John 6:1-15 & 23-24
Location (s) and Date (s) Preached:
6 After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, also called the Sea of Tiberias.a 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’ wagesb 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 theyc 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; so also the fish, 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.”15 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.
23 Then some boats from Tiberias came near the place where they had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks.f 24 So when the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum looking for Jesus.
1. www.barna.org states:
- 51% of Christians and 54% of non-Christians believe that no matter how they feel about money, it is still the main symbol of success in life. (1997)
- 19% of Christians and 20% of non-Christians believe that you can usually tell how successful a person is by examining what they own. (1997)
- One-fourth of teens believe that what you do for others is more important than what you believe about Jesus Christ. (1999)
- Only half of all adults (53%) identify being deeply committed to the Christian faith as a top priority. (2000)
- More than half of all adults (54%) believe that if a person is generally good, or does enough good things for others during their life, they will earn a place in Heaven. (2004).
- Less than half of all adults (47%) believe they have a personal responsibility to tell other people their religious beliefs -- (2004)
2. Setting (vv 1-4)
Something fishy is going on.
One will notice that the setting is quite well described in this passage. We know that Jesus crossed the sea of Galilee (more specifically the Sea of Tiberias, as more local name) and as he landed saw a great crowd of people. Why were these people following him? We are told they are following him because they saw the miraculous sings and healings Jesus had preformed. Various commentary states that the time lapse between chapter 5 and 6 is somewhere around 6 months and vv 3 and 4 are clearly linked back to the days of Moses being on a mount and feeding, during the time of Passover, feeding his people barley bread. Keeping the Passover and mountain/hill idea in mind we can then understand why they labeled Jesus as a Prophet and wanted to make him king. One other note about the Tiberias region, it is the only town that still stands today, most of the other towns in the area were destroyed. The location is said to be in a wilderness location with only grass around. Again this is a sign of what it was like for the people in the time of the exodus and those at Jesus’ feet would know this intuitively. Something fishy is going on.
3. Psychological Analysis of the Characters (vv 5-9)
In this passage several characters are directly or indirectly noted as having a role in the supernatural event. Jesus was about one year away from his crucifixion on the cross and it is estimated he was about 30 years of age. Philip means “lover of horses” and he was held in high regard by those around him. Jesus most likely asked Philip the question, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” because Philip was man from that region and he would know the various bread outlets. Philip’s response of it costing more then they had was appropriate. One Denarius was equal to one days pay and the estimated cost to place a piece of bread in each hand was around 200 denarii. But on towards another character. Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother (AKA Andrew) is only directly mentioned three times is scripture. His name means manly and his is best known for bringing people to Christ. Hence his bring a child with food was not an unusual act, it simply was his personality to find a concrete solution. The boy is only mentioned as a boy who had fish and barley bread. The only clue to who his is, is found in his barley bread. In that day barley was found in most any open unplanted felid. Barley was used for various things, but it mostly was eaten by on poor people. So this boy was most likely very poor and his poorness makes the supernatural event all the more great. Jesus again makes something out of the least of nothing (c.f. w. the water turned to wine). Lastly, one will notice the crowd of people. John says that about 5,000, while other accounts (i.e. Mark 6) indicate that this count only included men. In total there would have been around 10,000 people. We also can only presume these people were local people in the Tiberias region which mean they were a sect of Jews who were poor and under heavy heathen influences of the local Roman people. Something fishy is going on.
Themes & Structure
4. Hopelessness (vv 5-9)
Two main themes seem to surface in this section of the event. These themes can be segmented and are preceded by the words of Jesus in 6:5, 10, and 12.
Knowing that the mission before you is massively undoable and hearing “Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?”, what feelings come to mind? One might think the question is a joke question, but John tells us that it is a test. Philip, being aware of the local bread market, sizes up the situation as, IMPOSSIBLE. The feeding will cost to much and this ministry is simply outside of their means. Hopelessness and failure are two descriptive terms best suited for our minds. Andrew takes on the role of lead community wellness center researcher and finds that even the current resources they have are dismal. Now it is really hopeless and failure almost seems certain. Yet the boy is of great value to us in this story because this is where most of us can place our own story. We come to the ministry field with only a few fish or a few gifts. Just as the barley bread comes from the poorest of the poor, we too think we only have the least of gifts to offer and we are partially right in thinking these thoughts. Our gifts in themselves are not going to get us out of what seems like a failed situation. We to are desperately hopeless and feel like we are going to fail. Can you hear the parallelism that exists between St. Andrew’s current situation and this scripture lesson? Verse 8 presents us with a very harsh reality of church life. What would happen if we stop the story at verse 8? Perhaps we would keep going for a few weeks or a month or two, but sooner then later we would no longer even be able to feed the community that so desperately needs God!. We (SA and individual Christians) will become so hopeless that we will die IF we stop the story at verse 8! Specifically, we do not have enough resources to even think about moving forward and the resources you and I have seem worthless in the current state of affairs. Yet can you hear the optimism in this passage? It starts back in verse 6! Listen carefully and you will hear the future of St. Andrews and your own personal Christian walk. “He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.” What points do you think you can gain from what was just said? My personal point I think that is being said to me is: Jesus showed the disciples and us that ministry/church is not about what we have instead ministry/church is about who we have helping us! But still something fishy is going on.
5. Life in the Shadow of Hopelessness (vv 10-11)
“Have the people set down.” This past week a phrase caught my ears and drug me along in thought for a while. “We nurture the things we love”. In other words our outward acts indicate our inward desires. Think about being hungry. If I am hungry (and sometimes when I am not) I make a physical act of making food. Our inward self dictates how our outward being will act. Thought and feeling lead to acting. Jesus thought about his ministry and felt compassion for them…he nurtured them….he had them sit down in green pastures (c.f. Psalms 23). “Jesus then took the loaves…” and what? I wonder what you would have done with the loaves and fish at this point. I wonder would you or I have hid them, or would we have formed a committee to figure out the solution, or would we have tried to go to the local bank and borrow money to get bread for these people? I wonder….” “HE GAVE THANKS”. What the…why the…but you see…how can that even work! You gave thanks in a situation that seems utterly hopeless and full of failure, are you nuts Jesus! I bet he is looking at you and I and saying you are nuts for not giving me thanks! Giving thanks was a way of remembering that God has gotten us out of this jam before. Giving thanks in their culture meant remembering all that has happened and then thanking God for what has happened. Giving thanks is the first step and last step in this supernatural event. Let me ask you, can you give thanks for the current situation you are in? Can we give thanks for the current situation we are in? It’s hard, it seems pointless, but yet it leads to a supernatural event occurring. Something fishy is going on.
6. The Financial side of Hopefulness (vv. 12-13)
“Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” Did you see that? Did you get enough to eat? There are twelve baskets left over and this clearly indicates that Jesus can provide more then enough to take care of them and us. If Jesus can take care of 10,000 then he can take care of 70 and even one person. Will you give thanks for what seems to be a rotten situation? What areas in you life will you let Jesus teach you that it is not about what you have to offer but its about who you have to offer? Where will you work this out this week? Role play the situation in your head. Who? What? When? Where? To St. Andrews I ask the same questions and provide you with a glimpse of what will happen when we recognize that it is not about what we have but about who we have. This is nothing fishy going now.
7. It’s the Who, Who Makes You (vv 14-15 & 23-24)
“Surely this is the Prophet…” If we pay attention to the who and not the what we have we will get noticed. The people there could not shake the idea of Moses out of their heads, that is what they thought about Jesus. They wanted to make him king because they thought he met every old prophecy, but they missed who he really was. Today we cannot miss who Jesus is, he will save you and he will save us. To St. Andrews I specifically say we need to see v 23 and 24. When we give thanks and use the gifts we already have it matters little what the situation looks like. Because Jesus is what we offer in our every day interactions at work, school, and other events. When we as a church see and hear that we only need to offer who we have and not what we have, all of the issues that plague us disappear. There is nothing fishy about offering Jesus to other people.
a Gk of Galilee of Tiberias
b Gk Two hundred denarii; the denarius was the usual day’s wage for a laborer
c Gk the men
The Holy Bible : New Revised Standard Version, Jn 6:1. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1996, c1989.
f Other ancient authorities lack after the Lord had given thanks
The Holy Bible : New Revised Standard Version, Jn 6:23. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1996, c1989.