation, maybe prayer. Maybe they just need to be loved because they have pushed everyone away. Someone once said that those who need love the most are often the hardest to love. Invite them to church, even if they say no 5 thousand times. Serve them, love them, be the hands and feet of Jesus to your family.
- Church Outreach – What are you called to do in the church? We are all given gifts by God so we are all called to serve. You don’t need to pray and ask God if you’re called to serve, you are. You should pray and ask God where you are called to serve. We have many ministries that cannot function without the body of Christ stepping up to serve. If you are called to work with kids or teens, we have a place for you to serve. If you have the gift of hospitality, we have a place for you. If you want to chat about where you would best fit, please talk to me, Christa or Pastor Josh, we would love to get you plugged in. We have a Movie night coming up this Wednesday, invite your family and friends! This is a perfect opportunity to put into practice the very things we’re talking about this morning. If a new guest comes to church on a Sunday, welcome them, include them, find out about their life. There are so many ways we can be the hands and feet of Jesus right here at our own Church.
- Community Outreach – Tuesday night, we have a community outreach at Roof Park. We get to paint faces, break bread … or cotton candy with our community. Don’t come because you feel like you have to, come and love on the people who Jesus is bringing to us, even if it’s only for a few minutes while they’re standing to wait for their kid to get a flower painted on her face. We would love to do more community outreach but we need you! I can’t reach our community myself, none of us can. We need each other to do great things!
- Worldly Outreach – Mission Trip 2018
When we respond with I can do something. Miracles happen and people are fed literally and spiritually.
As I was reading the miracle of the feeding of the 5,000 again this week I could help but notice the parallels between this miracle and communion. The first communion was served by Jesus, to His disciples at the last supper. The Last Supper took place during Passover, the night before He was crucified. Up until this point, communion was served as a reminder of God’s provision to them while they were in the desert. The bread was a reminder of the manna God provided and the juice was a reminder of the blood of a sacrifice needed to atone for their sins.
Jesus was using a time held tradition and giving it profound new meaning in light of the events He know would take place the next day.
We now take communion to remember that Jesus died for us but we take communion to remember that He died for everyone else too. We take communion to remember that Jesus wants us to “do these things” … He wants us to share the hope we have in Him until He returns. He doesn’t require anything, He takes what we have, blesses it, breaks it, and multiplies to meet the needs we have and the needs of those around us.
Just like in the miracle of the 5,000 He doesn’t require anything. Jesus takes what we have, however small, however insignificant. It doesn’t matter what we’ve done or not done, He takes us just as we are. Then he blesses us and breaks us. He doesn’t beat us up, He starts to break down walls, He breaks addictions and strongholds that the devil deceived us with before we were saved. After He breaks us, He multiplies the things He’s blessed us with so that we can take those blessings – that time, that money, the talents, everything He’s given us to love, serve, bless and share the hope we have in Jesus with as many as we can.
Unfortunately, I think sometimes we stop at the breaking. We allow Jesus to take us, bless us and break us. We are ok with Jesus working on us, we grow, we allow Jesus to break and rebuild some things in our lives but stop at the sharing part. Maybe not on purpose but we do. The miracle has taken place but we don’t always share. What would have happened if Jesus broke the bread, filled lots of baskets and then stopped? I fear too many churches today are full of baskets of bread that are stale and starting to mold. When we don’t carry out the process as it was meant to be, we get stale and start to stink a little. Those who aren’t involved in church look at us and think we’re hypocritical because they know how Jesus served and don’t see the same from us.
When Shirly shared from God a few weeks ago in church, God spoke through her that He wants to use us to start a revival in our community. Jesus wants to take, bless, break and multiply what He’s started here. That’s incredibly exciting but she also said that the only thing that would stop the revival from happening would be the inaction of us. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be the reason that a revival doesn’t start. Jesus is ready, He’s just waiting for us! He’s waiting for us to move, to serve, to love, to go!
We are going to take communion this morning. As Christa comes back up to play and the ushers come to serve communion, it’s appropriate to remember and give thanks for the salvation Jesus offers us so freely! But this morning I also want you to remember that Jesus died for everyone else too. There are so many lost and hurting people in our community, in our family, at our work, in our world who desperately need the hope of Jesus. They won’t hear unless we tell them. As you’re receiving your communion this morning, I ask that you hold the bread and juice and reflect for a minute on how you can practically be a part of what God’s doing? How can you give? How can you serve? Where can you go? It’s great and necessary to come to church, to hear sermons, to grow in your own life but if you stop there you will start to mold and become stale. You will trade the miracle that God has done in your life for a mess of moldy bread.
In Luke 22, as Jesus served the first communion representing the new meaning of the bread and juice in light of his death. Luke writes,
19 And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”
Let’s eat the bread, remembering God provided for us. He always provides. God provides so we can give, so we can serve so we can go. He’s a good father who provides for His children. Verse 20 says,
20 In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.
Let’s drink the juice remembering that Jesus was the ultimate sacrifice for our sins. He forgives us and offers us grace so we can forgive and over grace to others.
So this week, I want you to pray about who God would have you serve. Don’t pass this off as just another thing that would be good to do but something that’s fine if you don’t. When we allow the devil to convince us that we don’t have to do anything, we are not only robbing ourselves of the blessings Jesus has for us but we are robbing others of experiencing the hope only Jesus can give! Go do something this week, and next and the one after that too!