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Pentecost 9B Sermon
John 6: 1-21

July 25, 2021

Sermon Archives


John 6:1-21

After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, also called the Sea of Tiberias. 2A large crowd kept following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick. 3Jesus went up the mountain and sat down there with his disciples. 4Now the Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near. 5When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming towards him, Jesus said to Philip, ‘Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?’ 6He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do. 7Philip answered him, ‘Six months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.’ 8One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, 9‘There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?’ 10Jesus said, ‘Make the people sit down.’ Now there was a great deal of grass in the place; so they sat down, about five thousand in all. 11Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted. 12When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, ‘Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost.’ 13So they gathered them up, and from the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets. 14When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, ‘This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world.’
15 When Jesus realized that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself.
16 When evening came, his disciples went down to the lake, 17got into a boat, and started across the lake to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. 18The lake became rough because a strong wind was blowing. 19When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the lake and coming near the boat, and they were terrified. 20But he said to them, ‘It is I; do not be afraid.’ 21Then they wanted to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the land towards which they were going.

May the grace, mercy and peace of God be with us in the name of our risen Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ; Amen.

This morning we begin about five weeks or so with readings from the Gospel of John. We will take a week off on August 15 to commemorate Mary, the Mother of our Lord, but the Gospel readings for the other four Sundays through August 22 come from the fourth Gospel.
I think you will discover why Matthew, Mark and Luke are referred to as, “The Synoptic Gospels,” and why John sort of stands alone. Matthew, Mark and Luke share similar styles, language, and stories as John presents Jesus in a more spiritual manner. He is definitely “in charge” in John’s account. He says and does things for the sake of those around him, or to test his disciples. The miracles are called, “signs” and have a purpose other than to heal someone or set something right, like feeding the hungry. These signs point the reader or listener to the true character of God. John presents Jesus in a different light than the other three gospels do, but I want to encourage you to remember that it is the same Jesus, truly God and truly human, preacher, miracle worker and Son of God.

Last week I talked about how in Mark’s Gospel, Jesus has compassion on the crowds around him because they were like sheep without a shepherd. Compassion is a translation of the Greek word “splagnizomai” which is a physical feeling of pain in the guts as they churn with empathy for those who suffer. John never uses the word “splagnizomai” when referring to Jesus’ attitude toward the people … but I contend that John presents Jesus as a compassionate, caring savior nonetheless.

This story of the feeding of the 5,000 is the only miracle story or sign that is found in all four of the Gospels - not only the synoptics, but also here in John 6. As is true in other accounts of Jesus’ life, the renditions in Matthew, Mark and Luke are very similar … and among the differences with this account in John, there is one glaring one that I want to lift up. For you see, in the first three gospel accounts, Jesus tells the disciples to give the crowds something to eat. After they object and bring forward the meager five barley loaves and two fish, Jesus blesses it and then gives it to the disciples to distribute to the people. In our account this morning, Jesus asks Philip, “where are WE to buy bread for these people to eat?” After the five loaves and two fish are blessed and broke in John’s version it is Jesus himself who distributes the food to the hungry people. I admit it is a subtle difference, but it is a difference that is significant when we think of Jesus’ compassion and love for the people.

Each of us shows love to others in many different ways according to our gifts and personality. In 1992, Gary Chapman wrote a book identifying the Five Love Languages and how different people express heartfelt commitment to their mate in different ways. Intended for couples who are committed to each other in a life-long marital relationship, I think the concept of the book can inform us about how we each show love to our neighbors, as well as how we can receive love. The five love languages are: words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service, and physical touch. Just because John presents a picture of Jesus which is not full of words of affirmation or physical touch doesn’t mean he doesn’t share a deep and abiding love for everyone. His act of service by feeding this large crowd with a meager amount of food, and his walking on the sea to a frightened boat of disciples to take them safely to the other shore, is evidence of the deep love that Jesus has for these abused and hurting people.

The same can be said about each of us. We know people who are huggers; we know people who don’t say five words but are always there to lend a helping hand; we all know people who can share a kind word and help us through anything; we all know people who work hard behind the scenes, not wanting any accolades or public credit. None of these servants of God are any better than the other; they, and many more like or different from them, are trying to show love in ways that they feel they are able.

The foundation for any word, act or attitude of love is the belief that in God, there is abundance. We all doubt that to be true occasionally - thinking that there will not be enough in an extreme scenario. We witnessed that at the beginning of the pandemic when shelves were empty of toilet paper, sanitizer, and various food items. Some folks imagined life without the basics that they believe they cannot live without. It was much different from the days of WWII when some items were rationed for the war effort and people lived without certain staples in order that the country might get through that difficult time.

Like Elisha in the first reading, Jesus demonstrates that with God there is abundance, enough and more than enough! They eat until they are satisfied, and there are twelve baskets left over. It is a miracle … and it is a sign of the abundant love that Jesus has for all of God’s people. His personal distribution of the food is a sign of his compassion for them, even though he might not be moved to physical pain in his gut. And his prayer as he blesses and breaks the bread is a sign of his gratitude to God for all of the blessings of love and grace. Of course, this is one instance that John’s portrayal of Jesus shares with Matthew, Mark and Luke’s portrayal. There are some universal things about Jesus we cannot deny, even if we heard them shared in different ways.

Next week we will hear Jesus call himself the bread of life … and we will prayerfully consider what that means for us who strive to share God’s love in words, touch, acts of kindness, and even in receiving gifts. May the abundance of God’s love and blessings inspire each of us to love each other and our neighbors in the ways that we are called and gifted, so that we may point to the compassion of Jesus still present in our world today. Amen.