Does God allow things to happen that are “more than you can stand”? What about cancer, catastrophe or death?
Let’s learn the truth about God’s control over life’s trials.
We will look at John’s version of the feeding the 5000 and Jesus walking on water in John 6:1-21.1
John 6:1 After this, Jesus crossed over to the far side of the Sea of Galilee, also known as the Sea of Tiberias. 2 A huge crowd kept following him wherever he went, because they saw his miraculous signs as he healed the sick. 3 Then Jesus climbed a hill and sat down with his disciples around him. 4 (It was nearly time for the Jewish Passover celebration.) 5 Jesus soon saw a huge crowd of people coming to look for him. Turning to Philip, he asked, “Where can we buy bread to feed all these people?” 6 He was testing Philip, for he already knew what he was going to do. 7 Philip replied, “Even if we worked for months, we wouldn’t have enough money to feed them!” 8 Then Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up. 9 “There’s a young boy here with five barley loaves and two fish. But what good is that with this huge crowd?” 10 “Tell everyone to sit down,” Jesus said. So they all sat down on the grassy slopes. (The men alone numbered about 5,000.) 11 Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks to God, and distributed them to the people. Afterward he did the same with the fish. And they all ate as much as they wanted. 12 After everyone was full, Jesus told his disciples, “Now gather the leftovers, so that nothing is wasted.” 13 So they picked up the pieces and filled twelve baskets with scraps left by the people who had eaten from the five barley loaves. 14 When the people saw him do this miraculous sign, they exclaimed, “Surely, he is the Prophet we have been expecting!” 15 When Jesus saw that they were ready to force him to be their king, he slipped away into the hills by himself.
16 That evening Jesus’ disciples went down to the shore to wait for him. 17 But as darkness fell and Jesus still hadn’t come back, they got into the boat and headed across the lake toward Capernaum. 18 Soon a gale swept down upon them, and the sea grew very rough. 19 They had rowed three or four miles when suddenly they saw Jesus walking on the water toward the boat. They were terrified, 20 but he called out to them, “Don’t be afraid. I am here!” 21 Then they were eager to let him in the boat, and immediately they arrived at their destination!
The Setting (John 6:1-4)
It was about Passover time, a spring festival in the Northern Hemisphere. Passover is a week-long festival according to the Jewish liturgical calendar in Leviticus 23. It starts as the sun sets beginning the 15th of the first month. That first night is celebrated with the Passover meal and no leavened bread is eaten for the remainder of the festival. Holy assemblies begin and end the week. It was near this time that Jesus crossed the sea of Galilee and sat on a hill with his disciples. A huge expectant crowd kept following him. Why were they following him? It was because they saw his miraculous signs. Signs eventually prove to be insufficient as many are later offended and leave. The faithful ones may stumble as did all twelve of the apostles, but will eventually stay to the very end.
Like another Feed in the Wilderness
Church membership is not like a club where we go to be fed or have social needs met. Church membership is a calling from God. We should ask God for discernment as to whether or not he is calling us to a share in the ministry of a particular church, not whether or not all our needs are being met. The disciples were not the crowd. They were called to serve not be served. Could it be that if we see a particular need, God is calling us to fulfill that need? Those sitting on the grassy slopes were not believers. Like those who experienced the first Passover, many of them later complained. There are always complainers. Even after the miracle of the Exodus and God feeding Israel, they complained. God did not let the complainers into the promised land.
Miracle Food (John 6:5-15)
Jesus asks a significant question. Where would they buy bread to feed all these people? He knew the answer, but as a master teacher he was testing his student Philip preparing for the object lesson. Jesus often referred to where he or the miracle wine, or the Spirit, or the living water, his other miracles came from. Where does our ultimate help come from? Is Jesus prompting us with the same question today? Philip, the adult, says it would take months of income to pay for enough food. A young boy offers five loaves of bread made from barley and two fish. Can we also learn from the naive faith of our children? Do we say, we can’t afford it and do nothing, or do we say, we have scarce resources, let’s pray and ask what God has in mind?
Barley and Fish
Wheat bread was common. Barley was a poor man’s bread and the fish may have been dried or preserved. The boy’s food seems more than a lunch for one. Jesus gave thanks, the Greek for Eucharist, and coupled with the miracle of water into wine, ties into Holy Communion, the greatest meal of all, the meal that would represent his sacrifice for us. When the disciples gathered up the leftovers, they gathered up the fragments of broken bread. Breaking bread is also a term for the Eucharist. Like the Manna in the wilderness, God had again provided. They attempted to make him fit their political idea of the prophet they had been expecting so he left. When the people vote you in the people rule you. Does God walk away if we try to use him for our political gain?
Walking on Water (John 6:16-21)
The key to this passage may be what Jesus says in verse 20, literally, “I am, fear not.” The divine name “I am” is a well-known name for God, also called Yahweh and usually translated as the LORD in the Old Testament, where he also tells people not to fear (Genesis 15:1; Isaiah 43:1; 44:2, 8). This is why Jesus is called Lord in the New Testament. Why were the disciples afraid of Jesus approaching them walking on water? Why are many people afraid of God or afraid of going to church? Is it lack of faith or feelings of guilt or a lack of willingness to accept God as he is? We like to make God over in our image, as Savior but not Lord. As with ancient Israel, Jesus made a way through the sea.
Does God try us above what we are able, so that we learn that we cannot do it on our own? He will never try us above what we are able with his help to overcome.
1 Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007, 2013 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.