When Jesus provided food for the people on this hillside, it wasn’t just out of compassion and a desire to meet their need, Jesus wanted to make a statement, look at John 6:6. Jesus had something in mind when he made the choice to feed the people. He didn’t have to feed them and no one had asked him for food, Jesus brought up the idea because he had a plan. Jesus wanted to do something that would reveal to the people his identity as the Messiah and he wanted to do something that would teach them about the kingdom of God, so Jesus provided bread.
For the Jewish people, providing bread in the wilderness was going to be a sign of the Messiah. The people believed that the Messiah was going to be a great leader like Moses. In Deuteronomy 18:18 God said to Moses, I will raise up for them a prophet like you. So the Messiah was going be like Moses and since it was through Moses that God gave the people bread in the wilderness, the idea emerged that the Messiah would be someone who would provide bread for the people. When Jesus took 5 loaves of bread and distributed it to thousands of people and then 12 baskets of bread were collected after dinner, it was a sign that Jesus was the Messiah. The bread was a sign that Jesus was prophet like Moses who had come to lead God’s people and set them free, which Jesus did. Jesus didn’t set people free from slavery in Egypt or even the oppression of Rome, he came to set them free from sin and death.
But the Messiah wasn’t just someone who was to provide bread like Moses, if we look at Isaiah 25:6 we see that the Messiah was also one who would provide a rich meal for all the people. Once again, the Messiah was going to be someone who would provide a meal of abundance on a mountainside, so when Jesus makes the decision to provide bread, he is making a clear statement. Jesus didn’t feed the people out of a sense of duty or compassion, he fed them in a miraculous way to let them know that he was the Messiah.
It is important for us to acknowledge and accept the truth that Jesus is the Messiah. While many world religions acknowledge Jesus as a good teacher or even a prophet like Moses or Isaiah, Jesus himself said that he was more than that. He was THE prophet that came from Moses and he was THE king that came in the line of David and he was THE LORD Almighty or God in the flesh who came to this world to show us the life God wants for us and to make that life possible. It’s important for us to accept this truth about Jesus because it is accepting Jesus that opens the door to deeper faith and it is trusting Jesus that makes it possible for God to share his power with us. When we acknowledge Jesus as the Messiah and when we accept him as our savior and lord it allows God to have his way in our lives and it brings the power of God’s kingdom into our lives and into our world. That’s what we see in John 6.
Jesus doesn’t just reveal himself to the people as the Messiah, he taught them that the kingdom of God and abundant life comes when we are willing to give our lives to him. Look at how Jesus provided bread, he didn’t make it fall from the skies and he didn’t go out and make it himself or gather the money to buy it, he took what was given to him and multiplied it. A boy was willing to give himself to Jesus, he was willing to trust Jesus with what he had and so Jesus took that gift and used it to bring the power of God’s kingdom into that little boy’s life and into his world.
Imagine what it must have been like to be this little boy. You have 5 loaves and 2 fish – it’s not much, maybe what you would eat for the day, but you give that to Jesus and then begin to watch as that food first fed a group of people and then another group, and then another and then another and then you stand there watching the entire hillside eating dinner from what you gave. Think of the power and excitement that little boy must have felt. Think about the joy and the enthusiasm he must have experienced when he watched them gather up the leftovers. What he felt was the power of God’s kingdom entering into his life. This is what God wants each and every one of us to feel and we can feel it if we are willing to give ourselves to Jesus and share what we have with God and allow God to use it for his will, purpose and glory.
The kingdom of God comes into our lives and into our world when we are willing to give what we have to God. When we give our time or money or talent or love to God and allow God to use it, God uses it to build his kingdom. We have seen this right here. We gave what we had and were able to build a parsonage in Sierra Leone. Youth challenged us to give clean water and over the years we have helped build wells and even send a water truck to help build and repair wells. A few weeks ago children encouraged us to give to people on the other side of the globe whose homes and communities were destroyed because of an earthquake and so we gave and our giving helps build God’s kingdom.
What I love about the example of the children at VBS is that they are a clear example of how giving fills us with the power of God’s kingdom. Many of those children gave their allowances and birthday and Christmas money and when they gave they were filled with great joy and together they literally screamed with delight as they saw how their giving multiplied and grew. It’s like the little boy and his lunch. He must have shouted for joy as he saw his gift multiply and grow and he knew he was part of something great. Our VBS offering is part of something great as we help restore and rebuild communities. Our giving brings God’s kingdom into this world but it is always my hope and prayer that our giving will first bring the joy and power of God’s kingdom into us. It’s my prayer that each week when we come together to give that we would be filled with great joy because sharing who we are and what we have ushers God’s kingdom into our lives and into our world.
When we give our time to help children and youth – we bring in God’s kingdom. When we give to those who are hungry or needing homes – we bring in God’s kingdom. When we pray for unity in our nation and safety in our communities and reach out for racial reconciliation, we bring in God’s kingdom. There are so many different ways we can give and all of our giving can bring about the kingdom of God. I was at a restaurant this week with a friend and saw someone give in such a way that it brought the kingdom of God into that restaurant. An older white woman came in alone and when she arrived a young African American waiter came up and gave her a hug. They embraced and talked and then he went and sat in her booth for a while taking time to talk. I said to my friend – that is what our nation needs – people just reaching out across racial, economic and social boundaries to care for one another. He gave his time and love and right there in a booth God ushered in his kingdom. It was exciting.
Jesus knew what he was doing here. He used a little boy’s lunch because he wanted to teach us that miracles happen and God’s kingdom comes into our lives and into our worlds when we are willing to share what we have with God and others. What can we share this week and how can God use that gift and our lives to bring in His kingdom? What can we do to make a difference and bring the peace, joy, justice and love of God and God’s kingdom into our world? The reality is that there are probably dozens of opportunities we have every day to share what we have to make a difference and I want to invite all of us to open our eyes, ears, hearts and lives to share in ways that bring in the kingdom of God.
There is one more lesson about God’s kingdom that Jesus teaches us here and it comes when the meal is over. After everyone has been fed, it says they gathered up 12 baskets full of leftovers. In the kingdom of God, there isn’t just enough to go around, there is more than enough. There is a surplus, an abundance and it is significant that these leftovers filled 12 baskets. 12 is an important and symbolic number for the people of God. There were 12 tribes of Israel and there were 12 disciples so 12 is a symbol of God’s people. That there were 12 baskets of leftovers not only means that God is part of what just happened but a statement that once all of God’s people had their fill they were to then turn and share with the world.
If we go back to that passage in Isaiah, it says that on the mountain of the Lord will come a feast for all people. So not only is there abundance in God’s kingdom, but this blessing is for all people. The abundance of God is for all people. The abundance of God’s grace and mercy and love is for all people and it will be through God’s people that the world will experience this abundance. Jesus took the gift of one child and used it to feed everyone gathered there and the 12 baskets of leftovers is a sign that God’s people are now to share the abundance of God’s love with others.
Jesus never wanted his followers to simply be content to receive what God had to offer, he always wanted them to share it with others. Jesus could have made the meal go just so far, but he didn’t, there was extra so that more could experience it. The grace and love and power of God is not just for us – it is for everyone, there is an abundance that we need to offer the world.
In communion, we come to share in the bread of life – which is Jesus. As we share in this bread we experience the joy of forgiveness and acceptance and feel like we are part of something special and holy and something larger than ourselves, but in this meal there is also an abundance. Not of bread but of grace, power and love – which is the food our world really needs. We come to experience the blessing of God in order to go out into the world to be a blessing of God to others. In many ways, we are the leftovers that God can use to feed a hungry world, but only if we will share who we are and what we have with others.
Jesus provides bread as a sign that he is the Messiah and to show us that God’s kingdom comes when we are willing to share what we have with others. Jesus provides bread in abundance to remind us that the kingdom of God overflows with God’s blessing and we are to take that surplus, those leftovers, into our world.
Bread of Life ~ Jesus Provides Bread
1. Jesus providing bread was to be a SIGN that Jesus was the Messiah. Read Isaiah 25:6-9 and identify all the ways this passage points to Jesus as the Messiah.
2. In what ways did the life of Jesus reflect the life of Moses?
• Danger at birth
• Spirit of God was seen when they were called by God
• Provided bread in wilderness
• Led people out of slavery
• Led people into a Promised Land.
3. By using a little boys lunch, Jesus showed us that the kingdom of God enters our lives and world when we are willing to SHARE.
• Identify something that you can share with God this week.
• How many ways can you share yourself with God and others.
• Think back to a time when sharing something filled you with great joy or helped you experience God’s power.
4. In the kingdom of God there is SURPLUS. Identify the areas where God has blessed you in abundance. How can you offer that abundance (those leftovers) to someone else?