Summary: Jesus and His disciples faced an absolutely impossible situation--10,000 people to feed in a deserted place, little food and too little money. How should we respond when we face the same kind of situation?
“Life is difficult.”
So says the first three words of a best-selling book by Dr. M. Scott Peck, an author and Psychiatrist, who wrote “The Road Less Traveled.”
And He goes on to say that the key to dealing with the difficulty of life is just simply realizing and accepting the fact that life is going to be difficult. That’s just the way things are.
However, I beg to differ this morning, based on the story we’re about to consider in John chapter 6. It’s the story of the feeding of the 5,000. And though there might be some value in realizing and accepting that life is difficult, for the believer, I believe the key is to recognize life’s challenges, life’s difficulties are tests from the Lord, tests that can be passed with flying colors if we first give ourselves completely to Jesus and His purposes.
That truth is well demonstrated by the story we have just read, the story of how Jesus turned an impossible situation into a picnic at the lake. A story that was so impressive to the disciples who witnessed, that it is the only miracle story, apart from the Resurrection, that is recorded in all four Gospels. It was an experience which our Lord Jesus intended to use as a means of convincing those who were following at the pinnacle of his popularity that he was more than a mere miracle worker, that He was more than a prophet, but that He was the Prophet whom Moses predicted would come into the World, the Ultimate Deliverer of Israel, and as it would turn out, any from among mankind who would come to Him in faith.
As I mentioned this tremendous miracle happened at the pinnacle of Christ’s popularity in Israel. He’s a little more than two years into His ministry and has at this point spent a number of months in the northern province of Israel as it existed in His time, in His native province of Galilee. From the other Gospel accounts, it becomes evident that Jesus had sent the Twelve off two-by-two onto their short-term missions trips preaching about Jesus to the various towns and villages of Israel. They have returned from these trips telling Jesus about all they had taught and done. And once they have done so, they are then so busy with the ministry and the fame and press of the crowds around Jesus, they don’t even have time to eat. And more than, news, sad news, has just come to Jesus that John the Baptist had been executed, his head brought on a plate to Herod the Tetrarch. And as Jesus assesses the situation, He understandably comes to the conclusion that it’s time for a break, it’s time to get away to pray and for the disciples to rest. And as he had been ministering near his now home-town of Capernaum on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee, He and His disciples get into a boat and head to a fairly deserted area along the shores of the Sea along the northeastern section of that lake, not far from the town of Bethsaida-Julias.
And that’s where we pick up the story in John 6:1: “After these things Jesus went away to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, also known as the Sea of Tiberias. And a great multitude was following Him, because they were seeing the signs which He was performing on those who were sick.” In other words, Jesus was healing everybody, His fame had so spread that He was an absolute sensation. And apparently, those who watched Jesus and his disciples head to “other side of the Sea” judged the trajectory of the boat and headed to where they thought he would land. And some actually ran ahead of Him and got there before Him and the disciples did, and then others followed. And not far from the small town of Bethsaida-Julia there are some hills that rise as high as about 2,000 feet, before which there is a plain that then meets the lakeshore. And verse three tells us that Jesus went up on the mountain, and He sat with the disciples. And it’s now the time of the Passover, the third during Jesus’ ministry, so it’s in the spring of the year when the grass on the hills would be green, just as it is this spring in the hills around Reno this year. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and there was a remarkable sight. Verse 5, a great multitude was coming. This despite the fact it was very late in the day. And the other Gospels tell us that Jesus got up and taught them and was healing them for this is where He had compassion upon them, seeing them as flocks of sheep without a shepherd.