John 6: In the Middle of Nowhere
The miracle of feeding the 5,000 was of such magnitude that is it recorded in all four gospels. It appears from these four accounts, Jesus and the disciples were trying to get away from the crowds for some much needed R& R. In Matthew 14, we are told it is after the execution of John the Baptist this takes place and Jesus and the Disciples have to gone to a remote, deserted place, in the middle of nowhere. In Mark 6, we also are told the 12 disciples had just returned from a mission trip also and Jesus and the disciples were getting away from the crowd for some much needed rest. In Luke 9, we gather one more detail, they were near the town of Bethesda, which is where Phillip was from and thus, the reason Jesus ask Phillip where they might find food.
Jesus and the disciples had just sat down when Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him. He asked Phillip: “ Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” Notice John tells us the reason Jesus asked Phillip: to test Phillip, because Jesus already knew what he was going to do. In the other Gospel accounts we are told the disciples told Jesus because it was such a remote place and it was getting late, they should send the crowd into the surrounding countryside and villages to find food. ( Mark 6) But probably because it was remote and the men, women and children were tired, , Jesus replies “ They do not need to go away, you give them something to eat. I love the statement, Jesus already know what He was going to do. Do you know what that means to you personally? Wherever you are, you might think you are in the middle of nowhere, stuck and cannot seem to get anywhere. Jesus already knows what He is going to do.
So this question to Phillip is a test question, John tells us. Phillip is doing some calculating, some mental math. Sizing up the crowd, taking into consideration the remote location, he comes up with a worldly solution. What is the world’s solution for needs? Money. Phillip estimates it would take 8 months’ wages to buy enough bread for a bite. Think about it: we have a drug epidemic- the government is budgeting billions of dollars. Public education is in trouble- spend more money.
So the first two suggestions offered are: send them away, we can’t help them; raise money, but it would be an impossible task to raise that much money, find a source and then it would be inadequate.
Here comes Andrew with a little boy who had a small lunch, two little fish ( sardine size) and five small barley cakes. Even though he brought the little boy with his little provision, Andrew summed up the impossible situation: “ But how far will they go among so many?” So we have three suggested strategies among the disciples: send them away; need more money than we have and a resource which could feed 5,000. Andrew has brought a small lunch, but he has already concluded it can do no good in a crowd this large.
It was Paschal, the great physicist and philosopher, who said there is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every person that can only be filled by God. It is an empty place. It is a place of great desire, it is like the hunger of a starving man, the thirst of a lost man in the desert. It is a desire which only God can provide. And His Provision is His One and Only Son, Jesus. Ann Graham Lotz wrote a book which came from a prayer she prayed when there was so many desperate problems in her life, she could not seem to pray for all her needs and her family’s needs. So in a state of desperation, she cried out to Father God, “ Just give me Jesus!” Jesus is God’s supply for our all our needs.
Everyone in the crowd that day were probably tired, hot and hungry. In addition, Jesus and the disciples needed some “ down time”, they were drained. But know this, when Jesus asked Phillip ‘ where shall we buy bread?” Jesus was not in a panic, needed advice, or was unsure of what to do. Guess what ? In heaven, there is never any panic, or uncertainty. There are only plans. The Lord tells us ‘ I know the plans I have for you.’ And like the disciples we often try to figure out how to accomplish what we believe are the plans by leaning to our own understanding. Those who said send them away were just being practical. It was late, everyone was tired, and because of the location, they needed to go somewhere else to find their needs met. Is this not what we Christians have allowed the government to do ? To take care of the poor, the sick , the hungry, the unemployed. After all, it is why we pay taxes. Scrooge said it was why the work houses and debtor’s prisons existed. Not my problem. This is why I pay taxes, said Scrooge. This is someone else’s responsibility, not mine.
So far the first two suggested solutions are solutions any agnostic, atheists or Scrooge would come up with: we cannot do anything about this – so send them elsewhere. Money could solve the problem, but you would need a lot and it would only be temporary and insufficient. It would not really satisfy their needs.
Do you see what the disciples were leaving out in their trying to solve this problem? They had left Jesus out of the solution. Phillip had left Jesus out of his equation. In Algebra, we are told to find the X factor and it will supply the answer.
Got a seemingly impossible problem in your life? See a problem in our culture, our community, our nation which seems too big for any of us to solve? A debt too large to pay? A direction our country is headed in, we cannot get turned around? Let me ask you- who are you asking to help you solve the problem? Meet the need? Pay the debt? Or at this time in your life, are you saying, I am just too old ?
In Genesis 18, the pre-incarnate Lord visits Abraham. The Lord asked Abraham where is Sarah? She is there in the tent. Watch what happens next: “ The Lord said, “ I will surely return to you about this time next year and Sarah and you will have a son. Now Sarah was listening at the entrance of the tent which was behind him. Abraham and Sarah were already old and well advanced in years, and Sarah was past the age of childbearing. So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, “ After I am worn out and my master is old, will I now have pleasure?” Then the Lord said why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘ will I really have a child, now that I am old?” Is anything too hard for the Lord?”
Whatever problem you are facing, or our nation is facing, our community, and the church listen to this direct quote from Almighty God: “ I am the LORD, the God of all flesh, is there anything too hard for me?” ( Jeremiah 32:27)
No problem too large. Do not leave the Lord out of your equation. Our problem is we are not using all our strength. Imagine a little 5 year old boy trying to lift a 50 – pound rock. It is impossible for him to do it, no matter how hard he tries. So what does he do? He ask his father to help him, for his father’s strength is his strength also, his source. It is his ever present help. So remember this- there is no problem too hard, too big for Jesus to solve. Yet – even though we say it and believe it- do we rest in that or do we worry and try to figure out how we can do it with our finite strength and finite knowledge.
Jesus said “ come unto me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. “ Do you notice how “ restless” our culture is today? They must be constantly in motion, in contact with others, texting , tweeting and messaging with our smart phones which have created a nation with Attention Distraction Disorder. Do you see how desperate they are to fill the hole in their lives. To not have their phone with them, makes them feel disconnected, lost, out of touch. When we do not have this marvel of technology right with us- are separated from it for just hours, we feel incomplete, out of touch, there is a hole in our life and we are anxious and restless.
These disciples were tired, this crowd of people were tired. They needed food, drink, rest. Guess what- when we are tired, worried, hungry for something which will satisfy us, thirsting for something which will quench our thirst, looking for love, for pleasure, for security, and worn completely out, because we cannot find that ‘ something or someone ‘ to complete us.
America is an affluent nation. Consumer spending accounts for 70% of our economy. Yet it is very strange, that affluence breeds boredom. This is why we go shopping many times, because we are bored. Amazon makes it easier, because you do not even have to get out of your easy chair or leave home. We have thousands of options of entertainment on our large, flat screen televisions, which we can also access on our smart phones or computers or I-pads, yet we are restless, every clicking our remotes. We are looking for the quick fix, the easy solution, the one we can manage ourselves. We live in a restless world. And in a restless world like this is, love is over even before it begins. Ever searching, never finding. Distracted. Worn out restlessness.
Jesus says take my yoke upon you and learn from me. The yoke is used to harness strength. The strength of two oxen is twice as great as the strength of one. Pulling together makes the burden easier to move. The yoke is where we learn. The yoke is where we how Jesus to come alongside us and help us for nothing is too hard, too big, too heavy for Him. He says we can learn from Him because He is gentle and humble in heart, and you will find the rest for your souls. He is the shepherd who leads you beside still waters and makes you to lie down in green pastures, where he “ restores your soul”.
Notice the three things Jesus wants to do for you: give you rest; teach you, for the yoke is where you learn, working side by side with Him in the apprenticeship of sanctification; and in the end, you will find rest for you soul.
No problem too big for God.
No person too small to use. A little boy ( I visualize a 6 or 7 year old) Not many mighty, nor many noble, are called, but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise and the weak to confound the strong. (I Cor. 1)
Notice what this little boy did? He took what he had. He took all he had and he transferred it to Jesus to multiply.
The so-called, ‘ social gospel’ wants to feed the hungry. And we, as Christians, are to help feed the hungry. And organizations , like RIFA are a blessing and a good work. The social gospel meets the temporary needs, and they are important to meet. But the Saving Gospel meets an eternal need. There are those who need rest, clothing, food, shelter, soap and soup. But they need salvation. They need Jesus. Jesus is about to reveal He is the spiritual bread, the bread of life.
Now here is what we need to see in this situation , this miracle or as John calls them – signs. There is a deeper meaning to why Jesus fed the 5000 bread in this miraculous manner. You see the fact that Jesus fed them physically, met their temporary needs, allowed Jesus to tell them about spiritual bread, about salvation, and saving faith.
The people Jesus fed that day were hungry the next day, 24 hours later. They wanted Him to feed them again. Jesus told them “ Do not labor for food that perishes but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you because God the Father has set his seal on Him.
What we are all seeking for, hungering for, thirsting for is righteousness. We are to seek Jesus because Jesus is made unto us, “ wisdom and righteousness.” ( I Cor 1:30)
Feeding, clothing and providing for people in need is a good thing. It takes care of an immediate need they have. If you are sick and have fever and pain. The doctor can give you something for the pain and the fever. But they are temporary, the doctor needs to find the cause of the fever and the pain.
Next week we continue in this story which took place the next day.
But for today’s lesson we have learned the following:
- Do not leave Jesus out of the equation when trying to figure out how to solve a problem. Remember nothing is too hard for Him.
- We have a BIG GOD. He always has a plan that will work.
- The Lord loves to use those who in the eyes of the world are “little people”.
- He uses the weak and the foolish, the ordinary people to do the extraordinary.
- Bring what you have. Bring all that you have. Transfer it to Jesus. He will transform it.