TEXT: John 6:1-14
Sometime after this, Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee (that is, the Sea of Tiberias), and a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the miraculous signs he had performed on the sick. Then Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down with his disciples. The Jewish Passover Feast was near. When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do. Philip answered him, “Eight months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!”
Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?”
Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, and the men sat down, about five thousand of them. Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish. When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.”
So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.
Have you ever faced a situation that was overwhelming? Have you faced a problem so difficult or complex that resolving it seemed impossible?
Most of us have. It doesn’t matter how old or young we are – we all face overwhelming and stressful situations.
- It could be the first day of school;
- or Monday morning’s trigonometry exam;
- or trying to get a good score on the entrance exam to get into college;
- or it might be the stack of bills that grow and grow,
- or breaking up;
- or waiting to hear from the doctor’s office to learn about the test results,
- or the frustration about the job — or the fear that the job will be lost,
Our lives are full of experiences that seem overwhelming and beyond our capacity to handle.
In our New Testament lesson we have an extreme example of such an experience. Jesus and his disciples have tried to escape from the crowds. They do that from time to time so that Jesus can both rest and give special training to his 12 special disciples.
But the plan doesn’t work. The crowds follow. Five thousand people come and invade the solitude of Christ and his apostles. Immediately, Jesus begins to think in very practical terms about feeding the crowd.
Talk about overwhelming situations – how do you feed 5,000 people? The way Jesus handled it was to perform a miracle.
You may remember that John’s Gospel there are 7 signs, or miracles that Jesus performs in this Gospel. Other Gospels mention quite a few miracles, but John mentions only 7.
- The first was turning the water into wine at a wedding feast.
- Then in chapter 4 there was the healing of a nobleman’s son.
- In chapter 5 there was the healing of a paralytic.
- Now in chapter 6, there is this, the fourth of seven signs – the feeding of the multitude.
This was not the first time such a miracle had been performed. Our Old Testament lesson tells us that this is what Elisha did with 100 people. Nor was this the last time this kind of miracle took place. Later on in his ministry, Jesus fed another multitude with a small amount of food – that time feeding a mere 4,000 people. (Matthew 14 tells of the feeding of the 5,000, followed by Matthew 15 and the feeding of the 4,000. Matthew 16:9 and 10 mentions the feeding of both groups). As John tells about this particular miracle, he seems to be more interested in HOW DIFFERENT PEOPLE BECAME INVOLVED in the MIRACLE than in the MIRACLE ITSELF. And today we are going to see the different people in the feeding of the 5,000…these are different individuals, having different attitudes in facing the same overwhelming situation.
We know only a little about Philip. He was a Jew, but he had a Greek name, so his family was probably like a typical Filipino family – very multicultural. He was one of the followers of John the Baptist. HE SEEMS TO HAVE BEEN A VERY PRACTICAL PERSON. Feet firmly planted on the ground!
When Jesus goes up to Philip and asks “Where can we buy bread for all these people to eat,” Philip responds by saying it would take more than 200 silver coins. For some that would be a month’s salary, for others it would be six month’s salary – however you look at it – it is a lot of money. Basically, Philip looks the situation over, and then responds by saying, “It’s hopeless. Nothing can be done.”
Now, that is not an entirely bad approach to an overwhelming situation.
- It’s practical.
- It’s realistic.
- It’s not a state of denial.
- It’s not being gullible.
- It’s not getting caught in the trap of pie in the sky religion.
Philip is right – this is a hopeless situation. But while it is good to be realistic about any situation, Philip’s approach is not a very good one, because nothing happens positively to change the situation.
- Situation is hopeless.
- Nothing can be done.
The problem with that attitude is that it becomes SELF-FULFILLING. When we BELIEVE that nothing can be done, then the situation does indeed become hopeless.
As we face our problems at work, or with our families, or in our church or society, the best way to insure that there will be NO improvements, no resolutions to our problems, is for us to sit back with Philip and to complain that it’s hopeless, that nothing can be done.
- That trigonometry test is coming on Monday – but nothing can be done, so why study?
- That stack of bills keeps growing, it can’t get any better, so why not just keep running up the credit card charges?
- Work will never get better – so why try?
- The doctor said I’m having a terrible ailment, so why hope?
- The marriage/relationship is over.
- That teenager is hopeless.
The power of negative thinking is real and destructive. It would always make you say, “My situation is hopeless. Nothing can be done.”
Well, that’s one approach, but it’s not a very complete approach to dealing with the overwhelming. It is good to be realistic and practical – but you have to have more than that.
Let’s take a look at a second person that John highlights — Andrew.
Andrew was born in a community on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. His father ran a successful fishing business which employed, among others, Andrew and his brother Simon Peter.
But Andrew seems to have thought more about matters of the soul than about fishing, for he left his fishing nets to follow John the Baptist. Then one day, the Baptist pointed out Jesus as the Messiah. And like Philip, Andrew began to follow Christ.
But he always remains a fisherman – someone who was part of a crew, or team. He remains a businessman — someone who directed others.
So unlike Philip, Andrew looks around to see who can help.
Andrew finds ONE boy who had five loaves of bread and 2 fish. Then in a realistic tone, he adds that although this is a beginning, it is certainly not enough to feed 5,000 people.
Thus, instead of saying, “The situation is hopeless, there is nothing I can do,” Andrew seems to be saying, “I’ll see if there is anyone who can help me.”
There is a big difference in the two approaches to this problem.
- Andrew is not naïve.
- Like Philip, he takes a realistic approach.
- Like Philip, he knows that he is facing a difficult situation.
- But unlike Philip, he does not despair.
He does not sit back and do nothing. He takes the time to call out for help. And he finds a boy with some food.
So often, we are overwhelmed by our job, our family, our finances — whatever. And there are others in our midst who can help us… But there are a lot of people who suffer alone…why? THEY DON’T CALL OUT FOR HELP.
Are you in an overwhelming situation? Call out for help! That’s Andrew’s approach… Much better than Philip’s…It’s a good approach in facing the overwhelming, but and it’s still not enough. There may be more we could do in an overwhelming situation.
Let’s take a look at another person John highlights in this story — the boy.
3. THE UNKNOWN BOY.
He doesn’t even have a name. All we know is that he had a lunch bag and he was willing to share it with others.
- Philip was very realistic about what he was facing – but he stopped there.
- Andrew looked at the situation, he decided to find someone to help share the burden.
- The boy went further — He looked around and said, “Here I am, I’ll GIVE what I can to solving the problem, then leave the rest to God.”
When Andrew looks around to see if there is anyone who can help, the only person he finds among the 5,000 people is one small boy.
He has 5 loaves of barley bread and two fish.
It is not a very good lunch. Barley bread was cheap. It was a poor man’s food. And the fish were probably a pickled fish common in that area, but not very tasty. (Luke 11:5 seems to indicate that three loaves were looked on as a meal for one person, hence the loaves were probably quite small). It was not very good, nor was it very much. But it was all there was. So Andrew brought the boy to Christ. And this boy was willing to give whatever he could to help.
You know, most of us have something we can give to resolve our overwhelming situation. If we could be the like the boy and give what we have, who knows what progress we could make. (May be its planning, maybe it’s about reorganizing your priorities, giving it an effort to work out, humbling yourself or another chance of accepting each other…Maybe it’s exerting more time in prayer and fasting in facing your overwhelming situation)
But you must give what you can give… Don’t just ask for others help and rely on their help, then do nothing…when other people promised to pray, you pray yourself…Amen! When others pledged their help to you, do your part…Amen! (WAG KALABIT-PENGE!)
Every one of these three individuals has a good approach toward handling a difficult situation –
- Philip is realistic,
- Andrew looks to others for help,
- The boy is willing to give what he can toward a solution.
Each one has something of value in their approach. Any time we face an overwhelming situation, we should take a little of each.
I don’t care if it is Monday’s trigonometry test that is coming up, or dealing with the news the doctor has given you about cancer. Your husband has left you, a break up or whatever, or you’ve found drugs in your child’s room or being involve with a gang or what…
- These are real problems, and you need a little bit of Philip. You can’t pretend they aren’t there – you’ve got to face them and be realistic.
- But you can’t be stuck there – you need a little bit of Andrew. You need to be willing to look for help from others. Why suffer alone when there are those around you who love you and can help?
- But you can’t stop there – you need a little of that nameless boy. You need to be willing to give what you can to resolving the situation.
But there is something more you need.
The Bible tells us that He is the bread of life! This sixth chapter of John is a fascinating section of the Bible. It begins with our Scripture Reading for this morning in which Jesus is feeding the people with bread and fish. He begins by taking the bread. He gives thanks, gives it to the people and the people have more than enough to eat.
Now that is where our Scripture reading ends, but if you move beyond that, you find that the people continue to follow Jesus, and Jesus says, “You are just following me because you ate the bread and are satisfied.” (John 6:26)
And Jesus goes onto say that earthly bread spoils and molds, you eat then you get hungry again. He has come to offer himself – which calls the “bread of life.” (John 6:35) In verse 35 of chapter 6, Jesus says, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never be hungry. He who believes in me will never be thirsty.”
The simple point of the verse is this, “YOU NEED JESUS IN YOUR LIFE.” We need Jesus in order to deal with life’s overwhelming circumstance…We need Jesus in order to face even the toughest struggles we are now having in life.
You’re dealing with cancer? You need a little of Philip – you have to face up to the seriousness of this illness. But you need a little of Andrew to seek out the help and the support of others. And you need a little of that boy, to see what resources you already have to give toward handling this cancer. But you also need the Bread of Life – Jesus. Everything else will leave you still hungry for more. ONLY JESUS SATISFIES COMPLETELY! The cancer will still be there – but the power to accept and handle this will be there as well.
- The wife/husband leaves you? Had a break-up and now you’re heartbroken? (Kapag sinabi sayong “Di ka kawalan…” That’s okay, let it be a challenge for you to be a better person…HINDI KA MAN NYA TANGGAPING MULI, NAGING MATATAG KA NA, BECAUSE YOU FOUND THE ONE WHO WILL NEVER LEAVE NOR FORSAKE…)
- Your child taking drugs?
- That job is still frustrating?
- Credit card bills out of control?
- Trigonometry exam waiting to greet you on Monday morning?
You’ve got to face these problems. You’ve got to look to others for help. You’ve got to see what you can give to the situation. But more than anything else – you’ve got to have Jesus. YOU CAN ALWAYS SEE THE MIRACULOUS TAKING PLACE WHENEVER YOU PUT EVERYTHING IN THE HANDS OF JESUS. If you don’t have the All-Sufficient Lord – whatever else you do just won’t be enough.
This boy had a meager lunch…5 barley loaves and two sardines. That’s not even potluck material around here, yet he was willing to place it in the hands of God. He said, “Here, take it and use it.”
I remember when I was struggling with my call to ministry. Some of my thoughts were, “God, are you sure you mean me? Are you sure you didn’t miss the mark and intend to tap someone else on the shoulder?” The truth is, we all fall short of the glory of God, and we walk humbly by his grace, for God does not call those who feel equipped, he equips those He calls.
God didn’t expect that boy to have enough to feed the 5,000. He only expected the boy to place it in his hands, and leave the rest up to God.
When I went to Thailand and preach in Leadership Conference, God doesn’t expect me to be the smartest speaker, but He does expect me to place myself in his hands, and leave the rest up to him.
Place it in God’s hands and leave the rest up to Him.
This applies to all aspects of our lives. Not only does God want you to place your gifts and energy and talent in his hands, he wants you to place your pain and overwhelming situation in His hands. Many times we cling to our grief, we cling to our bitterness, our problems and we cling to our anger in such a way that we cripple ourselves. Just as God wants to take the offering of our barley loaves and fish and multiply it, he also wants to take what’s eating away at our souls, robbing us of the joy in our lives, and do away with it. When you place your life, including your pain, and your overwhelming situation in the hands of God, He can always do something wonderful about it.
After you place it in the hands of God, expect something wonderful. When you give God your barley loaves and sardines, expect something wonderful. When you give God your pain, expect something wonderful…When you place everything in the hands of God, always expect great things from God!
There was an interesting cartoon that showed a fourth grade boy standing toe-to-toe and nose-to-nose with his teacher. Behind them stares a blackboard covered with problems the boy hasn’t finished, and you hear the boy say to his teacher, “I’m not an underachiever, you’re an overexpecter!”
When you place it in God’s hands, expect incredible things to happen, but be careful that your expectations of God aren’t so narrow that you don’t see it.
A speaker was addressing a large group, when he took a large piece of paper and made a black dot in the center of it with a marking pen. Then he held the paper up before the group and asked them what they saw. One person quickly replied, “I see a black mark.” “Right,” he replied. “What else do you see?” Complete silence prevailed. “Don’t you see anything else?” he asked. A chorus of noes came from the audience. “I’m really surprised,” the speaker commented. “You have completely overlooked the most important thing of all—the sheet of paper.”
When you place your life in Jesus’ hands,t expect incredible things to happen, but don’t concentrate so narrowly on the black dot that you overlook the piece of paper. Jesus can and will surprise you in the way he brings incredible blessings into your life.
No one expected anything from those five barley loaves and two sardines, especially that little boy who begrudgingly left the house that morning with his lunch, but it just goes to show the incredible places of growth, healing, and nourishment that become ours when we place ourselves in the hands of Jesus.
Are you faced with the overwhelming today?
If you want to deal with life and all of its overwhelming stresses – you need a little of Philip, a little of Andrew, a little of that boy – but you need all of Jesus!
- W. Maynard Pittendreigh
- David Washburn
- Picture by tgimworklife.wordpress.com