God Abundantly Provides His Bread - John 6:1-15 - The Fourth Sunday in Lent
[John 6:1-13] After this Jesus went away to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tiberias. 2 And a large crowd was following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing on the sick. 3 Jesus went up on the mountain, and there he sat down with his disciples. 4 Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand. 5 Lifting up his eyes, then, and seeing that a large crowd was coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?” 6 He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he would do. 7 Philip answered him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread would not be enough for each of them to get a little.” 8 One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, said to him, 9 “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many?” 10 Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, about five thousand in number. 11 Jesus then 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. 12 And when they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, “Gather up the leftover fragments, that nothing may be lost.” 13 So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves left by those who had eaten.
God Abundantly Provides His Bread
Is something so small even worth it? Is something so meager meaningful? Can something so lacking even be useful at all? What good is so little for so much need? What do I bring to the table at all?
You, brothers and sisters, as you drive about your business – into Barberton, through Akron, wherever else – you are surrounded by hundreds of thousands of people. I looked it up, the population of Summit county is just over 541,000 – just over a half million (2019 stats). And that’s just the people surrounding little ol’ you.
How many other people in how many other counties? A whole nation. And how many nations? Nearly eight billion people now (7.753 billion). Yet each one of those nearly eight billion individuals have a whole life of their own. Home, work, family – going somewhere – doing something.
Each of those eight billion people – or, each of these five hundred thousand people surrounding you – will be, in just several short decades, five hundred thousand gravesites – five hundred thousand funerals. We live “seventy, or by reason of strength, eighty years” – we are “soon gone, and we fly away.” [Psalm 90]
500,000 – or 7.753 billion – each person is uniquely created by God. Each person then stands accountable to God – “It is appointed for man once to die, and after that comes judgment” [Hebrews 9:27]. Each life ends with forever-significant consequences. In a few decades, all these will pass into the eternal and immovable places. Including you and me. Others will have taken our place here.
In the face of something so grand, what measly thing do I bring to the table that makes any difference? With so many pouring through the broad gate to destruction, and so few finding the narrow gate that leads to life [Matthew 7:13-14], what difference do I make? What is so little in the face of so much?
Not to mention the individual circumstances you yourself face in your own unique life – circumstances which likely consume you and overwhelm you and your family already. What can you bring to the table?
In our Gospel reading this morning, our Lord Jesus and His twelve disciples have entered into a desert place. Christ and the disciples are up on a mountain – these weren’t large mountains – and Jesus lifts up His eyes and sees the crowd that had followed Him there. A large crowd – five thousand men plus their wives and children [Matthew 14:21] – a crowd in need of bread.
Five thousand men plus wives and children, and the disciples didn’t have with them enough provisions even for themselves. Jesus, to test His disciples, asks one, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?” The disciple responds, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread – nearly a year’s wage worth of bread – would not be enough for each of them to get a little.”
It’s not even worth the effort. What can we really do? Another disciple says, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many?” We have so little to offer – it may as well be nothing.
The one person here acting in faith was perhaps that young boy. With the faith of a child, offering up the little he had, not thinking of how much it was but of who he was offering it too.
The little that the Lord’s disciples brought to the table – five loaves and two fish, the offering from that young boy – with the Lord, this little is sufficient. In fact, with the Lord, this little is an abundance – it overflows.
Jesus then 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. And when they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, “Gather up the leftover fragments, that nothing may be lost.” So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves left by those who had eaten.
Five loaves feed five thousand, and twelve baskets are leftover. Five thousand men and wives and children are full – from so little that was brought to the table.
Whether it’s your five loaves or your two mites – when that’s all you have – or your measly prayers or your meager words which speak the Word of God’s Gospel of Jesus – when you do the little you can, your little is much in the Lord. When done and given in the name of Jesus, all you have, when it’s all you can do and give, becomes more than enough.
So it was with the five loaves of bread. So it was with the Bread of Life. A little later down in John chapter six, Jesus will tell this same crowd that He is the true bread – the Bread from heaven.
Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will not hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst” – “I am the living bread that came down from heaven” – And “the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” [John 6:35,51]
Jesus gave His body, His flesh, to be crucified on the cross in the place of sinners to give forgiveness, life, and salvation. Jesus-crucified-on-the-cross-in-man’s-place is for the life of the world – for the life of all these eight billion people – and for those before and after us.
Jesus’ offering of Bread – His offering of Himself on the cross – is the one offering that is and has been sufficient – more than sufficient. Jesus is the bread you can give that is more than sufficient for every person to whom you give Him. Jesus is the bread you receive which is more than sufficient for you. He is the Bread of Life.
Jesus’ death on the cross outside of Jerusalem on that Good Friday is the most significant thing that has ever happened. It made peace between God and man. Forgave all man’s sin. Made hope for every man’s eternal and permanent situation. Made life out of death.
Yet, that great event was very small, mostly unknown when it happened. It happened in one small corner of the world among a people who largely didn’t understand what it meant. But Jesus is God’s Bread. God’s bread is sufficient, abundant, no matter how small.
You receive the Bread of Life in the hearing of God’s Word and in the receiving of His Sacraments. You are being fed with what is sufficient for you. You give the Bread of Life when you give God’s Word to others. No matter how small and meager you are in doing this, what is given through you will be sufficient – abundant – because it is Jesus, God’s Bread, that is being given them.
Brothers and sisters, never lose heart. Not in any circumstance. What Jesus gave to the five thousand came from the meager offering of that small boy – five loaves and two fish. What Jesus gives for the life of the world today – His Word delivered – He gives through the offerings you bring to His table and through your efforts. We are insufficient; He is sufficient. He works an abundance. Amen.