Summary: The miracle of the feeding of the 5,000 (really, probably the 20,000) is a story about asking God to move in bigger ways that we have the resources to move ourselves.
MORE THAN A MEAL: Jesus was testing His disciples.
- John 6:6.
- John tells that Jesus is doing this to test the disciples. Obviously, throughout His three years of ministry He was pushing them to grow and learn the lessons of the Kingdom.
- Now, He asks them to sort out this difficult situation. I don’t think He had much expectation that they would get the right answer at first, but I do think He wanted them to learn the right answer through the experience.
- What can we learn from their experience?
- We will be put in situations by Jesus that test us too. He is far more interested in our growth than in our comfort.
- Maybe we can learn something from the disciples’ experience that can help us when the tests come.
LOOKING OVER THE TEST:
- There is one big point I want to draw out of this, but to get there we will look through the story of the miracle.
1. THERE ARE GENUINE NEEDS.
- John 6:5.
- There is a huge crowd here. They’ve been traveling with Jesus for a while now. They are hungry.
- We are going to talk in this sermon about how Jesus wants to work through us. One of the reasons He wants to do that is because there are so many genuine needs in the world.
- There are people struggling with depression.
- There are people who don’t know where their next meal is coming from.
- There are people who have embraced the American Dream and been left feeling empty.
- There are people who see no point to their existence.
- There are people who need practical wisdom to live well.
- All around us are people with genuine needs. And we have not been called to stay inside the safe, secure walls of the church and tell each other how God thinks we’re great. We have been called to go out into enemy territory and rescue as many POWs as we can. We have been called to proclaim hope in a desolate land.
2. WE DON'T HAVE ENOUGH TO MEET THOSE NEEDS.
- John 6:6-9.
- Philip is in the ballpark on the expense. It would be enormous. Andrew is right that there was a little there but it was a drop in the bucket compared to the need.
- We are often overwhelmed by the breadth and depth of the problems around us. We are all painfully aware of the societal problems we face as a country right now. The opioid crisis. The bitter political divisions. The depression and loneliness.
- We are also aware of the problems of the church. So many who have an empty “belief” that doesn’t change their behavior. Structures that emphasize stability over ministry. The confusion of religious belief with political allegiance. The American church is so off-track.
- What’s our response? Generally it is to shrink our vision of what we can do and settle for less. We understand how little we have in our hands and so we expect a small impact.
- Just to use the example of baptisms, most churches have come to accept as normal that they will have only a handful of baptisms a year. In fact, even among bigger churches, there is no expectations of dozens of baptisms. And so we don’t pray for that. We just know it’s not going to happen.
3. LITTLE IS MUCH WHEN JESUS HAS IT.
- John 6:11.
- Objectively, there is not enough to feed even a fraction of the people. But, as the hymn says, little is much when God is in it. Here Jesus performs a miracle of multiplication, taking the little available food and transforming it into enough to feel perhaps 20,000 people plus have twelve baskets of leftovers.
- This is, I believe, a major problem for the American church.
- First of all, we are so impressed with what we do have in the way of resources that we feel like we can handle it on our own. America is a wealthy nation and so we’re used to being able to do it on our own.
- Second, because of the first point, we generally take the limit of our resources as the limit of what God can do. In the economy of the Kingdom of God, that’s a pretty small vision. And so we see a pretty limited move of God within the American church.
- What would this story tell us? That we give what little we have to Jesus and ask Him to do greater things with it. One of the lessons of this story is that Jesus can do so much with so little. But we have to bring it to Him. We have to come with faith in His power.