John 6:1-15 Jesus Feeds Five Thousand
6 After this, Jesus crossed over to the far side of the Sea of Galilee, also known as the Sea of Tiberias. 2 A huge crowd kept following him wherever he went, because they saw his miraculous signs as he healed the sick. 3 Then Jesus climbed a hill and sat down with his disciples around him. 4 (It was nearly time for the Jewish Passover celebration.) 5 Jesus soon saw a huge crowd of people coming to look for him. Turning to Philip, he asked, “Where can we buy bread to feed all these people?” 6 He was testing Philip, for he already knew what he was going to do.
7 Philip replied, “Even if we worked for months, we wouldn’t have enough money to feed them!”
8 Then Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up. 9 “There’s a young boy here with five barley loaves and two fish. But what good is that with this huge crowd?”
10 “Tell everyone to sit down,” Jesus said. So they all sat down on the grassy slopes. (The men alone numbered about 5,000.) 11 Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks to God, and distributed them to the people. Afterward he did the same with the fish. And they all ate as much as they wanted. 12 After everyone was full, Jesus told his disciples, “Now gather the leftovers, so that nothing is wasted.” 13 So they picked up the pieces and filled twelve baskets with scraps left by the people who had eaten from the five barley loaves.
14 When the people saw him do this miraculous sign, they exclaimed, “Surely, he is the Prophet we have been expecting!” 15 When Jesus saw that they were ready to force him to be their king, he slipped away into the hills by himself.
How much is enough?
One time our kids had friends over and asked if the friends could stay and eat dinner with us. Nothing formal. Everybody grabbed a plate and dished up from the stove. We encouraged the guests to serve themselves first, so they did, and took a huge portion of the main dish. I was mortified. They’d taken so much that I was pretty sure we weren’t going to have enough for everyone. I thought, “Didn’t anyone teach these kids manners? Then they would know that it’s not polite to take such a big helping.”
One night we were guests for dinner at the house of my husband Rob’s grandmother. She was famous for her fried chicken dinners, and she always made a ton of food. I’m not a big eater, and also some of the things she’d made were new to me. (Like fried okra. What’s okra?) And since we were guests, she had us serve ourselves first, so I was careful not to take too much of anything. But she said, “Baby, you ain’t hardly et a thing.” She was so disappointed that I hadn’t taken large portions.
I was worried about having enough. Rob’s grandma was trying to take care of us through food. In the story we read today about Jesus feeding 5000 people with a few loaves of bread and a few fish, Jesus sounds like Rob’s grandma. “Eat as much as you want.”
How many of us would be more like the disciples Phillip and Andrew? They say what many of us might say in a similar situation. We can’t feed all these people. It would cost too much. We only have this little bit, and that’s not enough.
Phillip and Andrew are voicing what Lynne Twist, author of a book called The Soul of Money, calls the Myth of Scarcity. Lynne says that the myth of scarcity tells us three things:
- There’s not enough to go around
- More is better
- That’s just the way it is
We hear Phillip and Andrew voicing the concern that there’s not enough to go around. Phillip says, “It would take more money than we have to feed all these people,” and Andrew says, “There’s a young boy here with five barley loaves and two fish. But what good is that with this huge crowd?”
They’re right, aren’t they?
How much would they need to feed all these people? A whole lot more than five loaves and two fish. If we were going to feed all these people, we could order pizza, and to figure out how much to order, we could use a pizza calculator. Have you ever used one? They’ve been on the internet for many years – they’ve gotten even more sophisticated. You enter the number of people you need to serve, and some of them factor in the number of those who are children, and the calculator tells you how many pizzas to order. So I did that.
John says there were 5000 men, not counting women and children, so I put in 10,000 and 500 children. It’s a very rough estimate. According to the pizza calculator, we’d need to order 2968 extra-large pizzas to feed this crowd. That’s going to take a lot of dough.
Jesus didn’t have a pizza calculator, or a bread and fish calculator, but still he has enough and there are even leftovers. Andrew and Phillip said, “there’s not enough,” but it turns out that they hadn’t factored in Jesus.
The Apostle Paul tells us in Ephesians 3:20 that “God is able to do far more than we could ever ask for or imagine. He does everything by his power that is working in us.”
They myth of scarcity says that there is not enough, but what if there is, and the problem is that we need to share and trust God to help us?
The second idea in the myth of scarcity is that more is better. Believing this myth fuels competition and greed, and leads us to judge people based on what they have. Lynne Twist says, “Our drive to enlarge our net worth turns us away from discovering and deepening our self-worth.”
How would you draw a picture of this story of Jesus feeding a huge crowd of people? The only names we’re given are Jesus, Phillip and Andrew. But there are more than 10,000 people there. Maybe some of them were rich, or maybe most of them were poor. We know 5000 were men, but there were also women and children. We really don’t know anything about them. But every single one of them, no matter their age or social status, got to eat as much as they wanted that day. Through food, Jesus affirmed the worth and dignity of every person there.
I read a story this week about a five-year-old named Helen who became friends with her neighbor, Jane.
Jane is a woman in her 70’s who lives alone. [Jane] walked her dog every day, did not own a car, and spent hours in her garden but seemed to have trouble keeping up with it…
When Jane and Helen first met, the conversation went something like this:
“Hello, my name is Helen. Why does your dog bark like that? You have lots of pretty flowers. Do you like to dance? I like to sing. I am really good. See… Listen to this.”
Right then and there, Helen made a friend. Turns out Jane is a writer. She used to write for places like National Geographic, but her eyesight deteriorated and she has trouble writing.
One summer afternoon, Helen was singing for Jane and they learned that they both like to play the piano. Helen’s mom told Jane they had a piano and maybe she could try it out. …
Jane put on her mask and came in. Helen’s mom was showing Jane around the house, but Helen wanted to get to the piano. Jane sat down and started playing… It was beautiful. Jane could really play! She played for a bit and then Helen joined in.
Jane played and Helen banged on the keys. They sang the same songs – most of them completely made up. The feeling in the room was genuine joy. The kind that music brings. The kind that comes from a connection and a special moment.
They enjoyed spending time with each other and sharing the moment together. They didn’t need anything more than that.
Instead, sometimes the temptation is to believe the third myth, there’s no point in trying. That’s what Philip and Andrew are basically saying. There’s not enough, so why bother trying.
But what if there really is enough?
I love that Jesus doesn’t argue with them. He doesn’t remind them of any of the ways that God has provided for the people of Israel in the past. He doesn’t remind them of anything he’s already done to show them who he is. He just says, “Tell the people to sit down.” And then he gives thanks to God for what they have and proceeds to pass it around, and there is enough. More than enough. Twelve basketfuls left over.
How many times have we thought we didn’t have enough and we weren’t going to make it. And yet here we are. God has brought us this far, and there’s no reason to think God will abandon us here.
We say, “there’s not going to be enough,” and Jesus says, “Just sit down and watch me work.”
Be still and know that I am God.
For we were not making up clever stories when we told you about the powerful coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. We saw his majestic splendor with our own eyes (2 Peter 1:16)
John tells us at the end of his gospel that he’s telling us about what happened “…so that you may continue to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing in him you will have life by the power of his name. –John 20:31
By believing in him you will have life and peace. These are the blessings we receive through our faith in Jesus, the Messiah, the Son of God. God is our creator and provider who longs to bless us.
Our struggle to trust in the goodness and abundance of God’s blessings is not new. Ancient Israel had the same problem, so God told the prophet Isaiah:
Go now, write it on a tablet for them, inscribe it on a scroll,
that for the days to come it may be an everlasting witness.
9 For these are rebellious people, deceitful children,
children unwilling to listen to the Lord’s instruction.
10 They say to the seers, “See no more visions!”
and to the prophets, “Give us no more visions of what is right!
Tell us pleasant things, prophesy illusions.
11 Leave this way, get off this path,
and stop confronting us with the Holy One of Israel!”
Instead of turning to God for help and trusting God to guide them, as God had been doing for Israel and their ancestors for a thousand years, the Israelites were making alliances with their enemies. The prophets warned them, but they wouldn’t listen. Isaiah tells them that despite their rebellion, God wasn’t giving up on them.
Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you;
therefore he will rise up to show you compassion.
For the Lord is a God of justice.
Blessed are all who wait for him! – Isaiah 30:18
God longs to bless us.
God blesses us so that we can be a blessing. God gives and we share.
Physical stuff. Yes. Spiritual stuff, too. Life and peace and love and grace.
How often do we say when we’re going through a hard time, “I don’t know how people who don’t know Jesus get through this kind of stuff.” It just might be that they would like to know how we get through it so they can have that same spiritual food we’re leaning on. So they can know God’s peace.
God blesses us with peace so that we can share our peace. And love. And joy.
What do you have that you can share?
 Lynne Twist, ibid.