We Musht Feed Them ~ March 10, 2019 ~ John 6:1-13
Even Jesus, every once in a while, needs some Calgon. Take me away!
Every once in a while, Jesus needs a break. If Jesus needs a break, that should tell us that it’s not a big problem for us, on occasion, to take a break. When it comes to being a Christian, superheroes need not apply. Remember, the Sabbath is a day of rest, so don’t burn your candle at both ends. Then you will be no good for anyone.
So, He heals a guy, and then He has a run in with some other guys, and that leads us up to this morning’s reading. Would you please join me in the unison prayer as we prepare to study the Word of God.
Lord, upon the pages of this book is your story. It is also our story. Open our eyes that we may see, our ears that we may hear, our minds that we may understand, and our hearts that they may be transformed. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
So, after His run in with the Jewish leaders:
After this, Jesus crossed over to the far
side of the Sea of Galilee, also known as the Sea of Tiberias. A huge crowd
kept following him wherever he went, because they saw his miraculous signs as
he healed the sick. Then Jesus climbed a hill and sat down with his disciples
around him. (It was nearly time for the Jewish Passover celebration.) Jesus
soon saw a huge crowd of people coming to look for him. Turning to Philip, he
asked, “Where can we buy bread to feed all these people?” He was testing
Philip, for he already knew what he was going to do.
Philip replied, “Even if we worked for months, we wouldn’t have enough money to feed them!”
Then Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up. “There’s a young boy here with five barley loaves and two fish. But what good is that with this huge crowd?”
“Tell everyone to sit down,” Jesus said. So they all sat down on the grassy slopes. (The men alone numbered about 5,000.) Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks to God, and distributed them to the people. Afterward he did the same with the fish. And they all ate as much as they wanted. After everyone was full, Jesus told his disciples, “Now gather the leftovers, so that nothing is wasted.” So they picked up the pieces and filled twelve baskets with the scraps left by the people who had eaten from the five barley loaves.
Remember when Jesus asked the man at the pool of Bethesda, “Would you like to get well?” and I mentioned that seemed kind of an odd question. I mean, obviously you come to the pool of Bethesda because you know when the angel’s wings traditionally stir up the water and it bubbles and the first one to get into the pool would be healed. So, someone was bringing him for 38 years to the pool of Bethesda in hopes of being healed. And yet, Jesus asks him, “Do you want to get well?” It seemed an odd question to me.
Well, here we are again. It’s important to note that there were upwards of more like 10 to 12,000 people sitting on that grassy slope. Verse 10 tells us that the men were 5,000. So, when you hear that phrase “the feeding of the 5,000,” that was just counting the guys. Add in their wives, add in grandmas, other women, children – 2.3 kids per household or whatever – it quickly grows to 10 to 12,000 people. Now, I try to come up with an image in my head, what would that look like? Sitting on a grassy slope in front of 12,000 people. Picture going over to Wickham Park, sitting on a grassy slope, and inviting the entire town of Windsor Locks, sitting there in front of you. Think about that. Philip turns and looks out upon the entire town of Windsor Locks, and Jesus asks him, “Where can we buy bread to feed all these people?”
Seems like another odd question to me. Now, we know He was just testing Philip, because verse 6 tells us He was testing Philip. But Philip didn’t know that! The other thing that jumped into my head was Jesus tests people? Uh oh. Yes! Jesus does test people, oftentimes in the same way. Oftentimes He puts us in what looks like an overwhelming situation, and then asks us to do what we think is impossible. For instance, we did a lot of evangelism training this past year as a part of my doctoral studies, and most people would say this: “I don’t know the Bible very well! I’m not a good public speaker! I’m afraid of talking to strangers, and you want me to evangelize? You want me to share the gospel? You want me to invite a friend or a coworker to church? You’ve got the wrong guy!” I know, in many ways it looks impossible – but sometimes God is testing us, and when we are facing what may seem impossible, Jesus wants us to trust Him.
Now, obviously Philip wasn’t quite there yet, was he? Because he basically responds with, “Are you kidding me? Do you see what I see? The entire town of Windsor Locks is out there! There must be 10 to 12,000 people! If we worked for months, we wouldn’t have enough money to feed them!”
Let me take a little bit of a bunny trail here. You know, I have found over the years that most people are encouragers by nature. When someone is struggling with a task or a circumstance or a situation, we all tend to yell encouragement. Remember back when your little one was on the basketball court, or in the baseball diamond, or on the soccer field – we’re yelling from the side, “You can do it! Swing that bat! Take that shot! Kick that ball!” We are naturally encouragers. If you ever watch a marathon – I don’t particularly think that marathons are spectator sports, but some people are into that – and you have that first person come across, like that Japanese fellow who won the Boston Marathon last year finished the course in 2 hours and 15 minutes. (It takes me 2 hours and 15 minutes to get out of the house in the morning!) And all the people were yelling and clapping and cheering and celebrating! You know the very last person to cross the line crossed the line thirteen hours later. It was a woman by the name of Mary – a two-time cancer survivor – and she had to pause and wait for about four hours because she was struggling. Everybody was cheering as she crossed too. We are just naturally encouragers.
I will say this, “I don’t do well at public speaking, I don’t like to talk to strangers.” Do you know that public speaking ranks higher on the lists of things that humans are afraid of above death? People are more afraid of speaking in public than they are of dying. Believe it or not, this is not natural for me either. I might fake it well, but it’s nerve-wracking. One of the pieces of advice that really helped me through early on in my ministry was someone told me, “When you go up to preach, people are rooting for you! They want you to do well! Not only do they not want to listen to a lousy sermon, but they want you to succeed! They’re in your corner. They’re not all sitting there criticizing. They want you to do well.” That has always helped me a little bit. So, when I get up here on Sunday mornings, I’m hoping that you’re hoping I’m going to do well, that you’re encouraging.
Now, I do believe for the most part we are an Ephesians 4:29 kind of people.
Let everything you say be good and helpful so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them,
So, when someone is struggling, we are ready to offer help, we are ready to offer support, and an encouraging word. “It’s okay, God’s got you in the palm of His hand. He’s walking beside you. Don’t worry. It may look overwhelming right now, but with God, all things are possible.” We’ve all said those things to someone or another at one time, right? When somebody needed it. It’s funny though. The person we most rarely ever say that to is ourselves. How many times have we said to ourselves, “It’s okay, God’s god you in the palm of His hand. He’s walking beside you. Don’t worry. It may look overwhelming right now, but with God, all things are possible.” Why is that? We are so ready to give that advice, we are so unwilling to listen to it. We tend to tell everyone else, but think our circumstances are just a little beyond God’s reach. We tell everyone else, “Don’t’ worry, God’s got you. It’s going to be fine. Have faith.” But we worry. We fear. We doubt. Why? Are we that arrogant that we think our problems are so much more difficult than everyone else’s? Look, don’t tell anyone, “With God, all things are possible!” if you don’t believe it yourself. Because it is either, “With God, all things are possible,” or it is, “With God, some things are possible.” It can’t be both. So, which is it?
How many times do you think Philip had encouraged someone in that way? “Don’t worry, God’s got your back. Have faith. With God, all things are possible.” And yet, here, Philip is standing with God, in front of a crowd of 10 to 12,000 hungry people and he says what? “It’s impossible. If we worked for months, we wouldn’t have enough money to feed these people.” Fascinating.
Who didn’t think it was impossible? A little boy. Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up. “There’s a young boy here with five barley loaves and two fish.” Now, I am assuming that this little boy lived nearby the hillside wherever this was taking place, because I just figure you don’t randomly leave the house everyday carrying five loaves of bread and two fish. I’m thinking he was in the crowd, he was ready to hear and listen to what Jesus has to say and teach. That’s all people were doing, they were following Him. It wasn’t a planned picnic. They were just following Him around, listening to Him teach, and preach, and heal. And then this little boy heard Jesus tell Philip, “How are we going to feed these people?”
It’s not as if the boy said to his mother, “Eema!” That’s Hebrew for mom. “Eema! I’m going out to listen to that rabbi from Nazareth!” and she replied, “Okay hunny, but in case you get hungry, take five loaves of bread and two fish with you!” Chances are not. Chances are he was in that crowd, he overheard Jesus tell Philip about feeding these folks, and he ran home, grabbed whatever he could grab, and brought it back to Andrew.
The bread was from barley, the Scripture tells us that. The fish – if you do the research – more likely than not they were red-belly tilapia – or in Hebrew, musht fish, hence the title of the sermon, “We Musht Feed Them.” (Me and Ryan love a good pun. We can’t help it, it’s a weakness! Love a good pun… “Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana!” “I used to hate math, but then I realized that decimals have a point!”)
Jesus asked Philip about feeding the folks, he says, “Even if we worked for months, we wouldn’t have enough money to feed them.” A young local boy says, “Here, you can have my five loaves of bread, and two musht fish.” Who out of the two truly believes with God all things are possible? Maybe that’s why Jesus wants us to have faith like a little child, as He says in Matthew 18:
“I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like a little child, you will not get into the Kingdom of Heaven.”
Why? Why is a childlike faith so powerful? Because children have not yet learned to doubt or be cynical. When you tell them a cow jumped over the moon, they don’t argue with you for hours trying to prove that’s not possible. “A cow couldn’t run fast enough, it’d never jump high enough, it’d never survive re-entry into the atmosphere…” They just believe you. When you tell a child you’re going to do something with them, or take them somewhere, they believe you. That’s why it’s so heartbreaking to them when adults don’t follow through. Nothing makes a child cynical faster than adults letting them down. But for the most part, they haven’t learned doubt yet. So, God says, “Feed them.” Philip says, “If we worked for months, we wouldn’t have enough money to feed them,” a little boy says, “Here, you can use what I have.”
Andrew didn’t believe it any more than Philip. Andrew mocked him, right?“There’s a young boy here with five barley loaves and two fish. But what good is that with this huge crowd?” And what happens? After everyone was full, Jesus says, “Now, gather the leftovers so that…” The leftovers! 12000 people, leftovers! Jesus says, “Now, gather the leftovers so that nothing is wasted. So they picked up the pieces and filled twelve baskets with scraps left by people who had eaten from the five barley loaves. Apparently, with God, all things are possible.
Well, who is this boy? Who are his parents? Their names remain unknown to history, but their actions – how they raised their son – teach us Christians that we should always remember, our problems are never too big for God to handle. He healed leprosy. He healed paralysis. He rose people from the dead. I’m sure He can tackle whatever I am facing right now.
Why is it that we read these stories and yet still doubt that God wants to, and that He can meet all of our needs, that with Him all things are possible? Believing for easy things is easy. Believing for hard things is hard. Sometimes it may even look impossible, but that’s what separates the men from the boys as they say, or that’s what separates people who talk the talk from people who walk the walk. Think of it this way. When your children were learning to walk, you had to hold their hand, right? They couldn’t completely do it on their own. They needed some help. And even after they learned, they were sometimes unsteady on their feet. Every once in a while, they had a faceplant. Poor guy. We’ve all been there. Likewise, trusting the Lord takes time. It does. Why? Because it takes time to unlearn all of our old habits – cynicism, suspicion, pessimism, skepticism, distrust, doubt – it takes a while to unlearn all of those things as an adult. That’s why it’s no wonder we call it “practicing” our faith. Don’t get too discouraged, it takes practice. But I want you all to try this. I want you to try every single day taking your own advice. When you wake up in the morning, look in the mirror and say to yourself, “God’s got you in the palm of His hand. He’s walking beside you. Don’t worry. It may look overwhelming at times, but with God, all things are possible.” Look, friends, sometimes people just need to be fed, and sometimes we’re supposed to feed them. Don’t worry about how. We musht feed them. So just feed them. Because with God, all things are possible. On the other hand, you have different fingers. Friends, this little boy with a childlike faith taught us an eternal truth. If we would just trust the Lord when it looks impossible, when that event or circumstance in front of us looks overwhelming – “I don’t have a solution, I can’t figure it out, I don’t know what I’m going to do” – that’s exactly when we need to remember five loaves of bread and two musht fish fed over 12,000 people, because with God, all things are possible. Would you stand and pray with me?