Summary: A sermon for the 8th Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 12, Series B
8th Sunday after Pentecost (Pr. 12) July 20, 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, through your Son, Jesus the Christ, you revealed your compassion and redeeming grace for our fallen world. Through the power of your Holy Spirit, open our hearts and minds to our Lord’s continued presence among us, that as he fed the multitude by the Sea of Galilee, he might continue to feed and nourish us in faith. This we ask in his holy name. Amen.
David Washburn, pastor of Chestnut Grove Baptist Church, began his sermon on our Gospel lesson for this morning, entitled, In The Hands Of God, with the following illustration: (SermonCentral.com – January 2003)
“When I hold a basketball in my hands, it’s merely a basketball, but when you place that same basketball in the hands of Michael Jordan, it turns into collegiate and professional championships. Put a golf club in any of our hands, and we can hit a golf ball, but in the hands of Tiger Woods, we behold the best golfer in the world. A paintbrush in my hands might result in a pretty good picture, if it’s paint by numbers, but placed in the hands of Renoir, it turned into incredible works of art.
A gun placed in the hands of a hunter is a tool used for sport or obtaining food, but when placed in the hands of a terrorist, that same gun becomes a weapon of destruction. How is it that the same instruments and the same tools can bring about such differing degrees of results? Quite simply, it depends on who is holding them, and how they are being used.” End quote.
We know the story well. In fact, it is the only miracle of Jesus, which is recorded in all four of the Gospels. Jesus is on this hillside beside the Sea of Galilee, and this large crowd had relentlessly followed him, estimated to be about 5000 men, plus women and children. They followed Jesus because, as John tells us, they had seen the miracles of healing Jesus had performed to cure the sick.
So Jesus asks his disciples, “Where are we going to get enough bread to feed all of these people?” John tells us that it was Philip that responded by telling Jesus that “Six month’s wages wouldn’t buy enough bread so that everyone could just get a little to ebb their hunger.” Obviously, the disciples did not have enough money to buy bread for that crowd, even if they could have found a bakery that would have had that much bread on hand.
Then one of the other disciples, Andrew, noticed that there was a young boy in the crowd that had thought enough ahead to pack a lunch – which consisted of five small barley loaves, and two fish. So Andrew tells Jesus about the young man, but quickly adds, “But what good is that among so many people?”
But Jesus was not deterred. He had his disciples bid the people to sit down. Then he took that boy’s meager lunch, gave thanks to God for what he had provided, and gave the loaves and fish to the disciples to distribute among the people. And all of the people ate their fill! In fact, the disciples gathered up the leftovers, enough to fill twelve baskets. In the hands of Jesus, that boy’s meager lunch was enough to feed the crowd.
That’s the story, recorded in all four Gospels. But what does it mean. In particular, what does it mean in the context of John’s Gospel, where the miracles of Jesus are not simply recorded as having occurred, but are said to be “signs,” events that point beyond themselves to something of deeper meaning?
First, I believe it is important to consider verse 4 of our text, which may seem to be merely an incidental note on the part of the author, when he tells us, that this event took place as the Passover, the festival of the Jews was near. Yet such comments are rarely just incidental information in John’s Gospel.
In addition to the Passover being the festival in which Israel recalls God’s act of deliverance from their bondage to slavery in Egypt, it is also the time of the Jewish liturgical year that is associated with the arrival of the Messiah. Remember, that it was as the Passover was near, that Jesus entered Jerusalem with palms waving and the people shouting “Hosanna, Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna to the son of David.”
Thus, I believe that our Lord’s feeding of the five thousand is not just an illustration of his ability to work miracles, but a miracle that points to his identity as the Messiah – that he is promised Christ. Even the people who ate their fill that day, according to verse 14, recognized it as a sign that Jesus was indeed the prophet who was to come.