B.C.P. Trinity 25 John 6:5-14
A woman always went to a branch post office in her town because the postal employees there were friendly. She went there to buy stamps just before Christmas one year and the queues were particularly long. Someone pointed out that there was no need to wait in line because there was a stamp machine in the lobby. "I know," replied the woman, 'but the machine won't ask me about my arthritis."
In today's reading we have Jesus caring for five thousand people by miraculously feeding them. This is the only miracle recorded in every one of the four gospels, so it must be very important.
Jesus sees the crowds and says to Philip, Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat ? We know from the other accounts of this that Jesus and the disciples were near to Bathsaida at this time. This was Philip's home town. Jesus asks the disciples so that they will think about the situation. The disciples concentrated upon the problem, they only looked at the physical side.
Philip thinks about the market place. Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may take a little. Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, is a bit more positive. He saith unto him, There is a lad here, which hath five barley loaves, and two small fishes: but what are they among so many?
When we have a problem how do we try and solve it ? By looking at the physical ? By trying to do it by our own skill and effort ? e.g door knocking in Peterborough, the man didn't need God to help him mend stereo. Didn't realise God had given him the ability and energy to do this !
Jesus intervenes to show the disciples, and us, that we must look to God to supply all our needs. After all everything that we have comes from God, although we often take his provision for granted.
We read of Jesus being both practical and spiritual. Practical in the way that he gets everyone to sit down, and he gets the disciples to give out the food and to gather up the left-overs.
A father took his six year own son to church and, after the service the Vicar talked to him and asked the lad if he said his prayers before eating a meal.
The boy replied 'No, I don't need to. My mum's a good cook.'
Jesus is spiritual in that he looks to God for the provision of more than enough food and he gave thanks. I don't know how many of us here give thanks to God at mealtimes ?
The way that God provides more than enough food for everyone shows the ample provision that God makes for people. Probably everyone of us here today has more than enough for our needs, but perhaps not us much as we might want.
If you were to compare our standard of living to places such as Romania or Hungary, where some people have no shoes, this shows us how rich we really are. This should lead us to be grateful to God. To thank him for providing us with food, shoes, and the other many material and spiritual blessings that he gives us.
When I used to go to tea with my grandmother she used to make us eat all of our food. If we protested she would come out with one of her favourite expressions, 'Waste not, want not.'
Jesus gets the disciples to gather the left-overs in large baskets usually used for putting fish in. This was a Jewish custom at the time. It is a demonstration that we are not to waste what God has given us abundantly. This applies to us as individuals, as a church, as a nation, as citizens of the world. God has provided enough food for all the people in the world, but those of us in the Western World eat most of it. Even though we account for less than a third of the world's population. God has given enough for everyone's need, but not for everyone's greed.
This gospel account points to the fact that Jesus is the Messiah or the Christ. The Jewish people were, at this time desperately awaiting their Messiah. The anointed one from God who would deliver them. They expected that God would raise up a prophet like Moses who would repeat the miracle of providing manna or food in the wilderness. Jesus had just done this.
6:15: When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take him by force, to make him a king, he departed again into a mountain himself alone.
The crowd thought that here was the Messiah who had come to deliver them from Roman rule in the same way that Moses delivered the Israelites from the rule of Egypt. They were ready to support Jesus by force. To do things their own way.
I 1996 followers of the Rebbi Schneerson in Morris County, New Jersey, put up billboards exhorting Jews to be ready for the coming of the Messiah. A picture of the Rebbi reading the Bible is on the boards. The followers say the Rebbe told them before his death that he specifically wanted an all-out advertising campaign to prepare people, particularly Jews, for his resurrection. He had preached about spreading goodness and kindness through individual acts, and his followers believe that if enough people follow his message, the world will be better prepared to receive him, and his arrival will be speedier.
But this was not God's plan. Nor was it God's plan for Jesus to defeat the Romans in battle. God's plan was not achieved by inflicting violence on others, but by having violence inflicted upon Jesus. Jesus suffered a long, slow, painful death, and also suffered separation from God the Father as he took upon himself the punishment that we deserve for our failure to live life God's way. We remember this saving act in our service today. Jesus has not delivered God's people from the domination of a foreign power, but he has freed us from the domination of sin and death. So we know longer follow our own selfish desires, and so we can have a right relationship with God and be free to follow God's will.
The crowd wanted Jesus for their own interests. Healing when someone was ill. Food when they were hungry. Military victory when they were under a foreign power. Let us ensure that we do not merely follow Jesus for what he has done, and will do for us. That is selfishness.
Let us wholeheartedly follow him because he is the Messiah, God and man. Because following him is right, it is the only true way for us and for the world in which we live.