Here we are …Lord!
Here we are at the beginning of 2004. Another year lies behind us and a new year lies before us. I never make New Year resolutions – mainly because I never keep them. I start off with good intentions but that is all they ever seem to remain – good intentions. So today as we, the people of God, begin a new year together I want to share with you some thoughts from John 6 and the feeding of the 5000. What I want to share with you I believe is important for us all to take on board as we begin a new year together.
The Scene – Jesus has crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee and a great crowd follows him – mainly because of the miraculous signs that he did. We often encounter that in the gospels – people who are only following to be entertained by another miracle – that can be true today also. Yet note that Jesus does not chase them away. In fact when evening comes he is concerned about their welfare – verse 5. He asks the disciples – Where will we get the food to feed these people? He knew that the majority of these people were not truly interested in Him or why He had come but only in the miracles He performed. So there is a simple lesson for us there right at the beginning of this sermon – we are to be concerned for the welfare of people, even if they are not interested in the message of the gospel.
When you look at the answers given by the disciples you realise how little they had understood at this stage about Jesus and who He was.
Philip – 8 months wages would not be enough to buy bread. Why is it when a problem arises the first thought in most people’s head is – money will help? Money is more than often not the answer. Look at the society in which we live – people spend their entire lives chasing money and to what end? My grandfather often said to us ‘you can’t take it with you.’ Or as the old saying goes ‘there are no pockets in a shroud.’ Money is not the answer to this situation. Even if the disciples had 8 months wages between them – it was evening and there would have been no where to purchase the bread needed.
Friends money is not answer to your problems today. You might think it is. We could be tempted as a church to focus solely on the debt for our new building and believe that clearing the £5550,000 would be the answer – but it would not. Yes we need to pay the debt but that is not the heart beat of this congregation, it is not even our first priority for 2004.
Andrew – I just love Andrew in the gospels. He is a real people person. He is always bringing people to Jesus. Here he brings a little boy who has his pack lunch at hand. Now think about this for a moment. There are 5000+ people sitting on this hillside and a little boy offers Andrew his pack lunch. What would your reaction have been? ‘That is very kind of you but run along now.’ It would have been easy for Andrew to laugh at the meagre lunch as an answer to the problem before them.
Friends how often do we miss the opportunity to answer the problem before us because we believe what has been offered is too meagre and insignificant in the face of such a problem. It took great faith on Andrew’s part to bring that little boy and his lunch to Christ Jesus – but that was the key – he brought them to Christ. Learn a lesson there friends – it is not the resources that you bring to Jesus that matters – it is the fact that you bring them to Jesus. Again the little boy could have looked at his pack lunch and thought – ‘No sense offering this – it is just about enough for me, but it would not satisfy this vast crowd.’ But he did bring it and offer it to Jesus. It was all he had but he was willing to put it at the disposal of Jesus. We too can be guilty of thinking that what we have to offer is insignificant and worthless in the face of such a problem. We then think it is not worth offering to God. This little boy could have thought – this is too little in the face of so many. This lunch is not good enough to present to Jesus. If I give this lunch up there will none for me – it is too big a sacrifice to make. Let us be honest those are the thoughts which often enter our hearts when we face a problem or encounter a situation. The devil comes and whispers despair into our hearts.
Here is how it goes – look at the size of the problem. There is nothing you have that will answer this problem. Don’t even think of offering what you have – it is not enough, it is not good enough, people will laugh at it. And so the spiral goes until we go deeper and deeper into despair. That little boy and Andrew did not listen to such whispering. They brought what they had to Jesus and that was all that they could do – the rest was up to Jesus. I think Andrew had learnt a valuable lesson in the past from Christ – Jesus will provide but he chooses to do it by using what is offered to Him. The little boy’s pack lunch was the means of starting the whole process. He participated in the solution to the problem.
Jesus – He took what was offered, He raised His eyes to heaven, gave thanks to God for this provision, blessed the bread and fish – broke it and then gave it to the disciples to distribute it amongst the people gathered before them. By looking up to heaven and giving thanks Jesus was reminding the people that God is the one who provides all things for mankind. The miracle took place in the hands of Jesus, not the disciples. The disciples had the privilege of handing it out to the people. Look at what verse 12 says – ‘when they had all had enough to eat.’ Friends when God supplies our needs everyone is satisfied. Everyone in that crowd was satisfied – their hunger was met. Christ Jesus met their need, He satisfied their hunger. Not only were they satisfied but there was also 12 baskets left over. Those fragments were gathered up by the disciples – no wastage, the disciples would need to eat the next day also. When God provides he does so liberally, more than we ever thought possible.
So what lessons are we to learn from this passage for the year ahead?
I think we need to remember to bring our problems first to Jesus. Often, like the disciples, we can look at our problems and think that they are insurmountable. We can easily allow satan to come in and whisper into our hearts despair in the face of a problem – don’t let that happen.
We can complain that we do not have the resources to meet the need of the moment. We can believe that what we have is not enough, is not good enough or is too big a sacrifice to make. Learn from the little boy – a pack lunch in the hands of Jesus is sufficient to meet the needs of 5000 people. Not only meet their needs but satisfy their hunger and to have 12 baskets left over for another day. Bring what you have to Christ. Offer what you have – little, insignificant and all that you might think of it. In the hands of the Saviour it will be more than enough to meet the need of the moment. Jesus did not need that lunch to feed the people but it was the means by which He chose to feed them. He does not need you and I but we are often the means by which He chooses to meet the needs of many in this world. When we offer what we have to God we will be surprised that God will use our meagre resources to do great things. He will use our meagre resources in ways that we would never have dreamed possible.
Also can I remind you that the most profound lesson of this passage is that Jesus is in control even when it appears to the disciples that the situation is hopeless and overwhelming. In the year ahead I have no doubt we will encounter situations that appear hopeless and overwhelming – at that moment we will need to remember this passage and the fact that God is in control. We are called in that situation to bring what we have to God and place it in His hands. Jesus did not ask the disciples to solve this situation. He did use what they brought to Him – that is important to remember. We are very often guilty of thinking we have to solve the problem, provide the resources etc – when in fact all God asks of us is to turn to Him, give Him what we have and be the means of a miracle.
So friends as we begin another year together at Holy Trinity I want to encourage us all to be like that little boy and to be like Andrew. Be like Andrew and seek to bring people to Christ. Be like the little boy – give what you have to Jesus and become the means of a miracle in this community.