“Feeding One Another”
John 6:1-14, July 29th, 2018
Sermon by Pastor Tim Woodard
“Hear now these words from the gospel according to John, chapter six, verses one thru fourteen.”
1 After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, also called the Sea of Tiberias. 2 A large crowd kept following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick. 3 Jesus went up the mountain and sat down there with his disciples. 4 Now the Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near. 5 When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?” 6 He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do. 7 Philip answered him, “Six months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.” 8 One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, 9 “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?” 10 Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” Now there was a great deal of grass in the place; so, they sat down, about five thousand in all. 11 Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; and the fish was distributed as well, as much as they wanted. 12 When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, “Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost.” 13 So they gathered them up, and from the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets. 14 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.”
“Having heard these words, written about this miraculous event, let us consider its meaning in a world where people go hungry every day.”
“Feeding One Another”
Getting together to share a meal can be an exciting and enjoyable event! Many of us like to cook at home, cheaper that way, and can be a lot of fun. Some of us are good at it! Guys like me, we can cook up a good hamburger, hotdogs or steak on the grill. Sometimes, we fix some vegetables and a good baked potato. Grilled chicken is always good. My wife has a much wider range of great meals she can put together at home. She knows how to prepare a meal for a large family too! I suspect we have a lot of good cooks within our congregation as well. Most of us have shared in a pot luck dinner or two over the years. They are great because we get a wonderful assortment of the many different recipes many of us use. A lot of those favorite dishes are included in the cook book that was recently put together this last season; I understand we still have a few available for anyone interested in adding it to their collection of favorite recipes! Yes, there certainly are many ways to enjoy a meal.
Getting out to a good restaurant is also quite enjoyable. My wife and I do that on a regular basis. I know many of you do as well. The best part is someone else does the dishes and everyone gets what they want! Going to a restaurant is always a good idea when company stops in unexpected! It is always difficult to plan a meal when this happens. But usually, a local restaurant can handle the situation for us. Of course, this is not always the case. Sometimes, an event or gathering is too large to just put together a quick plan, or too many people are involved to just go to a restaurant without reservations or preplanning! So, what do we do in these situations? Or, what if there is not enough food in the house to feed everyone and credit cards are maxed out? Therefore, going to a restaurant is out of the question. Our scripture this morning is an example of an extraordinary type of a situation multiplied a hundred times over! Let’s take a closer look.
First, let me say that as I reflect-back, the largest wedding I have ever been to, the count was just over five hundred guests. There was a huge feast! Still boggles my mind to think of the extreme expense that was expended for that wedding. Well, we can assume there were at least, five thousand people gathered that day to see and hear Jesus. We can surmise that this crowd had gathered over a few days and they had traveled far away from their homes and villages. Jesus’ question to his disciples about where they could buy enough food to feed this large gathering, was rather rhetorical. As there were no restaurants or supermarkets anywhere near them. Quite the contrary! What we call modern conveniences, back in the time of Jesus, was way sparser then perhaps many of us can imagine. No supermarkets. No refrigeration. No delivery trucks or cell phones or any of these things we, in present time, are accustomed to. Consequentially, feeding this crowd was going to be much more difficult to accommodate, then that huge elaborate feast I went to, for my nephews wedding, back up in New Jersey!
Some of you have experienced serving meals to the hungry at the Daily Bread in Melbourne. The folks that gather there, for a meal, are down on their luck. The free meal, served by volunteers, may not suite every desire but it is hearty nourishment, and seldom does someone go away hungry. Those whom support these efforts can feel good about the help they are providing. Yet, the crowd there still does not compare to the crowd that Jesus and his disciples were facing. We do know, of course, there are crowds larger than the one in our scripture; refugees in various parts of the world whom are struggling to even get fresh water, as well as food, shelter and basic clothing. Let us keep these hungry ones in mind, praying for yet another miracle which shall feed large hungry crowds. As we reflect on the miraculous feeding of the five thousand in today’s lesson, let us consider new ways we might help the hungry here in our own community.
A simple google search on the internet tells us there are service organizations like, World Vision, whom publish dramatic statistics about hunger. “An estimated 8.5 million people go to bed hungry on a regular basis.” /United Nations ‘food agencies’/ “Developing nations account for 791 million or 98 percent of the chronically undernourished in the world. Mostly from sub-Saharan areas of Africa, the Caribbean and areas of Asia. World Vision provides food aids helping people get through the worst days.” /World Vision/ I would like to tell you that we, here in the United States of America, are immune to these statistics but that is not the case. I know most of us recognize that statics are often misleading, yet they give us some hints of what reality may be like for a large group of people. One agency called, Feeding America, reports that: “One in seven people in Florida, suffer from hunger; 857,150 of which are children. Charitable programs, such as food stamps, are unable to fully support those struggling with hunger.” /Feeding America/ This past Monday, three of our members helped feed around two hundred and fifty people at the Dailey Bread, here in Melbourne. Many of them come in for breakfast as well as for lunch. Hunger is a real problem for a lot of folks.
Let us get back to our scripture lesson. Have you wondered why the young boy was carrying the five barley loaves and two fish? What are the odds that he was the only person, out of five thousand, who was carrying food supplies that day? Surely not everyone had brought food along, yet, we can assume a great many were carrying some type of food and water. Dried fish and unleavened bread was easy to carry and was a main staple during the time of Jesus, especially in that region of the world. One can only suspect, that amid such a crowd, people were not waving their small food supplies around, offering it to strangers whom they encountered along the way. Yet, this one young lad stepped forward and offered up what he had, so that Jesus and the disciples might have something to eat. Our scripture does not tell us of anyone else having some food supplies with them, but many scholars have written that this seems highly unlikely that others did not also have some type of provisions with them!
Jesus does what any reasonable pastor might do, especially at a pot luck dinner where it seems not much has been gathered in the way of food for those whom are hungry. He gathers the people together. The disciples help him get the crowd to sit down. They let people know that the little bit of food, which has been offered, up will need to feed them all. Then, Jesus blesses the food, giving thanks to his Father in heaven. Breaking apart the bread and the fish, Jesus instructs the disciples to pass it among the people letting everyone eat until they had their fill. After the meal, Jesus has them collect the leftovers, and twelve baskets are filled with them! A miracle for sure! Now, we have no details of what occurred other than what is written. Of course, the event was shared with people for about forty years by word of mouth, before this happening was written down. Most of us realize that there were no video recordings or audio tapes of this event. No scribes whom were furiously writing down all the details. Nor were their reporters interviewing the disciples and getting feedback from the crowds. All we have is this writing telling us of how Jesus fed five thousand people that day and the only food given for him to bless, were the five barley loafs and two fish. Most definitely a miracle occurred there that day!
The truth is, we all want to know, what are the details? What really happened that day? How do put this event into action in our current time? Seems there are a lot of hungry people in the world. How can we use our lesson to help others! Imagine, you lived at that time. You heard of Jesus from your neighbors, so you wanted to go hear and see him for yourself. Clearly, you were hungering and thirsting for more information about this man that many were saying was a prophet, and some even suggested he could be the Messiah. You realize this is unlikely, but they said Jesus had also healed a few people of some illnesses. So, you wanted to go see for yourself. You knew you would be out of the house at least all day; you may not have realized you would be traveling for several days. But, just in case, you packed some provisions and such before you left. Of course, there were merchants here and there where you could get food and water, but they may not be where you would find this man Jesus, so you got ready taking with you a reasonable amount of provisions and headed out. You join with others who are traveling with the same purpose. Some are your friends and neighbors. You talk amongst yourselves of what you know of Jesus. Then you hear he is just ahead, up upon a small hill or knoll. You are anxious to see and hear him, you have traveled a long way from home; you are grateful you brought some food and water for the journey.
When is the last time you went to a big feasible or event? Remember what it was like? Perhaps a few thousand are there as well and you may remember how difficult the basics become in such a crowd. Try to visualize what a crowd of five thousand might feel like! This is what the crowd that day was thought to be when Jesus is believed to have feed the people. See yourself as one of that crowd, now ask “what was it you were truly looking for that day?” If you had just wanted a meal you could have stayed home. If you were only hungry for food, you could have dipped into the provisions you were carrying that day. No, no you wanted more than that! You wanted to be feed the excitement that others were talking about! You wanted to hear from this man that was changing peoples lives! You wanted to see for yourself, praying that you also would be fed these words of hope. You were looking for a miracle and you were praying for the answer to prayer.
As you sat with the crowd you heard the voice of Jesus as he blessed the food. Word got to you about how little there was. You decided to offer what you had to those around you. Many others did the same. You each began to feed one another with some of your personal supplies. The disciples, the men who traveled with Jesus walked amongst you. Some took some fish and a piece of bread, others slipped a bit of food into the baskets. After some time, you hear the man Jesus, he is thanking God in heaven for the meal which you and those around you had been enjoying. Word passed among you that there were baskets of leftover food; perhaps as much as twelve basketfuls. You feel good about having offered up a bit of what you had. When the stories of the events of that day are shared, it is expressed how miraculous it was that so many where fed with so little. When you head home, you also feel filled, for that feeling of hunger has been satisfied having been there with this man Jesus. You go to bed giving thanks.