Feeding The Flock
The Food Sign
John 6: 1-36
Does anybody recognize this? That’s right, it’s the symbol for McDonalds. The first McDonalds opened in 1940. But, in 1961 a different restaurant opened up called “Happy Burger”. One of Happy Burger’s ads once said their “cows weren’t mad... they were happy” (get it? "Happy Burger" had "Happy cows").
But, I’m pretty sure McDonalds doesn’t have anything to worry about. I did some research online and I discovered that McDonalds is the largest owner of retail property in the world with a little over 14,000 restaurants in the US and over 36,000 in the entire world. McDonald’s is also the nation’s largest purchaser of beef, pork, and potatoes and it is the 2nd largest purchaser of chicken.
One site I visited asked: “Is there anything more universal than McDonald's?" Their answer: "No. The golden arches are the most recognized symbol in the world. The restaurant provides food for people in 119 countries.”
Everywhere you go the Golden Arches are unmistakable. The moment you see them - you know what they stand for. One of their advertising schemes from the past was to put up a sign that said over 1 million served... Now it’s more like 100 billion served.
APPLY: But one of the most famous eating places in the world actually served only one meal. It’s said that they served 5000 men (not counting the women and children) in one setting. It took place on an isolated hillside just off the shores of the Sea of Galilee and it didn’t cost those families one penny to eat in the presence of Jesus.
As I browsed info concerning the story we read this morning - I was kind of surprised by one statistic: There are only 2 miracles recorded in ALL FOUR GOSPELS. This one - where Jesus fed the 5000 with 5 loaves and 2 fish. And the other one – the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
My first thought when I read this statistic was... this miracle must have made a deep impression on the disciples for them to have included it in all 4 Gospels. And that’s true.
But there’s something even MORE true...
You see, the Gospels were written down by mortal men (Matt, Mark, Luke, John) but they were authored by the Holy Spirit. That means that God felt these 2 miracles were the most important miracles Jesus did while on earth. If these were the ONLY TWO miracles in ALL 4 Gospels ... there’s got be a reason.
So, let’s start by examining what’s taking place here in our story.
Matthew tells us that “the crowds followed (Jesus) on foot from the towns. When Jesus ... saw (the) crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.”
Mark tells us “(Jesus) had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd.”
So Jesus spends the day teaching and healing... and before long it began to get late. And so Jesus asks Philip “Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?”
One preacher I read had an interesting take on the conversation that followed:
Philip was a bean counter, a numbers man. According to Phil's calculator there wasn’t enough money to buy all the food these folks could eat. And while Phil is doing the math, Andy was out hunting down a solution. But Andy’s contribution was fairly pathetic (a child’s lunch of 5 loaves of bread – 2 fish).
But as I read this take on that discussion I noticed something: Jesus didn’t laugh or make fun of either of these disciples.
These were practical men who came up with “practical” solutions. They lived in small worlds hemmed in by their limited imaginations.
Do you think Jesus realized that? Of course He did. Jesus fully understood the kind of men that He was teaching, and that’s precisely why He asks Philip: “Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?” John 6:5
And He asks it so all the others can hear, because everyone knows Philip’s got a solid head on his shoulders. They all know his answer is sensible. So Jesus DELIBERATELY asks Philip... because He wants all of them to THINK! He wants them to understand the impossibility of what He’s about to do.
He draws their attention the problem... and then He sets them up. He gives them an impossible problem and asks how THEY would solve it. Then He not only solves the problem but gets them involved in the solution
1. He has the disciples order the multitude to sit down in companies of 50s...
2. Then He has the disciples hand out the food to the crowd.
3. Then when everyone has eaten their fill... He has the disciples pick up the leftovers.
Now - how many baskets are left over? (12)
Twelve baskets! Why that’s a basket for each of the disciples. It’s kind of like a souvenir – something they can take home and put on the mantle. Something to remember this miracle by.
APPLY: Now what does this story mean for us?
Well, 1st this was a test. John 6:6 tells us “(Jesus) said this to TEST (Philip)...”
Once in a while God is going to put your thru a test. Now this isn’t like being back at school where you receive a grade for answering right. This is the kind of test where God kinda “sets you up”. He puts you in a position where you have to make decisions, make choices.
Now, what I find interesting about this “test” is that Philip didn’t give a great answer. It wasn’t an answer of great faith. Jesus asks WHERE are we going to get the food and Philip answers saying HOW MUCH that food would cost.
Now what is the right answer to Jesus question. Where were they going to get that much food? That’s right – Jesus!
QUOTE: Someone has said that “Christ does not want nibblers of the possible, but grabbers of the impossible."
I understand the sentiment. I really like that quote. I can identify with what that man was trying to say: we should be people of great vision. Grabbers of the impossible. People of a mighty faith.
But NOT everybody’s ready for that. Sometimes – just like Philip – we just don’t GET it.
My point is: God works with the “nibblers”. Because God doesn’t want them to remain nibblers. He wants to show His power. God wants to break into our world of “possibilities” and make us people of impossibilities.
That is good news for all of us. God will set you up once in a while. And if you come up short on your answer, God won’t laugh at you/make fun of you. What He’ll do is WORK with you because His goal is not to slap you down, but to lift you up.
God uses these “tests” to shape our faith... to put a fire under us and make us grow. And when we miss that lesson, sometimes He’ll remind us of the lesson so we’ll remember what He’s done in our lives.
That’s what happened with this miracle of the feeding of the 5000. In the book of Matthew we read this:
When they went across the lake, the disciples forgot to take bread.
"Be careful," Jesus said to them. "Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees."
They discussed this among themselves and said, "It is because we didn’t bring any bread." Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked, "You of little faith, why are you talking among yourselves about having no bread? Do you not yet perceive? Do you not remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many baskets you gathered?” Matthew 16:5-10
Jesus expected the disciples to connect the dots, and when they failed to connect those dots He reminded them of what He’d done.
You see, when God wants you to grow in your faith, once in a while He’ll do stuff in our lives. He’ll do that to set a fire under you so that you’ll realize you serve a God who can DO some pretty cool stuff.
But there’s a danger in this. The danger is: if you DON’T have something cool happen in your life you can be fooled into thinking that you can’t really be useful to God.
You see, there’s people out there that God HAS DONE earthshaking things in their lives. They’ve overcome alcohol or drug addiction, or God has restored their marriages or rebuilt their lives in dramatic ways. And you’ll be tempted to look at your life and your experiences and say... I don’t have much to talk about!
But that’s not true, and here’s the reason.
Consider this story here: Jesus feeds the 5000. It’s a powerful and wondrous miracle!!! But the next day the crowd searches for Him. Do you remember why? They want more bread... but they don’t really want Jesus. Jesus talks to them for a while and tells them things that are for them to accept... and they just walk away
John 6:66 (note the 666) tells us that “After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.”
As long as Jesus would feed them physical bread they were content to ignore the real bread of life... Jesus. He’d done a powerful miracle in their presence and it didn’t make a bit of difference, because miracles have a limited effect on folks.
The trap for us is when we think that – in order to save the lost – we need more and more exciting stories. If we ever run out of exciting stories (the thinking goes) the crowds will walk away. But that’s not true.
What will draw and keep people isn’t more excitement, and miracles and more fireworks... and more bread. What will draw and keep people is when we make them hungry and thirsty for Jesus.
ILLUS: Years ago, there I read the true story of a woman who put this ad in the local paper: "Lost 50 pounds! Selling my fat clothes - good condition, sizes 18-20."
She was bombarded with phone calls, but nobody wanted to buy the clothes - they all wanted to know how she had lost the 50 pounds. Without realizing what she’d done... that woman made people HUNGRY for what worked for her. That’s what we need to focus on. We need to focus on why Jesus works for us. Why He’s made a difference in our lives. It’s all about making people hungry for what we have in Jesus.
Jesus said “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” John 6:35
And making people hungry for Jesus is less about dramatic and powerful stories as it is about simply telling people what you know about Jesus. There’s a powerful passage out of I John that has always encouraged me. John writes:
“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life—the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us—that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us...” I John 1:1-3
In other words, it’s all about telling people what YOU have seen and heard and touched. It’s all about telling people what Jesus has done in your life.
You see, what matters to God isn’t the dramatic stories and earthshaking occurrences that you’ve had in your life. God does do that stuff in your life to give you better witnessing ability. He does those things in our lives to remind US what He can do in our lives.
And when it’s all said and done, God’s objective is to make you and I “Jesus men” and “Jesus women”.
For example: Philip isn’t a central figure in the Gospels. He doesn’t DO much and he doesn’t SAY much. But there’s one passage from the Gospel of John tells us a lot about him.
Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”
Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”
Philip said to him, “Come and see.” John 1:45-46
Notice Philip believed in Jesus. He was sold out for Christ. He knew who Jesus was and was convinced He was everything the prophets had said He was going to be. In fact, Philip was so convinced that Jesus was who He said He was that he went to his friend Nathaniel and excitedly told him all about this Messiah he’d just met.
Now notice when Nathaniel scoffs at the idea of Jesus being someone special Philip doesn’t have a great theological response. Do you remember how Philip responds to Nathaniel’s skepticism?
He just says is: “WELL, COME AND SEE!”
There’s no deep theological points, no doing an intense Bible study of Old Testament prophecies. Just a simple – “You gotta see this for yourself.” And that excitement was so obvious that Nathaniel got up and went to see for himself.
One of the key focuses of this miracle/sign that Jesus performed was to tell people that He was the Bread of life.
As I was reading about this feeding of the 5000 in the other Gospels, something caught my attention. In Matthew we’re that “(Jesus) ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass, and taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing. Then he BROKE THE LOAVES and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds.” Matthew 14:19
And then I remembered a passage from Luke where Jesus was eating His last meal with His disciples before His crucifixion. We call it the Last Supper. And we’re told that “Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, HE BROKE IT and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’” Luke 22:19
And then I remembered something that was said about the worship of the Christians in the days of the early church. Acts 2:42 tells us “(the first Christians) devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the BREAKING OF BREAD and the prayers.
And then I remembered the 2 men on the road to Emmaus. You remember that story? Jesus had just been crucified and these two men were distraught and discouraged. Their Messiah was dead and all hope was gone. And then Jesus shows up. But they don’t recognize him, they just figure he’s a fellow traveler who hasn’t heard about the tragedy of the crucifixion. As they walk and talk together, Jesus begins telling them all about what the prophets had predicted about His death, burial and resurrection.
And then we’re told they sat down to eat... and Jesus broke the bread. And we’re told that “when he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and BROKE IT and gave it to them. And THEIR EYES WERE OPENED, and they recognized him.” Luke 24:30-31
They SAW Jesus in the breaking of the bread. Really.
That’s the purpose of communion you know. Every Sunday when we gather at this table that should be our goal.
Note: This sermon is based on
a sermon given by Jeff Strite..
Where and when we meet
Chardon, Ohio 44024