Summary: Our Scripture today is the only miracle of Jesus that appears in all four Gospels. It was thus the most significant miracle in the early church: you’re never too young to be a hero
The Anonymous Hero
John 6: 1-14
Who doesn’t love superheroes? Every child grows up watching shows about superheroes, people who were able to do more and be more than the rest of us. In ancient times, you had the heroes of Greek mythology. Then it was King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table and Robin Hood. In early American culture, there were heroes like Paul Bunyan, Wild Bill Hickok, Annie Rogers, Calamity Jane and Billy the Kid. In our lifetime, there were The Lone Ranger, Batman, Nancy Drew, Harry Potter and Katniss Everdeen. Every generation has its heroes whose stories are told in story, print or blockbuster movies. Why do we love stories about superheroes? It is about way more than entertainment. There is something deeper going on. Grant Morrison writes in Relevant Magazine, “Superheroes deal with the interior elements of humanity; they are colorful incarnations of the human soul. In this way, we put our hopes, fears, dreams, emotions and all the unspeakable facets of human nature into physical form and loose them in fantastical worlds to see what we may learn from them.” In other words, our heroes teach us not only about our deepest longings but also lessons of life and faith which can guide our lives.
Our Scripture today is the only miracle of Jesus that appears in all four Gospels. It was thus the most significant miracle in the early church. The setting is that Jesus has just crossed over the Sea of Galilee to the other side by boat. He sat down with the disciples on a side of the hill. Far off in the distance, they see the crowds have followed Jesus on foot. And thus begins another teaching opportunity. There were more 5000 gathered that day and the Greek specifies that number was males. Matthew further emphasizes the point by adding, “Besides women and children.” Many Bible scholars believe the actual number fed that day could have been 15,000 to 20,000 people. What makes our hero today unique from the others we’ll look at in this series is that he is the youngest of the heroes. That leads us to the first lesson of life and faith which is you’re never too young to be a hero. Kids and youth, did you hear me? You’re never too young to be a hero. Lucas Prestenbach is a member of Bayou Blue UMC in Houma. He was given an assignment in his 8th grade English class called the “20% Project.” Lucas thought about his two passions: his love of humanitarian action and eating.” So Lucas decided to feed the homeless. He went to his church and asked for help. The church Board bought into it and together they partnered with House of Hope, a local faith-based distribution center. Lucas’ project was to prepare hot lunches to be served at House of Hope to the homeless on two separate days. The church wanted to call it Project Lucas but Lucas instead named it “Lunches of Love” based on 1 Cor. 13 “So faith, hope and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” He gathered volunteers from the church and together they touched lives. One child received a bag lunch and said, “Thank you. I love you.” That has prompted Bayou Blue to begin exploring new possibilities with House of Hope. And Lucas? He’s considering attending seminary and serving in ministry. You’re never too young to become a hero.
We don’t know much about this child in the Feeding of the 5000, just that he was a young boy and he had his sack lunch with him. Andrew goes to him under the direction of Jesus and we discover that he has 5 barley loaves and two fish in his lunch box. Every meal in your culture requires several loaves of bread. Bread serves as eating utensils because there are no spoons or forks. Barley bread was the cheapest bread available in Jesus’ day, the least satisfying and a last resort for most people. If you had even a little money available, you would choose wheat bread instead. So more than likely, this boy comes from a poor family. He is not alone, as 90% of the people living in first-century Israel were poor. Most poor people were involved in either farming or shepherding. Since Herod the Great’s extended family controlled 2/3 of the land in first-century Israel, many families were by necessity sharecroppers working the land and tending vineyards or crops owned by someone else. As a result, most families were one paycheck or drought away from disaster. This boy would have come from a small town nearby. Most people, unless you are a shepherd, never travelled more than a mile from home in their lifetime except to go to Jerusalem to participate in one of the major festivals, like the Passover and the Feast of Tabernacles.