John 6:1-21 Sometime after this, Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee (that is, the Sea of Tiberias), 2 and a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the signs he had performed by healing the sick. 3 Then Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down with his disciples. 4 The Jewish Passover Festival was near. 5 When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” 6 He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do. 7 Philip answered him, “It would take more than half a year’s wages[a] to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!” 8 Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, 9 “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?” 10 Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, and they sat down (about five thousand men were there). 11 Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish. 12 When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” 13 So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten. 14 After the people saw the sign Jesus performed, they began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.” 15 Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself. 16 When evening came, his disciples went down to the lake, 17 where they got into a boat and set off across the lake for Capernaum. By now it was dark, and Jesus had not yet joined them. 18 A strong wind was blowing and the waters grew rough. 19 When they had rowed about three or four miles they saw Jesus approaching the boat, walking on the water; and they were frightened. 20 But he said to them, “It is I; don’t be afraid.” 21 Then they were willing to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the shore where they were heading.
If you were to try and tell someone why Jesus is more than anyone or anything they have ever known or could ever experience, how would you do it? What person might you refer to as a great person and then go on to tell your friend how Jesus is even greater than that person?
Who are our “greats”? Who might you refer to as you helped a friend hear the message that Jesus is even greater than that person when it comes to living life?
For a young footy kid it might be Tex Walker or Olly Winds. For an old muso like me it might be Sting or Bono. For long suffering disenfranchised people it might be Martin Luther King Jr or Nelson Mandela. For Royal family lovers it might be Queen Lizzy or the beautiful Kate! For Aussie songsters it might be Slim Dusty. For Lutherans who care about their heritage it might be Martin Luther or Phillip Melanchthon. For those concerned for the living of a just and self-sacrificing life it might be Mother Theresa…and so it goes.
Someone once said that the goal of each of the gospel writers is to goad the hearer into personally asking, “Who is Jesus?” John is doing this here as he speaks of this great day on the far side of the sea in a desert place with thousands of people clamouring around Jesus, the miracle worker.
That is how the people seem to view him – a miracle worker and possibly a prophet – but that is it. To expand our view and help us to see that Jesus is much more than just a miracle worker or a circus magician, John picks Moses as a reference point. The people know Moses. They revere him as much we might revere those mentioned and many others. For these people, Moses is the Father of faith in God.
Moses spoke with God – face to face. Moses received God’s personal name thereby having unprecedented access to God’s mind and direction on life. Moses led God’s people through their baptism through the Red Sea and through the hard desert journey to the new country promised to them by the Lord. Moses received the commandments of God that were to shape a community and a whole way of life for generation after generation, including non-Jewish countries like ours!
But there is a point of difference between Moses and Jesus that revels John’s claim that Jesus is more – much more…than any “”great” person we might revere – even greater than Moses..
The difference comes with that conversation with one of the disciples – Phillip.
Jesus asks a question of Phillip. “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” Now Moses asked that question when he and the people were ‘under the pump’ in the desert journey.
Moses asked the Lord, “Where am I to get meat to give to all this people? For they come weeping to me and say, ‘Give us meat to eat!’” (Numbers 11:13). Moses really did want to know where the food was going to come from! But Jesus already knew. When Jesus asked Philip, “Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?” (John 6:5), Jesus’ question is rhetorical. John says, “He himself knew what he was going to do” (v. 6). So, Moses needed God to provide the people with food; Jesus just knew he would provide it.
Here’s where we come in. Phillip and Andrew could only see the lack in the supplies – a bit of fish and bread. They could only see that they could not supply people’s needs, have enough resources to do the job, and their own lack of ability to respond to the obvious need. I wonder whether we as individuals in our own circle of people and as a local church here in mission have the same limited vision of the Lord’s awareness of our need and ability to provide for us.
I so often tend to see the problems and give up on God’s solutions. I so often don’t trust that Jesus is more than the greatest hero and more than my greatest need and yours.
I respond to the Lord’s gracious giving of life and joy and healing and hope by doubting that he and they are more than me, more than I can conjure up, more than I can manufacture. I have this tendency to trust only what I can see and do for myself and others. I looks at the small basket of my life and see the huge need of people in this town and in this room and instead of trusting that the Lord is more, I get to work trying to be that more.
This in the end is idol making and chasing. This is God-replacement action ad belief. That is our ongoing problem and John hits us with it as he tells the story of Philip and Andrew and their lack of trust in Jesus for the day.
They are not alone. The crowd still don’t seem to understand and believe much. They acknowledge that Jess could be someone special. He seems to be a very good Jeannie in the bottle anyway. He can do magic healing and provide lots of food.
If Jesus is just a miracle worker for our own private or corporate needs meeting, then he is not our Saviour. If he is just a magic man who fulfils my every need, then we should grab him, tie him up in the back seat, bring him home and have him as our divine butler to drag out whenever we have a problem but otherwise get on with our lives in our own way.
Jesus allows no such thing. He is more than some divine magic needs meeter. He is the Prophet who has to come into the world – the Greatest Prophet, the life-giver, the God bringer, the hope teller, the food which sustains all life and gives all hope to all people for all time.
And there is one last sign of which johns speaks. Jesus does more than merely part the sea like Moses did, he walks all over it. Moses need the Lord to make the way through the evil and chaos of the dark sea. Jesus walked all over evil and chaos and darkness.
Whoever you are, you need Jesus. You need his food, his presence, his life, his great compassion. He does feed the people and does heal them and he does not let their lack of understanding or fear or pride sop his relentless mission to reveals the length and breadth and height and depth of the love of the Lord for human beings and his desire that we all may know the love of this Rabbi Saviour that is beyond our logic and science and self-help gurus and “greats”.
So person of Christ, Jesus is more. He is more than you, more than any other, more than anything good or bad. More than your fear your doubt, your ego, your despair, your pain, your dying, your loss, your suffering, your addiction, your longing.
Jesus is more and he is enough.
So, today in earnest and in the heart;
14-19 My response is to get down on my knees before the Father, this magnificent Father who parcels out all heaven and earth. I ask him to strengthen you by his Spirit—not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength—that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite him in. And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you’ll be able to take in with all followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God. 20-21 God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us. Glory to God in the church! Glory to God in the Messiah, in Jesus! Glory down all the generations! Glory through all millennia! Oh, yes! (Ephesians 3:1-16)