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Loving Jesus For What We Can Get Out of Him
Dou Ting Didymus
John 6:1-15; also: II Kings 4: 42-44 Psalm 145:10-11, 15-16, 17-18 Ephesians 4:1-6

T oday’s Gospel reading tells us about the multiplication of the food, how five barley loaves and two fishes fed over five thousand people. This was indeed a miracle. But Christ did not come to dazzle us with miracles. That was not his mission.

My brothers and sisters, the miracle is not the main point of this famous Bible story. We know from the reading in II Kings that Elisha multiplied barley loves to feed a hundred. Multiplying loaves was not new. Before Christ the prophets cured people, cleansed lepers, and even raised the dead to life. The miracle of the loaves and the fishes is not the main point of this story. Let’s see if we can find the main point.

Jesus had gone to the other side of the Sea of Galilee to Bethsaida. Large crowds followed this young, charismatic teacher who could heal the sick. Jesus went on to a mountain and sat with His disciples. Jesus chose a remote place. He looked up and saw thousands of people coming toward Him. He knew these poor pilgrims were hungry and tired. A compassionate Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?” Philip answered that; “Six months wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to eat a little.”

On of the other disciples, Andrew, said to Jesus, “There’s a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?” Jesus said, “Make the people to sit down.”

Then Jesus took the loaves and the two small fish and when He had given thanks, He distributed to the people and they ate as much as they wanted. When the people saw what Jesus had done they began to come toward Him. When Jesus realized that they were about to come and take Him by force … to make Him king … He withdrew to the mountain by Himself.” He escaped from the people. He fled from them.

What can we learn from this story? What is the teaching all about? Let us look at the characters.

First, there is Jesus. The feeding of the five thousand occurred very early in Christ’s ministry. It occurred not long after John the Baptist baptized our Lord. After baptism, Jesus went into the desert where Satan tempted Him. In the third temptation, the devil took Jesus to a very high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world. And the devil said to Jesus, “All these I give to you, if you will … worship me.” In other words, the devil offered Jesus power and an earthly kingdom. There was only one small catch; there was only one small compromise … the devil would have to be worshiped. Jesus, of course, would not forsake God. Now, with the people surging toward Him at Bethsaida, wanting to make Him their king, Jesus saw the devil’s temptation again. And so, “… he withdrew to the mountain alone.”

One of the lessons here is that the devil never quits. As the devil did with Jesus, he will follow us to the very hour of our death, tempting us at that last moment to forsake God. We must be forever vigilant and watchful. And we should never compromise with Satan. We shouldn’t leave a part of our life devoted to evil pursuits. My brothers and sisters, it’s not good enough, in God’s eyes, to be 75% devoted to God’s virtues and 25% devoted to the pursuit of greed, fornication, hatred, and envy. Being “by-and-large” or “more-or-less” a good Christian is not our aim. There is no compromise with the Devil. Every temptation must be resisted.

Let’s look at another character in the loaves and fishes story. There’s the disciple Philip. When he considers how the vast crowd might be fed, Philip throws up his hands. He declares the situation hopeless. Are we like Philip? When the Lord asks us for a hard task – like forgiving our enemies -- do we say: “It’s impossible, I can’t do it! It’s too much for me.” If we have this attitude, we are like Philip, we have forgotten about Christ’s power and grace. We don’t think to draw Jesus Christ on to our team.

Then there’s Andrew. He doesn’t declare the situation hopeless. He enters the crowd and begins to look for food. He finds a young boy with five barley loaves and two small fishes. Andrew does something the Lord likes. Andrew tries, at least, to do his part. He takes the first few steps toward Christ. But then his faith falters, too. He says but this little food is nothing to feed thousands. Is our faith like Andrews? Are we double-minded in our belief in God? Do we believe in God … up to a point? Then does our faith falter?

Then we have the boy who would donate his five loaves and two fishes. He must have felt embarrassed. The hungry crowd saw him making his way forward with his tiny offering. Was the crowd laughing at the boy? But what did Christ do? He accepted this small gift with gratitude. He then took this modest gift and added His own power to multiple it to feed thousands. What is the lesson for us? The lesson is that when we’re asked to give to our church, or to give to our neighbor who is in need, we must not say, “But I have so little to offer.” Don’t use that as an excuse to do nothing. We should give whatever we have. Even if our gift is small, if we try to give to a righteous cause, Christ will add His power to make it grow.

Jesus needs what we can bring Him. If we would only make ourselves His servants, there’s no telling what He could do with us and through us.

Lastly, in this beautiful story of the loaves and fishes, there was the crowd. The crowd was waiting for a prophet. The mob was eager to support Jesus when He gave them what they wanted. He had healed them and fed them. The crowd would mold Jesus to their own dreams of a conquering political Messiah. They wanted a political leader, a political king. They wanted Jesus to drive out the Romans who occupied the Jews homeland.

Are we so much different than the crowd at Bethsaida? Don’t we, too, appeal to Jesus for strength to go on with our schemes and ideas? Or do we ask for His strength to make us humble and obedient so that we might better accept -- not our plans and wishes -- but His plans and wishes? Do we say, “Lord give me the strength to do what You want me to do?” Or, in reality, is it more like, “Lord give me the strength to do what I want to do?”

Are we so much different than this crowd at Bethsaida? We’re glad to take from Jesus. We take comfort in sorrow; strength in difficulty; peace in turmoil; help in the face of depression. But when Jesus comes to us with a stern demand for sacrifice – like asking us to forgive our enemies … then we want nothing to do with Jesus. Like the crowd at Bethsaida, do we love Jesus for what we can get out of Him?

Isn’t it true, my brothers and sisters, that we sometimes would like Christ’s gifts without his cross? We would like to use Him instead of allowing Him to use us? Isn’t this lesson the main point of the story about the loaves and fishes?

Jesus performed miracles among the Jews. He cured paralytics; He cleansed lepers; He raised the dead to life. But other prophets had done that too. Jesus changed a few loaves into many and fed a countless multitude. But Elisha did that. What new thing, then, did Jesus Christ do? What was new was that God died as man that man might live! The Son of God was crucified that He might lift us up to heaven.

This being His great gift to us … shouldn’t we pray to the Lord … not that He always help us to do what we want to do, but pray instead that the Lord use us as instruments to do what He wants us to do?

God bless you.