JESUS FEEDS THE 5000
If I asked you this morning to think of an impossible time in your life…a time when you were faced with a seemingly impossible task or situation,
I’m sure most of us could come up with something quite readily. Perhaps you’re facing a challenge in your life right now and it feels that you may never get through to the other side. There are seasons in our lives when much of what we’re experiencing can be overwhelming, unmanageable and overall difficult.
Sometimes being a mother fits into this category for me. Now that probably sounds pretty negative (come on Cari J) I wouldn’t trade being a mother for anything! It’s the greatest blessing in my life! But life is full to say the least. My husband and I are raising two girls under 5, we have full-time work and school schedules, responsibilities at church, a house to maintain, finances to juggle and so forth… There are times when the responsibilities that come with parenthood are overwhelming. I want my home to be a place of love and joy, peace and gratitude… but lately I’ve been in total survival mode and I often wonder how I’ll just get through the day. Can anyone relate? I don’t think I’m alone… For all of us, life is full and brings with it many challenges.
This morning we’re going to look the miracle of Jesus feeding the five thousand…a seemingly impossible task made possible. For the people there that day, experiencing this miracle, there was a mix of disbelief and anticipation. Through this miracle Jesus teaches his disciples an important lesson; that Jesus provides for our every need and is the source of all things possible. (PAUSE)
Although most of us are probably familiar with this story, let’s take a moment to imagine the scene there that day. Jesus is trying to find a remote place to be alone but a large crowd follows him. As Jesus comes face to face with the crowd he doesn’t turn away, he doesn’t tell them to get lost (which frankly is probably what I would want to do if I were in his shoes.)
Jesus doesn’t send the crowd away, he has compassion for the people and he begins healing the sick among them. He does this into the evening hours. It’s getting dark and the air has turned cool. The disciples tell Jesus, it’s time to wrap this up and send the people away. The disciples bellies are grumbling, its been hours since they’ve eaten. In fact, its been hours since anyone there has eaten. They remind Jesus that this a remote place and there is not enough food here to feed everyone. Jesus responds to them, saying, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” PAUSE
Baffled by Jesus’ request the disciples turn to each other, waiting to see who will step up to the plate and start sharing the food. They feel immobilized and at a loss for what to do. Can you see it? Matthew mumbling under his breath to James… “Is he serious?” (PAUSE)
I must admit in the past, when I’ve read or heard about the miracle of Jesus feeding the five thousand, I didn’t think too much about the disciples. Or even notice for that matter that before Jesus performed this miracle he asked his disciples to feed the people.
Now the response of Jesus’ disciples is a normal response. “We have only five loaves here and two fish.” I think we’d all respond they same way. “Is he serious?” They don’t see anything more than what’s right in front of them. PAUSE
When you’re faced with the impossible do you find yourself, like the disciples wondering in disbelief and anticipation about where the resources will come from to overcome and make this impossible situation possible? The time, the energy, the stamina, the money, etc. (PAUSE)
Like the disciples, do you feel immobilized? And at a loss for what to do next? (PAUSE)
If we look closer at this story we begin to learn that Jesus is pointing to a deeper truth…beyond what we can see. The miracle of the five thousand takes place shortly after Jesus’ beloved friend John the Baptist has been beheaded by Herod. It’s after John’s death that Jesus’ ministry begins to take on a different focus. Like his dear friend, he senses that his time on earth is soon coming to an end. The leaders of the day have made it clear that they do not accept his ministry and feel threatened by his popularity. The time is coming when he will no longer be with his disciples and they will need to take the responsibility of feeding the people.
I think it’s important to note here that the disciples were God followers like us. Ordinary men who God chose to carry on Jesus’ work. He called each of them… just has he calls each of us. So when Jesus asks his disciples to feed the people, he doesn’t mean that they should feed them with only what they see in front of them, the five loaves and two fish. He’s called his disciples to feed the people with spiritual food.
This task of feeding the people with spiritual food will at times feel impossible by human standards. As we face the impossible tasks asked of us, it will at times feel incomprehensible. When we’re in the thick of life’s challenges it’s hard to see beyond what’s right in front of you. (PAUSE)
As God followers, we are called to walk with faith and live into the gift of grace that God gives us. “For we live by faith, not by sight.” (2 Cor 5:7 NIV)
When I was twelve years old my parents were faced with one of these impossible situations. My parents had moved our family and life as we knew it to a new city so my Dad could go to seminary.
After a year into my Dad’s studies, my Mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. Until her diagnosis she had been working and providing an income for our family while my Dad was a full-time student. Suddenly my parents with 3 kids under 12 had no income and only one healthy parent to provide for our needs. I can’t imagine how impossible this challenge must have seemed. Like the disciples, I imagine my parents were saying to Jesus, we need to leave this remote place. We simply don’t have enough to sustain us.
When my Dad went to the seminary to ask for financial help they asked him to put on paper what he was bringing in as an income and what he needed to make up the difference. He laughed, or cried is probably more accurate. There was nothing to write down and put in black and white. The needs were so great. Logistically, we weren’t going to make it. Like the disciples, my Dad had been called by God to do something that practically seemed impossible.
What was God asking of my parents? Was my Dad being taught to be fed spiritually? In order that he could then teach people that the spiritual food Jesus provides sustains us beyond what we need here on this earth. (PAUSE)
To this day my parents cannot put on paper how we survived those 3 years, but we did. God provided abundantly in miraculous ways. God was always working behind the scenes, moving in the hearts and minds of others who shared their resources with our family. My parents have shared this story with me, which is how I am able to tell it today. As I was living through it at 12 years old, I never knew we were in such need. I never went without. And fortunately my Mom has been cancer free for over twenty five years. Jesus loved us, healed us and fed us through a seemingly impossible time in our lives. (PAUSE)
Now we were fortunate but this story could have ended differently, my Mom could have lost her battle with cancer. The miracles we pray for don’t always happen. Does that mean Jesus isn’t faithful and carrying us through what can be deeply devastating times? (PAUSE)
There have also been times in my life when a miracle didn’t take place. A couple of years ago my husband and I lost a family member to suicide. We were devastated and the pain was intolerable at times. We’ve walked alongside deep brokenness; friends suffering with mental illness, going through a divorce and others who have lost their job, left wondering how they’ll take care of their family. We’ve come face to face with poverty. Watching a family of 8 live out of their minivan and come to the shelter to be served a meal…not sure what to do next. These are the times when it seems like life is going to take you out. Overwhelm you. You feel defeated. (PAUSE)
In these times, can we still say that Jesus is the source of all things possible? Do we believe, even in our darkest moments that he will fill us up in the ways we need and in the ways He knows we need? (PAUSE)
While we go through our life here on earth, we will experience miracles and there will be times when we don’t. It’s a painful truth to this journey. But there is one constant…we can hold on to the hope and foundational truth that Jesus is always with us, walking alongside us…carrying us through the dark seasons of our life. There is never a time when he isn’t fully available to us. He doesn’t expect us to do this life on our own. “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” (Psalms 46:1) PAUSE
Internalizing this truth and being able to live into this truth that God will provide for all our needs means living a life defined by faith. This is not an easy ask by God. Living by faith doesn’t mean we have it all together. Growing up my Dad taught me that faith stands for Feeling, Afraid, I, Trust, Him. At first this may seem simple and even cheesy but it has always stayed with me and I often say it to myself to remind myself that I’m never alone. God is always with me. With faith there is still fear, anxiousness, anger, sorrow and pain. There are still times when the miracle we so desperately want to happen, doesn’t…at least not here on earth.
When we are faced with the seemingly impossible we can feel at a loss for what to do, we often respond like the disciples. There’s not enough. Not enough time, not enough energy, not enough money, not enough…just not enough. There are limits to what a person can contribute to the multitude of needs in the church, in the community, and in the world.
As we live by faith and not by sight alone. As we experience the possible in the impossible. We can take God’s lead and follow Him as he guides us, provides for us and supplies us with the resources necessary to feed the people everywhere. We will carry with us the message of grace, hope and love that surpasses all understanding. Nothing more beautiful could infiltrate this world and begin bringing light into the darkest places.
The Lord says, “I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.”