These are two of the most wonderful stories in the Fourth Gospel. Bible study can sometimes lead us to things that challenge our faith and yet at the same time increase our understanding of scripture that in a way captures and here I barrow from Paul Harvey “The rest of the story.” There is quite a story here and if you are preaching, one whale of a sermon. Looking at the feeding of the five thousand the improbability of feeding that many people does challenge our faith. It is even more challenging considering the amount Jesus had to work with, now the rest of the story. Setting the scene:
-the people had seen Jesus heal the sick
-Jesus and the disciples had withdrawn to a hill nearby
-at the base was a grassy field
-the field was near a main road
-the Passover Feast was at hand and the roads were full of people
-Jesus saw the multitude coming toward him and had compassion for them
The players in this story include not only people but time, place and circumstance. Now the passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand and the roads were full of travelers eager to be in Jerusalem for this holiday. There was a main road that ran close by to this grassy field. Jesus asked Philip where they could buy food to feed these people, even though he knew what he would do. Philip replied that it would take six months wages to buy enough food to feed these people. One of the disciples, Andrew stepped forward and told Jesus about a boy who had five barley loaves and two fish! Andrew followed Jesus’ instructions and with the rest of the disciples distributed enough to feed all those present and still have enough left over to fill 12 baskets. Some things to remember. Philip, thinking like any of us often do, saw the enormity of the need and no real practical way to meet it. Now scripture doesn’t say it but I believe it very possible that this young boy offered what he had believing it would help the situation. Andrew apparently was not willing to accept that they just give up and was willing to reach out and put forward any hope of finding a way to feed these people. We see here a perfect example of turning over to God the impossible and having faith God will make it happen!
Included in these verses is the story of Jesus walking on water and here again we allow mortal practicality to marginalize our faith. Here in verses 16-21 we are again challenged and our faith tested. Jesus had finished feeding the five thousand and the crowds surged toward him and he left quietly instructing the disciples to take the boat to the other side of the lake. It was his intention to walk around the head of the lake while they rowed across and rejoin them in Capernaum. It was as Snoopy was known to say “a dark and stormy night. The Jews would refer to it as the second evening, the time between twilight and dark. They had been rowing for almost four hours due to the intensity of the storm. Then they suddenly saw Jesus walking on the water toward the boat. Now in this day and time all people were superstitious and they believed it to be a ghost and were terrified. In verse 20 Jesus calls out to them and they took him into the boat and in 21 they immediately reached land. Now there is a lot of commentaries and opinions as to what really happened here, all designed to make an improbability a probable. I will not go there but offer these thoughts. These verses contain one phrase that sets to rest any need to ponder what happen here. But he said to them, ‘it is I; do not be afraid” and they took him into the boat. How often in times of uncertainty and fear do we not hear the voice of God because of our lack of faith?
The rest of the story is rather simple. How many times have we as a church using our human reasoning limited our faith that God can do anything? Why can’t we be like that little boy and Andrew? Willing to give, giving it to God and trust he will make it happen. Why are we not able to realize how important it is to listen for God’s voice as he calls out to us and allow him to make our impossibilities, possible, removing our fears of the uncertainties of this life? There are many “rest of the stories” in the good book and to find them you have to go beyond the words to the faith of a believer who knows the word but also hears the calling of God.
Thanks for joining me in the Pew this week.
Life is Good!