A sermon on the feeding of the 5000
Do I offer myself to Jesus? Or do I demand that Jesus does what I tell him to do?
In the name of the father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. Please sit. This miracle is the only one that appears in all four of the gospels, and I love preaching on it because there’s so much in there.
My general approach to this gospel is one of two things. The first is to ask you how many miracles there are in this gospel. And, you know, always that it’s a trick question because you know that I always say, well, there’s one more than you think, because the first miracle is that all of these people were coming to see Jesus and what he could do for them.
The second thing that I would say about this gospel is it demonstrates what we are called to do as Christians to help the world, because it is very easy for us to say, look at people who are homeless. Look at people who are hungry and go, well, there’s just so many people who need our help, who need our support that we can’t possibly help them all. And so therefore, we do nothing. But what this gospel shows us is that if we do the small good in front of us, then that small good will be amplified by God around the world.
It’s a very practical thing, because when people see you helping others, they, too will help others. That’s the practical outworking of the Holy Spirit in the world. But today, I want to concentrate on the final few verses, the people seeing this sign that he had given said this really is the prophet who is to come into the world Jesus who could see they were about to come and take him by force and making King escaped back to the hills by himself.
Why is this tacked on to the end of this amazing miracle? Well, it’s because it’s telling us that the people of the time saw Jesus at this point as the fulfilment of scriptures, as the fulfilment of prophecy. In Deuteronomy, here was the Messiah, the king who was going to come and lead them from oppression. Jesus was the king who was going to come and stand on the neck of the evil of the evil Roman Empire and throw them out.
That is how the people saw Jesus at this point. They saw him as their king. They saw him as the person who would turn away the overzealous ruler. But this is the same crowd who not very long afterwards was screaming, crucify him, crucify him! The same people, the people who were there at the feeding of the 5000 when Jesus was doing what they wanted him to do, he was their king. But the moment Jesus offered something different, something more difficult to accept, the crowd turned.
And it was no longer “here is the prophet who is to come into the world” but crucify him! How fickle. The reaction of the world around him.
And there are two things to take from that. The first is that if you seek approval of the world and not of God, then the approval of the world will turn on you. The moment you do something that the world doesn’t like, you’ve had it.
And the second thing is to think about and this is the crux of the homily today, is to think about your relationship with Jesus Christ. This crowd was loyal because it was a bought loyalty. They were loyal to Jesus at this point and he could do no wrong because they had expectations of him that he was fulfilling.
Are we any different to that crowd? When we want comfort in sorrow, when we want strength in difficulty, when we want peace in turmoil, when we want help in the face of depression, there is no one so wonderful as Jesus to turn to.
He sooths us and he heals us. We open our hearts to him. We ask him to be in our lives. This really is the prophet who has come into the world. But when Jesus comes to us with a demand of sacrifice in our lives, when Jesus comes to us with the offer of a cross to carry. What’s your reaction then? Well, we have nothing to do with him then, will we turn like the crowds turned and scream, crucify him because he is asking us to do something that is hardthat, is difficult, that the world will not approve of?
We examine our hearts in those moments. We will find that we love Jesus, not for who he is, but for what we can get out of him. When we appeal to Christ, it is for strength to go on, it is for strength to go on with our own schemes, our own ideas, our own plans.
It never seems to be for humility and obedience. Is our prayer, “Lord, give me strength to do what I want to do”. Or is it, “Lord, give me the strength to do what you want me to do?”
That crowd would have followed Jesus anywhere at the point at which he fed the 5000. But they abandoned him when he offered them the cross.
Such a hard gospel.
It’s a hard question. And I don’t underestimate how difficult it is to leave church today and to ask yourself, do I offer myself to Jesus? Or do I demand that Jesus does what I tell him to do? Amen.