Worship Service, July 25, 2021 It’s About More than the Bread
Join Holy Trinity church members for worship on Sunday, July 25, 2021 in person or via YouTube and hear Pastor Erik’s message, “It’s About More than the Bread.”
You are welcome to join us in person for Indoor Worship, inside the sanctuary at 9:30 and 11:00 and also during HTLC Virtual Worship Service on Sunday morning.
John 6:1-15 ∙ It is about More than the Bread
The crowds seem to want more in today’s story from the Book of John. Even though Jesus, has crossed to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, the Bible tells us that a large crowd kept following Jesus, because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick. They had witnessed what Jesus could do and they were wondering what he might do next.
Jesus does not disappoint. As the crowd begins to catch up to him and his disciples, he says to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?”
Jesus knew the importance of people being fed. The people have been traveling for a long way and he knows they will be hungry. The disciples are not sure where they are going to find food for the people, but they do manage to discover a boy with a few loaves and a couple of fish.
Jesus multiplies that gift and soon all have enough to eat. The feeding of the five thousand is one of the only miracles Jesus performs that is found in all four Gospels.
It seems clear that the writers want us to know that God is concerned with our daily bread—with making sure that all have enough.
The only problem with Jesus performing this miracle, however, is that the people seem to want more. It isn’t enough for them to be fed in the moment. They want to bottle up this magic that Jesus can do and keep it going. Free bread is a really great thing. Why not make Jesus keep doing it? The Bible tells us in John’s version of this story that, “Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself” (John 6:15).
It reminds of a cartoon where one of the people comes up to Jesus after the miracle and says, “The fish and bread were great, but everyone was hoping you could make a little something out of this slice of cheesecake.” Isn’t it just like people to complain that the main course is not enough—that they need a little dessert too?
While we may laugh and roll our eyes at the thought that a crowd of hungry folks would inquire about dessert after they have just miraculously all been fed, we know how the lack of food can motivate people to do desperate things. Hunger is one of the basic needs that drives us as human beings. When people are literally starving, they can end up taking drastic measures in an attempt to get what they need. The other day I read a news story about an incident that occurred recently in a refugee camp. The camp had not received a shipment of food for a while and the people were getting worried about how much food was left. When the trucks finally did arrive, the large crowd that had gathered ended up turning into a stampede towards the distribution point. In the process, several in the crowd were trampled becoming severely injured.
Hearing this story, some people might think, how this is possible? How could people get in such a frenzy that they don’t realize they are trampling others? It is easy to sit and judge from afar when you have a full stomach, but it is a different story when you are the one feeling the hurt of hunger pangs—when you are the one feeling crushed under the fear of whether or not your children are going to be able to eat. I don’t believe anyone in that camp wanted to trample someone else. It is just that when we are afraid and desperate, the consequences can be that causalities occur.
Were there any casualties that occurred as the people rushed forward to try and make Jesus their king? Notice the Scripture says that they wanted to make him king by force. They did not seem to be making a polite request or making a verbal case to Jesus that he should be king. They wanted to do it by force. This implies to me that the crowd began to come after Jesus. He was the one with the bread. He was the one who could feed them again. They did not want this opportunity to get away. They may have been afraid there would not be enough for next time. In their haste to capture Jesus, they may have even begun to trample over each other.
It makes sense then, why Jesus withdraws and goes back up a mountain by himself. He is getting away from this crowd and away from the perception that he only came to give people free food. You see, for Jesus, it is not about becoming king. It’s not about showing off his power, even when he could use that power for good intentions. It’s not about the bread. It’s not even about the miracles. Rather, it is about what the miracles point to.
At the end of the book of John, the Bible says that, “Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples… But these are recorded that you may believe in Jesus Christ… and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20:30-31) Jesus wants people to have life in his name. This means it is about more than the bread. It is about having a change in mentality and believing that there can be enough for all. It is about having an attitude of patience and generosity and trust, like the boy in the story who trusts Jesus by giving up his five loaves and two fish. It is about God wanting everyone to have what they need.
Frank Moore is someone who knows about feeding people and fishing. In late 1950s he and his wife founded the Steamboat Inn. The inn is located in the heart of 31miles of “fly-fishing only” water on the North Umpqua River in the state of Oregon.
Over the years people from all over the world have come to the Steamboat Inn for its famous fishing waters and sometimes Frank and his wife would feed over 60 people as they hosted them.
After he sold the inn and retired, Frank continued to fish the river, even into his older years. At age 90, he was invited to be a part of documentary called “Mending the Line” where he would travel back to France in order to fish a river that he crossed so many years ago as a young man. You see, Frank was a part of the allied invasion of France on the beaches of Normandy in World War II. One day as he as his platoon were marching across northern France they crossed a bridge over the Selune River. Frank had seen a fish hanging from the bridge and was taken back to his love of fishing which had started at age nine in the woods of Oregon. He said he wished he could have put down his gun at that moment and picked up a fishing pole instead
When the war was finally over, Frank had thought many times what it would be like to go back and fish the river in peace time where he had been as a young man.
A filmmaker had heard of Frank’s story and worked with him on returning to France. As they traveled across the countryside Frank shared some of the times when he had experienced the horrors of the war. He told of a day where over 1,400 men had died in a battle that lasted for 10 hours. But he also told of other moments when he and his fellow soldiers had received unexpected moments of kindness from some of the local civilians.
One of those times was when they had made their way through France and ended up in Luxembourg in need of some serious rest. He spent several weeks in Luxembourg, and tells of a meal that a woman in the village made for him and a few other soldiers. In the midst of war, this was not a time of opulence. Many people had next to nothing. Yet this woman knew that these men needed a real meal, they needed the act of breaking bread with fellow humans in a peaceful setting. Something to provide them sustenance, both physically and emotionally.
Frank remembered this meal as a feast, better than anything he had eaten since he had landed in Europe. In the midst of war, he had a moment to sit, eat and share with others, and that memory is forever etched into his mind.
Breaking bread together, especially at a time when you are in need, is a powerful way of connecting with others that you tend not to forget. You can bet that the people who were fed by Jesus on that hillside remembered what happened. Their memory of that event actually compels them to pursue Jesus to learn more of what he was doing. Later in John chapter six we hear Jesus say to the people, “Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you had your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life.” Jesus continues with this imagery as he says, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry….”
I think most often this passage is heard as a metaphor for the promise of heaven. This makes sense as Jesus describes a kind of food that “endures for eternal life.” But what if it is more than a metaphor for heaven? As I thought about this text last week it occurred to me that when Jesus says he is the Bread of Life it might also be an image for how to live in the here and now. Perhaps when we are coming to Jesus no one goes hungry because we become the kind of people who are willing to share whatever loaves and fishes they might have. Perhaps we become like the woman who was willing to share her table and set a meal for foreign strangers even though her own village has been decimated by war.
So what if instead of constantly worrying about whether there will be more than enough, we were grateful for want we had? What if instead of hoarding things in fear, we shared out of a sense of faith that God will provide? What if instead of being driven by greed, we could trust there was an abundance of resources and were driven to give? To me this would be a sign that we were living with the mentality—with the attitude– that comes from the way of Jesus, who is the Bread of Life. It also might feel a little bit like a miracle.
-Pastor Erik Goehner