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Summary: Building on the feeding of the 5000, Christ challenges the people to look beyond the physical aspects of the miracle, to behold the Word of God

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9th Sunday after Pentecost (Pr. 13) August 6, 2006 “Series B”

Grace be unto you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Let us pray: Dear Heavenly Father, you know that we suffer from many hungers in which we wish to be satisfied. We have the hunger for food, the hunger for a better standard of living, the hunger for a retirement that is able to sustain our way of life. Though the power of your Holy Spirit, open our hearts and minds to truly recognize the importance of the gifts that you give us, especially the Bread of Life, which is your Son, Jesus the Christ. Amen.

Beginning with last Sunday, and continuing through the next few weeks, our Gospel lessons will focus on one of my favorite chapters in all of the New Testament – the sixth chapter of John. It has been dubbed by many Biblical scholars as the “Bread of Life Discourse,” which has inspired many Communion hymns, even though the author does not even mention Jesus establishing the sacrament of the Eucharist.

Even so, I believe that the author of John’s Gospel clearly understood the significance of the Eucharist to the worship and spiritual life of the church, and the faith life of every Christian. And as we progress through these lessons from the sixth chapter of John, it is my hope that they might help us grow in our appreciation and understanding, not only of the Eucharist, but also of God’s redeeming grace which we receive through Jesus the Christ.

Since our lessons comprise a continuous reading of this chapter in John’s Gospel, I would like to briefly recall last Sunday’s lesson. It began with the miracle of Jesus feeding some five thousand people with a young boy’s lunch, which consisted of five meager barley loaves, and two small fish. And after all of the people had eaten, the disciples gathered up twelve full baskets of leftovers.

It is a story that we should know well, for it is the only miracle that Jesus performed that is recorded in all four Gospels. But as I mentioned last week, the author of John’s Gospel is not content simply to tell us that Jesus was able to perform these miracles, he wants us to look beyond the miraculous event, to behold the significance of what the miracle reveals about Jesus. It is, for this reason, that John’s Gospel refers to these miraculous events as signs, events in the life of Jesus that reveal that he is the promised Messiah, the Christ, the very Son of God.

Then John tells us, that after Jesus had fed the multitude, the people began to recognize that Jesus “was indeed the prophet who was to come into the world,” that he was God’s promised Christ. But then John added this little phrase, that sets the stage for the rest of the chapter. John writes, “When Jesus realized that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself.”

That evening, the disciples got into a boat and departed for the other side of the Sea of Galilee. On their way, a storm enveloped, Jesus came to the rescue of his disciples, walking on water, and when they took him into the boat, they miraculously arrived at their destination, which brings us to our lesson for this morning. Seeing that Jesus and his disciples had gone, the crowd whom Jesus had fed get into boats and head across the sea to find him.

And when they did, Jesus told them, “Truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perished, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal.”

Now that’s a statement to ponder. It cuts right to the heart of the issue. It should make each and every one of us stop and think about why we are here this morning.

In the context of John’s Gospel, the people whom Jesus had miraculously fed that day by the Sea of Galilee, came to recognize that Jesus was God’s promised Christ, but they wanted to control him. They wanted to make him king, so that under his reign, they might be protected by his compassion for the people, and his ability to multiply the loaves. They were, in essence, thinking of themselves, and securing their own physical needs. They wanted Jesus to continue to perform his miracles, so that their life would be physically blessed.

And aren’t we often among that crowd? How often I have heard over the course of my ministry, persons express to me that they could not understand why they had to cope with a certain illness, or why they fell victim to a financial setback, or why a young Christian man or woman had to die so young. And I’m sure that we could add to this list a multitude of other questions that persons have asked.

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