Why Were Crowds Following Jesus?
The crowds were following Jesus because of the signs that he had performed. They knew him to be one who was full of compassion and forgiveness. A woman had come to him who had lived in adultery all of her life, and he sent her away renewed and forgiven. He knew that she had been looking for fulfillment and completeness that the world could not provide, water that would refresh her so much so that she would never thirsty again. And he is the living water that came down from heaven. A man had come to him because his child was at the point of death and Jesus sent him away saying, “Go your son will live.” This man has the power over death and his very words speak life. Another man had come who was paralyzed and blind and Jesus said “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” And at once this man was healed. Finding him again Jesus reminded him where his healing had come from and warned him against the temptations of the flesh said to him, “See, you are well. Sin no more.” (John 4-5)
Today you are following Jesus. You have come to the place where he resides because you know the compassion that he has for you, the signs that he has done, and the promises that ever hold true for you today.
Do Not Despair
As we gather, Jesus has a warning or two for us. One is to not despair. Your life is full of trouble, you are full of weakness, you wander from the truth. Philip, in our text is tempted to despair when Jesus asked him, “Where are we going to buy bread, so that these people may eat?” Phillip forgets that Jesus is asking him with the word “we,” that is to say, Jesus is including Himself in the question. If it was only up to Phillip to feed those 5000, if it was only up to you to bear with the sufferings of this life, struggling churches, dysfunctional families, overbearing jobs or not having any job, the inevitable death of yourself and your loved ones, the sins of others, and your own sins then yes, despair, along with Philip. Say “200 denarii worth of bread would not be enough for each of them to get a little.” Say, “I don’t have enough energy, I am not good enough, I don’t have enough compassion, I can’t get through depression by myself, I can’t keep doing what they ask me or demand me to do, my body is.” that is to say, despair.
Jesus, the Good Shepherd Includes Himself in the Question
But Jesus does not ask Philip “Where are you going to buy bread?” but “Where are we going to buy bread?” And it isn’t up to you alone, you and Jesus make a very strong we.
As Jesus had that group of 5000 sit down in the plush green grass in order to feed them so that he is their Good Shepherd, he comes to you as your Lord and Shepherd today. “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures (Psalm 23).” You need his tender care, and he comes as your shepherd. You come hungry for forgiveness and strength for tomorrow, and he feeds you. You come thinking that you belong to this world, belong to your sinful flesh, belong to your depression and despair, and Jesus proclaims to you that you belong to him. He has bought you with his own blood, and you are his.
Jesus, The Passover Lamb
The time that Jesus first gave food to the 5000 was when the Passover was near, when it was time for the lamb to be slain to remind the people that because of God’s great mercy, death and judgment passed over them. Two years after this feeding of 5000, the Passover lamb that was to be slain was Jesus himself. the wrath that we deserve, the hell that we deserve, the punishments that we deserve would be placed upon him and pass over us.
When Jesus feeds the 5000, there is leftovers, enough to be gathered up. The people all ate and were filled. You come with your old sin and your new sin, and Jesus comes with his mercies which are new every morning. You come as children of the world and Jesus adopts you into his own family and provides for all you need of body and soul. He always has leftovers. He does not run out of his love, or his care, or his relief, or his grace that has the power to cleanse and set free. He has loved you, and he loves you still. He has fed you, he feeds you still. He has bought you, you are his. He brings you joy, he consoles you and comforts you as you have come to the house of the Lord. There is always leftovers.
The Second Warning
And the leftovers that he gives to us, as our cup overflows, it overflows with forgiveness and guidance and care and favor and love and mercy for the very people that surround us. And as we care for them, it is right to hear our Lords second warning, that we not become so focused on the prosperity or the tribulation of this life, that we begin to think that Jesus only came to make our life better. After the feeding, Jesus knew that the people wanted to take him by force to make him their king. But he wanted to be their king, not by providing miraculous bread for them day in and day out without their work or without their sweat in labor. He wanted to be their king by giving up his body for the life of the world.
You Are Still One the Way
As you care for others, and as you suffer with others and also suffer because of others, do not become so focused on the joys and sorrows of this life that you fail to recognize the life to come. Yes he feeds you and comforts you and gives you joy and consolation along the way, but he also wants to remind us that we are on the way and that there is an end. Do not get too distracted along the way. You are baptized. You do not need earths treasures many because you have the one treasure that is worth more than any. Along that way, pray to him that you might acknowledge his merciful goodness, give thanks for all of his benefits, and serve him in willing obedience. Do not ask, “How am I going to do it,” because you are not a you alone. You and Jesus are a we. Amen.