John 6:1-15: 5,000
October 18, 2021
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
Jesus is followed by a large crowd because they saw the signs he did healing the sick. Sometimes people will be drawn by our deeds of mercy, as much as Christ’s deeds of miraculous mercy. George Whitefield had his orphanage, as did Spurgeon; there is a place for doing good deeds in the name of Christ. If someone’s felt needs are met, they are more likely to hear you speak of their real needs. But such signs as these were never meant merely to be charitable deeds: they were “signs” pointing to Christ as God. Similarly, when we live for Christ, we are to accompany it with speaking for Christ. Good living will only attest to us being good people, unless witness to Christ accompanies good living with good news speaking.
Jesus asks a question to test Philip: where is the food going to come from? Sometimes God does stretch us by putting us in situations that cause to exercise the spiritual muscle of our faith. Suffering produces perseverance, perseverance produces character, and character produces hope. When you are in a time of trial, when it seems as if there is an impossible demand being made upon your finite human resources, consider that it is God’s way of causing your faith to be stretched to an even greater capacity to receive the abundant provision of God.
Andrew comes up with a solution that to the eyes of practical utility must have seemed ridiculous. Every time Andrew appears in John’s Gospel, he is bringing someone to Jesus. What a great ministry! Bringing people to Christ. Saying “come and see,” here is a solution to the problem, come to Christ. But still Andrew appeared to have no idea that such a small human provision could possibly feed the multitude.
All this is set up by Jesus to show (again) who he is. Look at Jesus’ leadership: he has the people sit down. He gives thanks. And without pseudo-magical fanfare, setting the right mood, creating the right atmosphere, with the effortlessness of all divine miracles, the supernatural provision occurs, as a small picnic feeds five thousand, with twelve baskets full of leftovers. When God provides, he does exceedingly more than we can ask or imagine. We should not penny-pinch for God, or think that it is improper to be abundant in the service of God and avoid all possible waste; these leftovers give witness to the abundance of the grace of Jesus.
The people want to make Jesus king by force. They have misunderstandings of who he is (“the prophet,” probably a misunderstanding of Moses’ teaching about a prophet who would come after him), thinking that the kingdom of God was to be established by force. Faced with such a wave of popularity, many religious leaders would have capitalized, begun selling branded T-shirts saying “I was there at the feeding of the 5,000,” and generally attempted to snowball the event to start a “movement.” But Jesus does not. This is not because he wants to avoid people being saved or avoid a true move of God in the lives of many, many people; it is because in this instance he discerns that the motivating force of the people, and thus the end results of any movement so generated, was false.
Boldly then refusing the false opportunity presented before him, he eschews being made the wrong kind of king—though he indeed he is The King—and withdraws to the mountain by himself. There is a time and place to seize ministry momentum and grow the effect. There is also a time and place to refuse the next step—for it is a step in the wrong direction, and however fast you are going, if you are going in the wrong direction, you are still going wrong.
Jesus withdraws, perhaps to pray, perhaps to avoid the crowd. Some ministries seem to give the impression that godliness is, if not next to cleanliness, at least next to extroversion. But there is a time to pray and be alone. As Blaise Pascal famously said: all the problems of the world come down to the inability of man to spend five minutes on his own in quiet in a room. But Jesus is at peace with himself, he is content, and so he can listen to the rhythm of his own mind, without immediately seeking a distraction. Can you? Can you hear your heart beat, your mind tick over, and discover there a quiet joy at being in reconciled relationship with Jesus? One day all that will be left will be you and God. Make sure today that any sin or any guilt is taken to the cross so that you can live in peace and be for a time in quiet.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
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