Summary: A Sermon on the miracle of the feeding of the 5,000. The crowd failed to see the true miracle in the meal, and this sermon invites followers of Jesus to focus on the meaning behind the miracle.
Sermon on John 6:1-21
July 30, 2006
Rev. J. Curtis Goforth, O.S.L.
“Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks,he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted…When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, ‘This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world.’ When Jesus realized that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself.” -John 6:11, 14-15
My handicapped brother, Morgan, is always getting special treatment because of his condition. Now this fact extends to far more than just medical stuff. Morgan’s cerebral palsy has allowed him the opportunity to meet all kinds of celebrities. He used to love to watch wrestling on TV. My father took him to a wrestling match once, but the noise made him cry and one of the managers saw Morgan crying and asked him if he would like to go down to the locker room to meet all the wrestlers. Morgan got to meet Rick Flair and Dusty Rhodes, Sting, Gorgeous Jimmy, The Rock n Roll Express, and Nikita Koloff, and everybody else that was there that night—-all because he is handicapped.
I remember another time when it was his birthday. There is a fantastic little restaurant in Mooresville called The Little Kitchen that has the best steaks in the world and is one of Morgan’s favorite spots to eat. So, Morgan orders a filet mignon. And, as it happens, my father was at the salad bar getting Morgan’s salad together when he glanced across to see none other than Dale Earnhardt standing across the lettuce from him! Dad didn’t want to bother him, he noticed that he had been sitting at a table by himself in the back room away from everybody, but dad couldn’t resist. He spoke to the famous race car driver and told him that his handicapped son was celebrating his birthday and that it would just make his day if he could come and say hello to him for just a minute. Dale Earnhardt went back to his table and got his drink and his plate and he came to our table and he ate supper with my family that night. He also paid for our meals and gave Morgan his business card that he autographed for him.
So, after such a night like that, my father asked Morgan how he liked his birthday as we were loading his wheelchair back in the van. Morgan simply responded, “The ketchup was good.” My brother completely missed the whole point of the meal! All he could think about was how good the ketchup was. This was a once in a lifetime meal he had just eaten with the biggest celebrity in North Carolina, what a miraculous night, and he comments on the ketchup?
I suppose greater mistakes have happened in the course of history. In our Gospel lesson this morning, over 5,000 people dined at a much more spectacular meal where Jesus was their host. As you remember, Jesus had been doing all sorts of signs and miracles, healings and exorcisms, brilliant teaching and even raising people from the dead there around the Sea of Galilee. He attracted large crowds wherever he went, and such was the case in our lesson today. Over 5,000 people were marching to catch a glimpse of this first century celebrity, but they had to go out into the middle of nowhere to find him. Where would these 5,000 men along with their wives and children even be able to buy food? There wasn’t so much as a convenience store around and Phillip reminds Jesus that half a year’s wages would only buy this large crowd a small snack.
But Andrew points out that there is a boy among them with five barley loaves and two fish. But such a small amount of food doesn’t really count when the need is so much greater than what is at hand, does it? John is the only gospel writer that tells us about this boy being the one with five loaves of bread and two fish. This was no sumptuous birthday feast of an all you can eat salad bar with a loaded baked potato and a filet mignon. Barley loaves and fish was the diet of the poor, who couldn’t even afford flour made from wheat. We might compare it today to something along the lines of pinto beans and cornbread.
How can such a small and poor boy make a difference in a situation like this? Well, if you have been keeping up with the Old Testament lessons the last few weeks, you know that a small boy can accomplish a great deal with God at his side. Take, for instance, the small shepherd boy David, who with a few stones and a slingshot was able to slay the giant of man Goliath. That same small boy later became the greatest king of Israel. When we hear of the small and poor boy at Jesus’ side with his tiny offering of bread and fish, we should expect great things to happen. And great things do happen.