[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.
Jesus, Our Bread that Feeds Us
What bread do you seek after? Jesus fed that crowd of five thousand with five loaves. Yet, the very next day, a few verses down in this chapter, Jesus will warn that very same crowd not to seek Him only for a fill of earthly bread - “Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you.” [John 6:27]
That large crowd of five thousand first followed Jesus because “they saw the signs that He was doing on the sick.” And now they might only follow Him to fill their bellies.
In a time when many are fearful their pantries may run out, knowing our Lord Jesus as one who fed five thousand with only five loaves and two fish is a true comfort. Jesus, God’s Son, is the one through whom God has created and gives all things – even your daily bread.
And Jesus loves you all. And Jesus responds to those who call upon Him in every physical need. Jesus, through whom all creation exists, is indeed able, even with your very little, to supply you abundantly. This is part of the comfort of the feeding of the five thousand.
More than that, the five loaves and two small fish by which Jesus supplied so many – to eat to their fill, as much as they wanted – these loaves and fish came from one young boy who offered them as a gift. Jesus loves your neighbor. Your little amount will supply you. Your little amount also exists for the sake of your neighbor.
It is the loving will of Jesus that you commend some of the little you have into His hands as an offering for the aid and help of another. Jesus will use what you can give, though it be little, to supply someone abundantly. And, in fact, some of you have much to give, or at least more than a little.
Think of this: That young boy’s little offering of five loaves and two fish made that young boy a participant in a great miracle, a great work of the Lord. What you give likewise makes you a participant with the Lord in His work and ministry.
Healing of the sick. Feeding of the hungry. Five loaves for five thousand families. This is very good. These are great things. Yet, as we did hear further down the chapter, Jesus warned those crowds not to see this miracle of loaves as the greatest thing – “Don’t just follow me for the fill of bread. Don’t work for this food that perishes, but for that food which endures to eternal life.”
What is this food, this bread, for eternal life? This Bread is Jesus Himself. “The bread of God is he who comes down from heaven”. And, “I am the Bread of Life” [John 6:33,35,48].
Jesus is our Bread that truly feeds us. How has Jesus become our Bread for eternal life? How has He become our Bread that brings us, even now, from death to life? How has Jesus satisfied us past the grave? How has Jesus become my satisfaction and my sustenance even now?
Jesus said, “the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh” [John 6:51]. Jesus is our Bread of Life by His death on the cross. Jesus gave His flesh into death on the cross for our sins. And not for ours only, but for that of the whole world. He is the “Bread of God” who “gives life to the world” [John 6:33].
Jesus gave His life as a ransom for many [Matthew 20:28]. On Jesus was laid the iniquity of all of us [Isaiah 53:6]. By His wounds the human being is healed [Isaiah 53:5].
In the feeding of the five thousand, Jesus takes a little bread and makes it abound for the filling of many. On the cross, His one act of love and obedience has abounded for the filling of many with God’s righteousness [Romans 5:19]. Jesus became the healing and filling bread for many sinners – you and me.
Brothers and sisters, many people are anxious about many things right now. People who are now self-isolated and made un-busy don’t know how to live with themselves. Jesus is the true Bread which can satisfy us. “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” [John 6:35].
Jesus fills the hungry and thirsty soul. He fills our self with what we lack. When He is our Bread, we are satisfied and feel no lack of anything, though we lack everything else. When He becomes our Bread, we lack no person, even when we’re at home alone.
And we have Jesus by faith. Not by an empty belief, but by clinging and holding to Him in trust for what He’s done for us. “Whoever believes in Him shall never thirst.” “Everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him has eternal life” [John 6:35,40,47].
In times of anxiety, many, with a lot of toil, look to many things. All things which perish with this life and do not truly satisfy even in the meantime. You, cling to Jesus daily as your best daily bread.
You hold Him by faith, and, in fact, this is no invisible, empty thing, but He has given Himself to you in very concrete, tangible ways. Jesus gives Himself to you in His Word – the Scriptures read, listened to, and preached in sermons. He gives Himself to you in the fellowship of the faithful. He gives Himself to you truly as Bread, as Food and Drink, His true Body and true Blood, in His Holy Supper.
As others are worrying about their pantries and about stock prices, you trust in the one who can multiply bread. And seek Him as the greatest Bread in the places where He makes Himself found. Especially, brothers and sisters, if you can no longer come here for a while, seek Him still in the places where His Word is and will be made available. (And His Word and Supper will always be given here, at least individually or in one-family groups, no matter how current events turn out.)
In these times of societal trouble, disease, and danger, give like that young boy gave in today’s Gospel. And trust that you will be taken care of like that crowd of five thousand. And, most of all, “work not for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life.” Seek Jesus, your Bread of Life, the true Bread from Heaven, the only Food that satisfies. Amen.