Jesus Feeds His Church
Mighty father, Please let the words of my mouth and the meditation of our hearts
be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, our rock and our redeemer. Amen.
Christmas day. It’s one of my favorite days of the year! Unfortunately it’s not for very spiritual reasons...
You see Christmas is one of my favorite days because there’s usually a massive lunch. Christmas lunch! People go all out, and we get friends or family together and have a great meal. I love the feasting together (you can probably tell by my figure!).
But when the meal is over we retire to the lounge in those moments of satisfaction. We have eaten well. I am full, stuffed. Filled up to pushy’s bow. I am satiated.
I am satisfied. My hunger is so far away it feels like a distant memory. I recline in that post-food bliss without a care in the world.
You know that feeling? That feeling of fullness and satisfaction?
I want you to have that fullness this morning when you leave this place. I want you to be full. Not from lunch though, from Jesus. I am hoping to lead you face first into God’s word where you can meet Jesus. This bloke Jesus is going to give you the best meal you ever had. But he’s not going to give you a physical meal on a plate, he’s gonna give you a spiritual meal you ain’t ever gonna top.
I want you to leave full. A fullness from partaking of the glories of Jesus. I want you to have your hunger satisfied.
I want you to leave knowing that if you have Jesus, that you’ve had the best feed on offer in the world. No other religion, no other life experience, no other relationship will be able to top Jesus. I want you to Eat Jesus.
Now I haven’t introduced myself yet. So let me tell you who I am and why I’m here today.
I hail from Toowoomba, so I have a soft spot in my heart for Gympie. People often have a go at our cities for no reason other than the fact they are not the big cities. Despite how people disparage my home town, I love my home town (even though too many people live there!).
I serve Eastgate as one of their Elders and I pop down to Brisbane during the week to attend classes at QTC. My wife Laura and I live near Toowoomba and we are invested in our local church for the sake of strengthening our brothers and sisters. You know what? That’s why I’m standing behind this pulpit today too; I want to play a little part in strengthening my brothers and sisters here in Gympie this week.
I get the pleasure of hanging out with you in this text this morning. We’re going to tarry here for a while. Dwell on these deep things. I dunno about you but its easy to get lost in the week with work and family and hobbies and responsibilities. It’s so good to be able to gather with other believers and share together in receiving Christ. We get to be pulled out of the daze of our limited existence and have our souls lifted up to meet Jesus on the Mountain of God.
We are going to spend some time walking through the text. We’re just going to look at it bit by bit in the hope that it will speak for itself, that is, that God would speak to us through it. I’m hoping that it will become abundantly clear that this is a physical miracle of a spiritual reality in 5 sections.
Within these 5 sections I hope we will also be able to answer the question; How will Jesus satisfy our Hunger? What will he give to fill us up?
Messed up Motives
Messed up Motives
As part of this process is we’re going to situate ourselves in the story this morning.
We should always be careful about inserting ourselves into the stories of the Bible because we prefer to think of ourselves more highly than reality.
We want to be David slaying the Giant when we’re actually the quivering army.
We want to be like Job who withstood the trials when we’re more like his taunting friends.
We want to be Mary at Jesus feet when we’re actually busy Martha.
So as we approach this story today who best represents us as the Church? Well there is a sense that we are the disciples who are following Jesus being taught by him. But I think in this case we’re more like the crowd. We are the crowd.
With that in mind lets have a look at the first couple verses to see the crowds reasons for being there. What are their motives? Read v1-2.
After this Jesus went away to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tiberias. And a large crowd was following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing on the sick.
So here we have Jesus traveling around as a missionary. He his on mission. He’s been traveling around preaching and teaching and performing signs that accompany his message.
He’s been healing people and casting out demons. But along side that he has been teaching; instructing people about God. But why are the crowds following Jesus?
“because they saw the signs that he was doing on the sick” Jn 6:2.
They weren’t interested in the message of Jesus. They wanted to see the miracles. They wanted the healings. They wanted the spectacular. They wanted to see the celebrity. They wanted entertainment. They wanted to satiate their curiosity. The teaching was secondary for the crowd, yet for Jesus, the teaching was primary and the miracles secondary. The miracles were designed to support and illustrate the teaching.
Their motives were messed up.
Now we can’t be too hard on them because we’re just like that. Our motives get a little turned around. I’m sure many of them were appreciative of the message, and genuinely wanted to hear what Jesus had to say. But amongst the crowd the motives were mixed.
It’s like when a guest preacher comes to town, like Wes’ lecture on Tues night. We partially go because we want to hear what they have to say, but partially because its new and exciting, partially because there’s a bit of celebrity culture, partially because you’re curious, partially because you think they might have something to offer you.
It works to my advantage on occasions like today. You’re more likely to listen to me because I’m new and different to your regular pastors. There’s a chance you will hear me say something that your pastors have been trying to tell you for weeks but the familiarity just dulls the ears a bit. I hope you will hear what I have to say to you today in the name of Jesus because it is worth hearing on its own merit, but I’m also trying to leverage the curiosity factor to my advantage.
If your motives are messed up in the simple things of listening to a preacher, how much more will they be messed up in spiritual and broader life matters?
Before we move forward, ask yourself the question “How are your motives skewed?”
Why are you here this morning? What are you hoping to achieve?
There are both good and bad reasons to be here. Just as I have mixed motives for being here myself.
There’s a whole bunch of motives that can drive our Christianity, and it is worth thinking about what under girds our faith.
Do you, like the crowd, seek Jesus for miracles sake?
Perhaps you think Jesus can help you live a comfortable life?
Is he your Life insurance so you can get a ticket to heaven?
Are you here to try and imbibe same kind of mere morality?
What Kind of hunger are you looking to Jesus to satisfy?
Well, let us follow the crowd, figuratively speaking, up the mountain, recognizing that we come with some messed up motives too. Let us come to Jesus on that mountain and see what he will offer to satisfy us.
Let’s turn to the next couple verses to finish setting the scene for this mountaintop experience. Jesus had been up there to escape;
Jesus went up on the mountain, and there he sat down with his disciples. Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand.
The other Gospels tell us that Jesus had actually withdrawn to the mountain for rest and prayer. He was trying to recuperate after some pretty heavy ministry work, but he wasn’t going to get any peace.
:) It’s kinda like when you’re trying to get a few moments peace from the kids and so you set them up with some activities and food and try to withdraw to another room for a few minutes peace and quiet. But before you know it, they’re following you around with all the noise and complaints you were trying to escape from! :)
Despite our best efforts, we would probably end up irritated and grumpy with the kids. And you might expect the same from Jesus; but unlike us in our selfishness and frustration, Jesus will graciously accept the crowd.
Even as Jesus tries to model a devotional lifestyle of prayer and holy rest, he also models to us what it looks like to be selfless and forgiving. Bearing with the shortcomings and the needs of those around him before his own personal preferences.
Instead of legging it, Jesus receives the crowd. Just as he does now with us this morning, he receives us as messed up people with messed up motives.
We figuratively as a crowd approach Jesus on the mountaintop this morning in this place.
What does Jesus offer to satisfy us here today?
Prepared to Receive
Prepared to Receive
As we push on through the text we see that Jesus uses the approaching crowd as a teaching opportunity. He will use the multitude as a chance to reveal more about himself to the disciples and to the crowd. But, he has to prep the disciples first, to get them ready to receive.
Read with me vs5-10; and see if you can notice how Jesus prepares the disciples.
Lifting up his eyes, then, and seeing that a large crowd was coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?” He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he would do. Philip answered him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread would not be enough for each of them to get a little.” One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many?” Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, about five thousand in number.
Jesus seems concerned about the welfare of the crowd, which I’m sure he is, but he will use this whole affair to reveal himself. They’re in a pretty remote place, and the people have traveled a fair way to find Jesus.
Essentially, Jesus sees the crowd and asks Phillip “Where’s the nearest Dominoes? we should get the people some food.”
Phillip replies “If i had $30 grand in my pocket right now, I couldn’t even get them one slice of pizza each!” There were so many people there that feeding them all seemed like an impossibility.
Andrew chimes in sarcastically; “This little kid has a brought us a packed lunch, maybe that will help!”
You gotta remember, there’s at least 5000 blokes. So if we start counting any women and children who are along as well we could easily double or triple the count of people who are there.
It’s kind like what’s happening out at Amamoor this weekend. Thousands of people gathered out in the bush. You imagine Jesus turning to you and saying “We should get dinner for all the folks at the Muster”. The idea is ludicrous!
I for one can’t even afford a weekend pass for the Muster, let alone feeding everyone out there!
Jesus wanted his disciples to feel the impossibility of feeding all those folks. It’s massive! It is way beyond their own capabilities. Where would you even start?
Jesus gets his disciples to confess their inability. They admit they have no chance trying to pull it off.
I like how John Chrysostom from the late 300’s explains this; The disciples
they profited the more, having first confessed the difficulty of the matter, that when it should come to pass, they might understand the power of God
Because they realized the impossibility of the task, they were better prepared to learn from the miracle Jesus would perform.
Jesus does this kind of thing with the disciples often; he sets them up so they can better learn from the tasks ahead. And he does it with us! He put us in circumstances where we are better primed to receive from God.
Have you noticed that before? The circumstances of life lead you to a place that just so happens to align with the subject of Sunday’s sermon? Or your morning devotion sets you up for something that happens that day?
Jesus is not unaware of what is happening in the world and in your life. He may be preparing you for a teaching opportunity. Jesus may be prepping you for a massive teaching opportunity - a time of suffering, a time of persecution, a time of spiritual upheaval perhaps?
There’s no such things as accidents in the Christian’s life. Just like Jesus does for the crowd on that mountain, and just as he prepared those disciples Jesus will be working in your life
to bring you closer to Him,
to show you more of himself,
to sanctify you in new and often uncomfortable ways.
I suppose the question to ask is: Are you prepared to receive from Jesus? Are you open to the work of the Spirit of God in your life or are you stubbornly refusing to acknowledge the lessons you are being taught?
Part of being prepared is to acknowledge the enormity of the problem!! The disciples needed to see the impossibility of the task without Jesus.
I hope you can realize the impossible task of reconciling you to God without Jesus. You are useless on your own when it comes to following God and receiving salvation from him. You need Jesus to do the impossible for you to transform your messed up motives and prepare you to receive from Jesus.
But what will Jesus offer to meet our need?
Provision for Needs
Provision for Needs
Let’s move on. Next we get to the crux of the miracle. Having prepared the disciples to learn, Jesus performs a crazy miracle! But like all good Christians, he says grace before he eats!
Read vs 11-13 with me...
Jesus then 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. And when they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, “Gather up the leftover fragments, that nothing may be lost.” So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves left by those who had eaten.
Do you see what happened here? Jesus took the packed lunch, five loaves and two fish, and he fed over 5000 people!! Not only that, there was left overs!!
Amazingly, as he distributed the bread the 5 loves and 2 fish end up being enough to feed a multitude!!
Not only did he feed them, he gave them so much that they had as much as they wanted! They had their fill! There was abundance with Jesus!
So after eating Jesus sends the disciples around with baskets to gather up the left overs. Now there is no coincidence here, there were 12 baskets full of left overs for the 12 apostles.
Jesus took a little and made it a lot. He does this amazing creative act, showing us his power over the creation. We have to work within creation. We have to work under the normal modes of growing, harvesting, processing and baking, yet Jesus is over and above all that as the one who multiplies and proliferates.
Jesus takes an impossible situation and makes makes it possible. He receives the hungry masses and provides for their need, and not only a little but a lot! There is abundance in the hands of Jesus.
He gives them what they need and more!
Folks, I want you to know that in Christ there is overflowing. In Christ there is abundance. In Christ there is more than enough. Christ is all sufficient.
God provides for his people. In this case it’s bread, but this is a physical miracle that has a spiritual reality.
This is a physical miracle that has a spiritual reality.
The Spiritual reality is that Jesus provides your spiritual need. And I can tell you your needs are great!
We come as the crowd this morning. We gather here with mixed motives, being prepared to receive from Christ. And Jesus will provide what you need!
The thing is though, we are so like the crowd in that we don’t know what we really need.
It’s like going to the Doctor, you know when you feel unwell, you know something is wrong. And so, you go to the person who you think will be able to help you. You go to the Doctor to get a diagnosis in the hope that he might give us what we really need. But, you have to be willing to hear the bad news about your condition.
Well, I’m going to tell you the bad news today. Our need is bad. Our need is massive. We have a fundamental problem in our lives that we need Jesus to meet.
You are spiritually dead. You are a messed up broken person. You are destitute!
We don’t just need Jesus to fix up our morality. We don’t just need Jesus to perform miracles. We don’t just need Jesus to give us a social group! We need something more that that because our problem is not external but internal.
You are broken.
You walk around as though everything is fine, but in reality you are being eaten up inside by the cancer of sin.
You are infected with death!
You are twisted and blackened in your soul.
Examine yourself, you know it to be true!
You are separated from God. Dead in your sins.
You in yourself are in desperate need of revival.
You need life, but you can’t resuscitate your self!
You need someone to revive your soul from death.
You need someone to give you spiritual life, and that someone is Jesus Christ, Son of God, Saviour of the world!!
But what does he give us to satisfy our spiritual need?
Now for the Jew, this miracle conjures up deep Old Testament overtones. Jesus doesn’t exist in a vacuum. He operates in a world with deep religious roots and a rich history of God’s help and intervention for their people.
If the crowd were to think back into their history, back to the days of their wandering in the desert they would remember the stories of the Great Prophet Moses who delivered them from slavery, who joined them in covenant to the Lord at a mountain in the wilderness and on God’s behalf fed them with Bread from Heaven. Do you remember the story?
The People of Israel needed food, and God gave them mana in the wilderness. He provided for them miraculous food from heaven. Moses also promised that after him would come another greater prophet.
Now what is happening before their very eyes with Jesus? He is a prophet of God on a mountain in the wilderness who is feeding them with miraculous Bread from heaven!! This is their messiah! This is the fulfillment of the Old Testament promises before their very eyes!
As the 12 tribes of Israel gathered up mana in the wilderness, the 12 apostles gather up bread in the wilderness.
They rightly recognise Jesus as The Prophet and a king, and so they do what seems natural to them. They want to install Jesus as King. Look at vs14-15 with me:
When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!” Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself.
So Jesus knows what’s going on in the minds of the people. They were able to rightly understand the implications of Jesus miracle, but they had a picture of Jesus that was too small.
The crowd wanted to force Jesus into a mold of their own creation. They recognized him (partially) for who he is, but then wanted to twist that to their own purposes. Jesus was there to be something so much greater than a local political power!
He is the Prophet promised by Moses. He is the King of Israel. But he is not there to serve the whims of mere men.
Same goes for us. As we approach Jesus as a crowd here this morning, we’re not here to mold a Messiah in our own image. We’re not here to get Jesus to fit our preferences of what he should do and how he should do it. We’re here to receive Jesus on his own terms.
He is in charge, so we go with his plans rather than our own.
So let’s recognize Jesus for who he is, but don’t try to fit him into your box.
It’s often said “I made Jesus Lord over my Life”. It’s a common way of trying to communicate that you have converted to Christianity. But I wanted to try and adjust the thinking here. We all understand what “I made Jesus Lord over my Life” means, but it’s somewhat misleading.
You see, we don’t make Jesus King of our lives. He is King, it’s just a matter of recognizing it. He already is Lord, and I didn’t put him there. He chooses when to install himself as Lord, not me.
On top of that, you and I don’t get to choose how much he is Lord over. The crowd wanted Jesus to be king over a sad bunch of Jews in Palestine, but Jesus is so much bigger and greater than a local political leader; he is ruler of the Earth. Creator of the Cosmos!
This man now sits at the right hand of the Father in glory. He reigns over the earth as LORD most High! He is the one who entered into the world to redeem it for himself. He has inherited the nations! The earth is his and the fullness thereof. The ends of the earth is his possession!
Christ is King! And he awaits the day when the last of his enemies is put to lasting shame.
So, the question is, what does this King offer us? How will this king satisfy our hunger?
Well our text doesn’t specifically answer the question I have been asking: “How will Jesus satisfy our hunger?”
But the story that John records does tell us a little further on. You see after this incident when the crowd had been fed, that kept following Jesus. They started stalking him. They wanted more bread! They had found a guy who could feed multitudes with a few loaves. Why bother growing and baking our own bread when this prophet could pull it out of nowhere! So they tracked him down on the other side of the lake and approached Jesus.
They wanted more food. But Jesus explained that the bread he gave them was representative of something bigger and greater than free food. The physical miracle was representing a heavenly reality!
He wanted to feed them, but not with bread that would keep them going till their next meal.
He wanted to give them something that would satisfy the hunger of our souls!
He wanted to give them eternal life!
He wanted to give them himself!!
Read John 6:47-54 with me to see how Jesus says this so plainly;
Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.
You see? Jesus presents himself as the embodiment of Bread from Heaven. He is the True Bread. He is the one who gives and sustains life!
The crowd wanted food to fill their bellies, but Jesus wants to satisfy their souls!
“I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever.”
What does Jesus give to satisfy our souls? He gives Himself!!
You need to eat Jesus. That’s how you get eternal life. This is where we find fullness and satisfaction. This is where our hungers are satiated.
We don’t need to look for spiritual fulfillment anywhere else. We don’t need what the world has to offer. We don’t need what sin offers, or what Satan offers as counterfeits.
We need Jesus.
He provided himself. He is the bread! He is what is given to satisfy our hunger! He is the provision for our spiritual need!
Not only that, He is the only way! The only Provision! Unless you eat of him you will have no life. Unless you partake of Jesus you will remain spiritually dead. You will remain lifeless and destitute.
This is what we symbolize and act out when we eat the Lord’s Supper! We do something physical that represents a heavenly reality. We eat Jesus at the Bread of Life and drink his blood.
You see Jesus delivered his body and blood over as a sacrifice. He was the covering for sin and the breaker of death. Jesus entered into death and rose triumphant from it. He redeemed us, he rescued us from the power of Sin and Death to give us Life and Light eternally.
But how do you eat Jesus? He tells us “whoever believes has eternal life”. Eating Jesus is a figurative way of illustrating our belief. We put our faith in Him. We trust Him. We take him for ourselves.
How do you eat something? You pick it up and put it in your mouth. You ingest it.
With Jesus, belief doesn’t just mean saying “oh yeah, Jesus is my mate” it means taking him. Reaching out for him. Receiving him as medicine for your internal brokenness and twisted nature.
Like food that sustains your body, you have to believe in Jesus, receive him, to sustain your soul.
We must go to Jesus, receive from him, and be maintained by him. We must go to him in real faith, receive mercy from him, and be maintained by his Spirit.
Bring it all Together
Bring it all Together
To recap; We come with Mixed up Motives where Jesus Prepares us to Receive. He provides for our needs as the Crowned King of All by giving us Himself to be eaten.
In this passage there is a physical miracle of a heavenly reality. That heavenly reality of Christ given for you as the Bread of Life who is eternal life.
Jesus gives himself to meet our spiritual need. He will satisfy our spiritual hunger.
He will fill us. He will satisfy us. He will take away our hunger, if we would but receive him in true belief.