Summary: A sermon for the 8th Sunday after Pentecost, proper 12
8th Sunday after Pentecost [Pr. 12] July 26, 2009 “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, we come to worship with so many needs. Some among us may be ill. Some of us may be facing difficult decisions. Some may be experiencing difficulty in relationships. Yet amid all of our questions, our pains, our longings, we all have one great need: to be near you, to know your will for our lives, to love you as we ought. Through the power of your Holy Spirit, open our hearts to your redeeming grace in your Son, Jesus the Christ. This we ask in his holy name. Amen.
I have always loved the way that John weaves together various stories to help us come to terms with the identity of Jesus, and our relationship with him. I am so glad that our Gospel lesson for this morning does not end with the story of the miraculous feeding of the five-thousand, but goes on to include the story of Jesus coming to the frightened disciples on the stormy sea. It gives us the opportunity to see how John has woven these stories together to help us gain a deeper appreciation of the redeeming grace of God in Jesus the Christ.
First, let’s consider what is arguably one of the most popular stories in the life of Jesus. John tells us that Jesus crosses the Sea of Galilee, but a large crowd kept following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick. According to John’s Gospel, signs is the word the this evangelist uses to refer to Jesus’ miracles, because he wants us to see that the miracles that Jesus performed were not ends in themselves, but pointed beyond the act itself to reveal that he was truly the Son of God.
When Jesus sees the crowd, John tells us that he goes up a mountain and with his disciples, and sits down, perhaps for a brief rest. But soon he looks up, and sees this huge crowd coming toward him. And according to our author, the first thing that Jesus does, even before the crowd arrives, is to ask Philip, “Where are we to buy bread for all these people to eat?” Of course, John tells us that Jesus asked this of Philip in order to test him, for Jesus already knew what he was going to do.
And I think we can say that Philip failed the test. Here they were, on the top of a mountain, in a rather deserted place. I doubt that there were many bakeries in the neighborhood. So Jesus asks “Where?” And Philip responds “Six months wages would not be enough money to buy bread for each of them even to get a little to tide them over.”
It seems that Philip was more concerned about the cost of feeding the crowd, than where he would be able to find a bakeshop to make the purchase. Perhaps they were living in a recession like we are experiencing today, where the topic of money just seems to dominate everyone’s thoughts. But then, Andrew pops in and tells Jesus that there is a boy in the crowd whose mother packed him a lunch of five small loaves and a couple of fish, adding that such a small lunch could not even begin to feed such a large crowd.
Then Jesus does what he knew he was going to do from the beginning. He has the people sit down, takes the bread and fish from the boy, says a prayer of thanks, and has the disciples distribute the meal to the crowd. everybody ate until they were filled. In fact, there were twelve baskets of leftovers. And the people in the crowd, when they realized what Jesus had just done, came to realize that he was “the prophet who was to come into the world.”
But according to John’s Gospel, that is not the end of the story. In verse 15 John adds, “When Jesus realized that they [the crowd] were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself.” In other words, even though the crowd that day got a glimpse of Jesus’ identity as the Son of God, they failed, just as Philip earlier failed, to truly grasp the significance of what they had experienced.
In essence, we might be able to sum up this key verse, which makes the transition into our next story, with this thought. The crowd liked what they saw that day. They liked the idea that Jesus had the ability to feed them. They liked the idea that he was able to heal the sick. Let’s grab hold of him and make him our king, so that he will be obligated to meet our needs in the years to come. With him as our king, he’ll pull us out of this recession, and all of our needs will be met.