Online Worship for Epiphany Four, Sunday January 30, 2022
Sermon for Epiphany 4 – Signs in John #4
Calvary/Marquette ● Soli Deo Gloria
Grace to you and peace from God our Father
and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
John 6:1-14 (NKJV)
1 After these things Jesus went over the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tiberias. 2 Then a great multitude followed Him, because they saw His signs which He performed on those who were diseased. 3 And Jesus went up on the mountain, and there He sat with His disciples. 4 Now the Passover, a feast of the Jews, was near. 5 Then Jesus lifted up His eyes, and seeing a great multitude coming toward Him, He said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread, that these may eat?” 6 But this He said to test him, for He Himself knew what He would do. 7 Philip answered Him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may have a little.” 8 One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to Him, 9 “There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two small fish, but what are they among so many?” 10 Then Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand. 11 And Jesus took the loaves, and when He had given thanks He distributed them to the disciples, and the disciples to those sitting down; and likewise of the fish, as much as they wanted. 12 So when they were filled, He said to His disciples, “Gather up the fragments that remain, so that nothing is lost.” 13 Therefore they gathered them up, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves which were left over by those who had eaten. 14 Then those men, when they had seen the sign that Jesus did, said, “This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world.”
In the Name of Jesus Christ,
Son of God and Sustainer of Life,
Dear Fellow Redeemed by His Blood –
A few months back I decided to dust off the bread machine and make a loaf of fresh bread. So, with a song in my heart, I quickly found a recipe for the bread machine and began to put the ingredients in the machine in the proper order and amount.
When I came to the second to last ingredient I hit a snag – the recipe called for powdered milk.
I was pretty sure we had some, but when I looked, I couldn’t find any. So, thinking like any man would, I figured – I’ll just put in the same amount of real milk. Hey, milk is milk, right?
Good enough I thought, and after adding the final ingredients I started the machine and went about my work, looking forward to smelling fresh baked bread. When the bread machine beeped a few hours later, signaling it had completed its task – I opened the lid and looked at my loaf of bread.
It didn’t look quite right.
It didn’t seem to have risen like it should have and when I took it out of the machine it seemed much denser than bread should be. I learned that there was a reason it called for powdered milk. I also learned that bread production might not be my forte.
I think we’d be better off if I just go out and buy the next loaf of bread.
While providing a loaf of bread to eat was just an afterthought to me – it was somewhat more important when Jesus turned to His disciples, His pupils on the northeastern shore of the Lake of Galilee.
A great multitude of more than 5000 had followed Him across the Lake because they saw the signs He performed on the diseased. They were not attracted by His Word, but by these signs. They were gathered in a remote place, near two small towns.
It would be truly difficult to provide bread for them and it was late and they were hungry.
It is in this way that we are introduced to the 4th of the Signs recorded in John’s Gospel. These signs are related to us to show us that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. This miracle, like the others, serves to show us that Jesus is the Son of God, and also the One who sustains human life.
May God the Holy Spirit open our spiritual understanding, so that we may see the signs and hearing Christ’s Word believe that He is our Savior. Amen.
We probably don’t think of it like this, but when Jesus went upon the mountain with His disciples – school was in session. After all, Jesus chose those men and called them to follow Him – to teach them.
While we know the disciples by name and often hear the term ‘disciple’ used, we tend not to remember the word’s meaning.
What is a disciple?
A disciple is a pupil, a learner, a student, and a follower. We send our children to school, right to the teacher, so that the teacher can teach them.
The disciples were Jesus’ students, following Him to learn from Him. As they listened to the words that Jesus was given by God to speak, they learned God’s will for them, they learned about God’s plan to save them from sin and death.
They were Jesus’ students. He was the teacher.
This morning you and I are both observers and students in Jesus’ classroom. You have come to sit at His feet and to listen to His Word that you may learn from Him. The Holy Spirit enables us to listen to Jesus teach, not so that we look down our noses at the answers given by these pupils, but so that we ourselves learn from Him.
Let us begin by thinking about the question that Jesus asked of his pupils, the problem He asked them to solve:
He said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread, that these may eat?” 6 But this He said to test him, for He Himself knew what He would do.
Jesus, like any good teacher, got his students thinking with a question, a problem to solve. While He directed the question at one student, in this case Philip, He wants all of us to think about it – so don’t tune out!
Jesus probably asked Philip because Philip was from that area and would be familiar with where they might purchase bread in sufficient amount and at such an hour.
We might say that this was a pop-quiz. The Holy Spirit reveals here that Jesus purpose was to test them. It was an opportunity for the teacher to test His students to see what, if anything, they had learned from the signs they had witnessed. We both consider the teacher’s question and the answers of His students.
Where shall we buy bread that these may eat?
Philip answered Him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may have a little.”
Jesus didn’t ask if they could afford it, but Philip’s answer was: ‘Teacher, we don’t have enough money! Even if we had 200 denarii’s (a denarius being a day’s wage) we couldn’t buy a saltine cracker for everyone of them – to say nothing of whether there is enough bread in Capernaum and Bethsaida to purchase.
Philip didn’t even try to answer Jesus’ question. Philip’s was the fiscally responsible answer. Jesus, we can’t afford it, so we can’t do anything!
It’s good to be conscientious about money, but Philip receives a failing grade.
Why be so hard on Philip? Philip’s answer failed because he didn’t consider that Jesus can provide regardless of the outward circumstances.
Instead of looking first to the LORD, he attacked the question with his own head.
Jesus Christ is the sustainer of all human life. The Bible says of Him (Colossians 1:16-17):
For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. 17 And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.
He gives us what we have and what we need. Unfortunately, we tend to forget this and look at things the way Philip did and then erroneously call it responsible.
It is spiritually irresponsible not to look to Jesus first in faith. We give ourselves far too much credit when we consider ourselves our own providers. Jesus wants us to first look to Him and trust Him to provide.
Are we too proud to step back and admit that Jesus must provide?
It would seem that Philip’s expectations of Jesus were far too low.
What are our expectations of Jesus? We may count on the LORD Jesus to provide and not merely look to Him as a last resort or discount what HE can do.
Philip wasn’t the only student with an answer. Andrew offered his own.
One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to Him, 9 “There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two small fish, but what are they among so many?”
Jesus asked where they might buy bread, but Andrew said: ‘Teacher, we looked around to see what we already have here. We thought maybe that if we pooled what we have we might be able to provide enough.
Unfortunately, we only found this boy with five barley loaves (flat bread cakes) and a couple of small fish. This is certainly not enough, what good would this little do?
Andrew’s answer is the thrifty answer. Hey let’s try and make do with what we have – even though what we have isn’t enough.
It’s ok to be thrifty, but Andrew still receives a failing grade.
Why? He didn’t consider that Jesus could take what little he had and make it more! Andrew was there when Jesus took water and made it into wine. What could stop Jesus from taking a few loaves and a couple fish and feeding 5000+?
What about us? Are we willing to invest what we have in Him and trust Him to make more of it? Shall we assume that Jesus can’t help and that we must help ourselves?
I’m not saying we should be foolish with the gifts He gives, but neither should we be scrooges. He’s promised that he will bless those who trust in Him. He has promised us that His Word will be effective – it is a guaranteed return! Jesus shares with us what is rightfully His.
Then Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand. 11 And Jesus took the loaves, and when He had given thanks He distributed them to the disciples, and the disciples to those sitting down; and likewise of the fish, as much as they wanted.
Jesus didn’t verbally answer his own question – but let his actions answer. Jesus told them to seat the people, to prepare them to eat. When they did, we are told that the number of men was more than 5000, meaning this banquet would have to serve more than 5000 when women and children were included.
Then Jesus took the bread. Did they think this was all for Jesus? Were they going to watch Him eat? NO. He gave thanks to the Father and then He began to break off pieces of the bread and then the fish and shared it with them.
They all ate as much as they wanted.
While this is a quiet miracle as miracles go, don’t fail to see the sign for what it is: another proof that Jesus is the Son of God, the one who can and who does sustain human life. Do not forget that nothing has changed. Jesus is still our provider. He still shares what is His with us, for the Psalmist, the Bible’s hymn writer says (Psalm 24:1):
The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it.
He gives to us all that we need and then gives us more:
12 So when they were filled, He said to His disciples, “Gather up the fragments that remain, so that nothing is lost.” 13 Therefore they gathered them up, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves which were left over by those who had eaten. 14 Then those men, when they had seen the sign that Jesus did, said, “This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world.”
So, they had all that they wanted and were satisfied. Then Jesus told his 12 students to collect the fragments of bread that were left over, so that nothing was wasted.
Abundance is not an excuse for waste – this is a lesson we should all learn! The Jews, remembering the bread that God provided their fathers from heaven – considered bread to be a gift of God. It was customary to even pick up the scraps falling to the floor and gather them into small wicker baskets that they carried with them. In this case they gathered the scraps in 12 baskets, large baskets.
We should also consider our daily bread, our food and drink to be a gift of God – because that is what it is. It is a daily reminder of the Savior’s love for us. It’s a sign we shouldn’t miss or overlook simply because of its abundance.
When they had collected all the scraps, then they saw the sign. They concluded that Jesus was the Prophet whom God promised would come into the world – the Prophet foretold in our Old Testament lesson by Moses.
Their conclusion was correct, but they still missed that this sign proved Him to be the Son of God, the sustainer of human life.
Don’t you miss the sign either! Jesus is the sustainer of human life, both physical and spiritual. He is also the one who provides the food that lasts to eternal life. Physical food is good and necessary. Spiritual food is just as important. When the same multitude kept following Him, He said (John 6:26-29):
“Most assuredly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. 27 Do not labor for the food which 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.” 28 Then they said to Him, “What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.”
Don’t let your expectations of Jesus be too low. Don’t merely look to Him for the sake of your earthly body and life, but also for your soul’s sake.
Look to Him who is the Son of God and the sustainer of human life. Amen.