Going Deeper 07.23.2021

The Gospel reading for Pentecost 9... John 6:1-21

After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, also called the Sea of Tiberias. A large crowd kept following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick. Jesus went up the mountain and sat down there with his disciples. Now the Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near. When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?” He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do. Philip answered him, “Six months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.” One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?” Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” Now there was a great deal of grass in the place; so they sat down, about five thousand in all. Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted. When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, “Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost.” So they gathered them up, and from the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets. When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, “This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world.” When Jesus realized that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself. When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea, got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing. When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were terrified. But he said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.” Then they wanted to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the land toward which they were going.

This text comes from the middle of what has been called John's "Book of Signs"-- chapters 1-12.  The story of the Feeding of the 5000 has details which vary from the versions provided by the Synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. (This is one of the few stories told in all four Gospels).  John's main focus and intent is to show that Jesus, the "Word made flesh", is indeed the long-awaited and much-anticipated Messiah.

The other Gospels tell of Jesus being filled with compassion, which motivates Him to miraculously feed the crowds.  John does not add that detail, perhaps to emphasize that the focus needs to be on this being another Messianic sign.  Yet, unless Jesus is somehow seen as being uncaring, John has Jesus distributing the food Himself rather than the disciples... and act involving direct intimacy with the crowd.  John also adds the detail that the bread is "barley loaves", which was the bread of the poor.  The Messiah would show care for the poor and hungry.

Much like the first miracle/sign of turning water into a very large quantity of very fine wine, the feeding of the multitude in the wilderness brings to mind references to great banquets in the messianic age referred to by Isaiah and other prophets, as well as the Psalmists.  Jesus' walking on the water demonstrates that this Messiah is not only from God, but is God.

Finally, there is something to be said about the detail of it being "dark" as the disciples struggled across the rough waters.  This is another common term in John's Gospel.  Jesus is the Light of the Word who comes to us in the darkness of our struggles to accompany us through the storms.  On our own, we're in trouble...

With You in Him,

Mark Gabbert, Pastor

Zion Lutheran Church, Wellington

"Gratefully Growing Servants"