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Duration:17 mins 11 secs

“Too Little?  Or More Than Enough?”

John 6: 1-15

July 25, 2021

 

 

            Too little?  Or more than enough?  That was the question facing the disciples on the hillside that day.  They were surrounded by a huge crowd---5,000 people all told.  The people were hungry, and all they had to eat were two fish and five small loaves of bread.  It seemed like FAR too little to feed such a large crowd!  And yet, by the time we come to the end of the passage, we find that this small amount was more than enough, with twelve baskets of food left over!

            How often is our human vision is limited? We see only what we lack instead of remembering God’s abundant providence.  We look at situations that seem too big and give up hope, instead of trusting that Jesus can do more than we could ever imagine. 

            How did this happen, the miracle on the mountainside?  What does it tell us in our own lives about whether we have too little or more than enough?

            In this passage, Jesus and the disciples were out in the middle of nowhere, a deserted place on the shore of the sea.  We learn from chapter 5 of John’s gospel that they withdrew there after a challenging situation.  Jesus had healed a man on the Sabbath, and as a result, chapter 5 tells us, the Jewish religious leaders began persecuting him.  Jesus admonished the people who refused to believe in him, saying, “I have come in my Father’s name, yet you do not accept me.”        

            After THIS, verse 1 of our chapter says, “Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee,” but because they had seen his miracles, a large crowd kept following him. Now evening had come, and it was time to eat.  

            The passage tells us that Jesus tested the disciples by asking Philip, “Where are we to buy bread for all these people?” In his commentary on this passage, Frederick Dale Bruner pointed out that, like a teacher giving students the opportunity to demonstrate knowledge, Jesus loves to find faith in his disciples.  Bruner said, “Isn’t Jesus hoping that Philip will answer Jesus’ question something like this (remembering, for example, [the water abundantly turned to wine at] Cana and the lame man [he healed in Jerusalem]), ‘Lord, I believe you can handle this problem as well as you have handled every other problem we have had’?”1  

            But instead of responding with faith, Philp saw only cold, hard realities:  “Six months wages would not buy enough food for all these people to have even a little!” 

            Bruner said, “But Andrew, by contrast, sees just a little hope and shows just a little faith by coming forward with a little boy and his little provisions...---for a little while!...And though Andrew’s little faith dies almost as soon as it is born, (‘Oh, but what are these [for so many people]?’) nevertheless, Jesus takes this even-less-than-mustard-seed-size faith and goes to work with it,” Bruner said.2 

            In response to the offer of these loaves and fish, Jesus said, “Ah! Make the people sit down.”

            We can imagine the disciples looking at each and shaking their heads.  Five loaves and two fish?  That was about enough food for seven people.  It would not even feed the twelve, let alone all the crowds.  It was an impossible situation!  They just did not have enough.

            How many times do we think we don’t have enough?  It is a strange but common human tendency to look at what we have and see scarcity instead of abundance.  The end of the month comes and we look at our checking account—how are we going to pay all the bills?  Or tax time comes around.  Where will we get that much money?   We consider retirement, but how would we get by?  Or we’re living on a retirement income, but there’s just not enough in that check to live on.  And it’s not just money or things that we feel we lack.  We may look at our lives and think, we don’t have enough education to get that job we want.  Or we don’t have enough intelligence or wisdom to know what decision to make.  Or we don’t have enough time to do everything we need to get done.  Or we don’t have enough patience to deal with “those people,” or we don’t have enough faith to face this crisis. 

            Like the disciples, we look at what we have and we think, it’s just not enough!  It seems like we are in an impossible situation.  Again, like the disciples, that makes us anxious or worried or aggravated or afraid.  And when we get all tied up in knots like that, we overlook even what we do have.  Look at what Andrew says here:  “This boy has five loaves and two fish, but what is that!”   Dismissing what they had as if it did not even matter. 

            Despite their inability to manifest enough faith, Jesus asked the disciples to do something they COULD do: “Make the people sit down.”  Though they may have doubted, rather than arguing or refusing to do as he said, the disciples obeyed, and even the smallest act of obedience to Christ bears fruit.

            When the people were seated, Jesus took the food, blessed it and gave it back to them.  And it was enough.  Not only was it enough, it was more than enough!  Everyone was fed, and what did they find at the end?  Twelve baskets left over!  A huge abundance, from what they thought was nothing.

            When we read this passage, we might expect the disciples to have more faith than they demonstrated here.  After all, they had been with Jesus for some time; they had seen him perform amazing miracles and signs.  But even though they had witnessed Jesus’ miracles, they failed to see the possibilities through Jesus’ power, and saw only problems. They did not think Jesus was up to the task of feeding people who were hungry.  Their capacity to imagine what Jesus could do was not big enough.

And that, I believe, is the lesson we need to learn from this passage.  Jesus is always able to do so much more than we could ask or imagine.  We need to enlarge our capacity to imagine what Jesus can do.  We should be like the little boy whose little league baseball team was losing—badly.  A man walked up to the dugout and asked the boy what the score was.  “Eighteen to nothing; we’re behind,” the boy said.  “Boy,” said the spectator, “I’ll bet you’re discouraged!” 

            “Why should I be discouraged?” replied the boy.  “We haven’t even gotten up to bat yet!”3

            When we are faced with what seems impossible, we should have that spirit!  Not because of what WE are able to do, but because of what God is able to do in us. You see, the mistake the disciples made was counting only what they had and leaving the Lord out of the equation! 

            In his commenetary, Bruner said, “[The disciples] were counting only the realities that impressed them, not the Reality that counted the most.  Disciples,” he said, “should always count to eight.” 

            Five loaves plus two fish PLUS one true God!

            Disciples should always count to eight.  It’s never just what we have.  It’s always what we have PLUS God.  Five loaves and two fish were what the disciples had in this passage.  It was too little.  But when they gave what they had to Jesus, it become not just enough, but through his miraculous power was MORE THAN enough.   5 + 2 = 8.4 

            When we look at what we have and think it is not enough, we should instead remember that if we give whatever we have to Jesus, he will do with it things we can’t even imagine.  There is more in the equation that just what we have.  We must also count the One with whom all things are possible.

            There was a church where people were coming forward for communion; it was the tradition of that church for people to kneel at the front of the sanctuary, and the priest would take a small piece of bread and give it to each person.  A three-year old girl knelt there with her mother, and as he gave her the bread, the pastor said, “This bread means that Jesus loves you very much.”  She swallowed the bread, but then instead of getting up, she held out her little hands, looked up at the pastor with hopeful eyes, and said, “More?”5

            With God, there is always more.  More grace, more love, more providence, more than we can even imagine.  We see throughout the gospels that the way of God is always to give people more than they expect.  Water turned into gallons of the very best wine!  The worker who got a greater paycheck than he had earned.  The people feasting at a great banquet when they weren’t even invited.  The prodigal son who was showered with gifts he didn’t deserve.

            When you are faced with what seems impossible, don’t leave God out of the equation!  If we will turn to him, if we will go to him with what we have, give it to him, he will take it and bless it and give it back to us, and it will be enough. 

            With God, there is always enough—and more than enough.  When we turn to the Lord and seek his help, he will provide for our needs, whether that’s food for our cupboard or money for our bills or love for our neighbor or strength to do his will.  So let us remember that God is always part of the equation.  It’s not just what we have, but what we have plus God, and with him, we know that all things are possible.  In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Notes

  1. Frederick Dale Bruner, John: A Commentary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2012), 361.
  2. Ibid, 362.
  3. sermonillustrations.com.
  4. Bruner, ibid, 362.
  5. “Feeding of 5,000,” Homiletics, August 3, 2008.

Rev. Dawn M. Mayes

Manassas Presbyterian Church

Manassas, Virginia

           

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