Over 5,000 Served! — John 6:1-13
By Pastor Lee Hemen
January 18, 2015
When the Super Bowl happens or there is a big college football game radio stations often have contests for their listeners in order for them to compete to get tickets for the game. I find it interesting that folks who never cared a thing in the world about football all of a sudden will do some of the most outlandish things for something that is free. But, I suppose, that is the way of the world. As someone once quipped, “Free is a very good price!”
It is also interesting how some people will follow others for their fame, others for their fortune, and then there are those who follow someone for the free food! Food? Yes, food. We find Jesus ministering to a group of folks who were only interested in being fed for free. Kind of like many modern day believers who attend church simply to be “freely fed”. Like a McDonald’s of our day, we find Jesus feeding a whole lotta folks with very little food. You could say there were over 5,000 served! Let’s discover what occurred and how Jesus and his disciples served over 5,000…
Here in the preserved words of John the Apostle we find that…
I. Jesus attracts people! (Vv. 1-4)
Some time after this, Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee (that is, the Sea of Tiberias), and a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the miraculous signs he had performed on the sick. Then Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down with his disciples. The Jewish Passover Feast was near.
1. “Some time after” Jesus had healed the man at the pool and then had the lengthy discussion with his detractors, he “crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee.” This means he went north from Jerusalem and then across the huge lake known as the Sea of Galilee. And “a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the miraculous signs he had performed on the sick.” The people were eager to see more miracles, they followed Him round the head of the lake, and, as they went, their number was increased by those who were headed to Jerusalem for the Passover. We now have been following Jesus for over a year. The only reason folks were there was for the show they thought they would see from Jesus or perhaps they wanted him to heal someone or themselves. Whatever the reason, Jesus needed a place away from the pressure of the crowd and so we discover that “Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down with his disciples.” This is not like the mountains we have in the Northwest that are thousands of feet tall and have snow year round, this probably was more like what we would consider a hillside. Jesus would often go up on a “mountainside” to pray, choose his disciples, or simply to be alone in his own thoughts. He usually did so when something important was about to happen in his ministry. We learn that there were a lot of people perhaps because “The Jewish Passover Feast was near.” Big important events draw large crowds and the Passover is the biggest event on the Jewish calendar. However, they were not here for the Passover, they were out there on a mountainside because of Jesus. We find large crowds often following Jesus, but isn’t this the way of Jesus? We discover that Jesus attracts people!
EXAMPLE: Like a moth drawn to a bright flame, people are attracted to Jesus. The real Jesus, not some phony televangelist huckster weeping and groaning to a crowd of unsuspecting dupes. The simple truth of Jesus is attractive to those who are in need of salvation. It is heard in the urgent plea of a desperate father of a convulsing boy who cries out, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24 NIV) It is found in the drug addict, the homeless man, the rich Wall Street analyst who all share in the one need we all have — the need of forgiveness! Whether it was the miracles, the food, the show or curiosity the crowds were attracted to Jesus. In our daily witness of the one who saved us we must never forget this beautiful truth, Jesus attracts people!
We soon also discover that…
II. Jesus uses personal sacrifice! (Vv. 5-9)
When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do. Philip answered him, “Eight months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!” Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?”
1. Herein these few verses is hidden a most delightful story concerning Jesus and his willingness to use that which we are ready to sacrifice. We will learn that if we want to be considered first in his kingdom, we must be willing to be the very last or servant of everyone else. (Mark 9:35) This is truly a hard concept for many in our day and age. There are those who are willing to sacrifice if it doesn’t cost them anything, there are those who willingly sacrifice for family or friends, but few would do so for strangers unless there is some emotional reward in return. Why else would we readily help a child with cancer but not a senior adult? Why does the loss of a home in a fire elicit compassion, but not a small business? Whether we want to admit it or not we are often more willing to sacrifice if we think the need is greater in one instance over another. Here we find a great crowd who selfishly followed Jesus now in need of food. Jesus’ response is to ask his disciples, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” Jesus was not concerned for why the people came, he was only concerned for people. His question was to help his disciples to discover within themselves whether they were willing to find the answer. If they were willing to sacrifice what they had to help. Jesus had in mind what he was already going to do. Incredulous, Philip, one of Jesus’ disciples answers him, “Eight months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!” Philip was a realist, pragmatic in his response. However, Jesus is the Messiah and was never practical in his approach to meeting people’s needs. And here we discover the wonderful golden nugget of personal sacrifice, one little boy’s lunch. “Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, ‘Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?'” The food did not belong to Peter or any of the other disciples of Jesus, it belonged to one willing boy whose name we never learn, and isn’t this the way of true sacrifice? Sacrifice never asks for attention, it only gives and goes. And here we find that Jesus uses personal sacrifice!
EXAMPLE: I will never forget Ron. He was one of those wonderful people of God. He came to Christ during the time when those who were in the counter drug culture of the 60s and 70s were finding their way out through the Jesus movement. Jesus Freaks we used to call them. Long hair and a quiet soft-spoken pot induced haze was Ron’s demeanor. Yet he found Jesus. I should say, he fell in love with the Lord. Deeply and utterly. God changed him through the power of the Holy Spirit now living in him. Ron was so poor he could not afford a car so he often rode the bus. One day, while sitting waiting for his ride to come lumbering up, he needed something to eat. He remembered his morning devotion that had focused on the Lord’s Prayer. Specifically the “give us this day our daily bread” part. he kept repeating the words over and over and decided he would depend on God to provide something for him to eat. He opened his eyes and noticed there beside him on the bench was a newly made sack lunch. He looked around, no one was in sight. He opened up the neatly folded bag and there he found some potato chips, a baloney sandwich, and an orange. For Ron there was no doubt in his mind that someone else’s sacrifice became his meal. Jesus uses personal sacrifice!
III. Sacrifice often results in great outcomes! (Vv. 10-13)
Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, and the men sat down, about five thousand of them. 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. When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.
1. A little boy’s lunch was about to become food for thousands! Can you imagine it? How delightful would it have been to be there and to see the little boy standing nearby now quietly hand Jesus his basket of food. All that he had. To see his eyes grow big as Jesus performs one of the most dramatic miracles in the Gospel narratives. Jesus simply asks his disciples to “Have the people sit down.” Soon every eye would see what was about to occur. “There was plenty of grass in that place, and the men sat down, about five thousand of them.” I am not going to discuss the ratio of men to women and children, because John and the other gospels only record the number of male men over a certain age. This does not matter because whether it was only 5,000 men or 8,0000 men, women, and children, for me it does not matter. Would it have not been just as wonderful or any less of a miracle if it had been only for a family of five? Yet we see that Jesus willingly uses the sacrifice of one who tenderly and innocently gave it. As the little boy and Jesus’ disciples watched and as the crowd looked on, “Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted.” Mark writes that Jesus had the crowd divided up into groups of hundreds and fifties, and that he looked up to heaven and gave thanks. John’s account is simple in its accounting and beautiful in its uncomplicated nature. “He did the same with the fish.” And in that moment of trust, expectation, and personal sacrifice, everyone had all they wanted to eat and more! That’s how Jesus works, he gives us more than we deserve. Jesus leaves nothing to waste and I believe he knew the crowd would have to head back to where they came from or they would have to continue on to Jerusalem and they would not have food then either, so “When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, ‘Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.'” In my own way of thinking, I honestly believe a little boy returned home with way more than he had before! What a delightful outcome for when “they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.” Sacrifice often results in great outcomes!
EXAMPLE: At 7-years-old, Tyrel Wolfe’s mom suggested that he participate in Operation Christmas Child. The recipient of Tyrel’s shoebox was a girl named Joana in the Philippines. Tyrel had included a photo of himself, as well as his name and address in the box, and so Joana was able to write him a thank-you letter expressing her gratitude. For most, that would be the end of the story but ten years later, with the use of Facebook, Joana decided to hunt down the boy who had sent her a package. She took a chance on a profile in a rural section of Idaho. The photo she’d received showed a young boy in a cowboy outfit. Back in the U.S., Tyrel logged into Facebook to see a curious friend request from, “a random girl in the Philippines.” The two spent a year exchanging not only Facebook messages, but letters and photos, catching up on all the years they’d spent apart. The more they talked, the more they realized they had in common. They were both big fans of music, and liked to sing and play instruments. They were also both devout Christians. Tyrel decided to visit her. “Once I saw his face, an amazing feeling came over me,” Joana said. “I was so happy I cried.” Joana and Tyrel began dating. Tyrel mustered up the strength to pop the question. Finally, after many years of no communication and several more of reconnecting, the seemingly star-crossed couple were married on Tyrel’s parents’ 400-acre ranch in Midvale, Idaho. “I remember as a little boy, I was so excited to know the toys and other items I put in the box would bring joy to another child somewhere else in the world,” Tyrel said. “I just didn’t know the joy it would bring back to me one day.” Sacrifice often results in great outcomes! (www.viralnova.com)
Jesus attracts people! Jesus uses personal sacrifice! Sacrifice often results in great outcomes!
This article is copyrighted © 2015 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.