No Other Name Week 4: Feeding the 5,000
Pastor Dan’s sermon “Feeding the 5,000” in the No Other Name series is available right here.
My biggest takeaway from this week’s sermon was this: How do we answer the question, “Who is Jesus?”
This is the question all of us need to grapple with. The identity of Jesus. Because what we decide about Him changes our lives.
This week we explored the story in John 6 about Jesus feeding the 5,000. What a crazy miracle, hey? If we’ve grown up in the church and read or heard this story a gazillion times, it’s easy to lose some of the awe around it. But imagine being there on that hillside with Jesus. He took five small loaves of bread and two fish and fed at least 5,000 people. That’s like feeding our full CrossRoads sanctuary five times. With almost nothing. How awesome!
It is interesting that the text notes 5,000 men but ignores the rest. There were probably at least twice that many people there that day, if not more. But I heard Ray VanderLaan, a speaker who knows a ton about Jewish culture during the time of Jesus, talk about this story once. He says that a Jew could read this story and see some cool symbolism here. Often in Judaism, certain numbers remind people of certain things about God or themselves. For example, in Judaism, the number two is often a reminder of the two tablets of Moses, which reminds them of the Law God gave to the Israelites. The number five is a reminder of the first five books of the Bible — the Torah, which Jews consider most important in Scripture.
In the feeding of the 5,000 we see five loaves of bread and 5,000 men counted. We see two fish. Interestingly, the disciples pick up twelve baskets of leftovers, which would have immediately reminded the reader of the twelve tribes of Israel — God’s people. As Pastor Dan pointed out, Jesus is making it clear that He is the bread of life. He feeds us physically and spiritually. Someone seeing this miracle or reading this story during the time of Jesus would have probably noticed these numbers and marveled that Jesus is claiming that He is the bread of life for Israel, God’s chosen people.
But what is also cool, is what we can see in the feeding of the 4,000, which is recorded in both Matthew and Mark’s Gospels. If we read those stories, 4,000 people are counted, there are seven loaves of bread, and seven baskets of leftovers are picked up. What is interesting is that when Jesus does the feeding of the 4,000, He has been in the region of the Decapolis — a non-Jewish area. The number seven, which we see all throughout the Bible often represents completeness or wholeness. Four also represents wholeness or all, and sometimes Gentiles, who are non-Jews. Interesting that Jesus feeds 4,000 in a non-Jewish area. Someone reading this Gospel, or the disciples watching this miracle happen, would have wondered — is Jesus the bread of life for the whole world as well, not just for the Jewish people? As we know, the answer is “yes”! Jesus has come for all people — for the whole world!
But back to the main point. I was hit by what Pastor Dan pointed out in his sermon — Jesus asks how they were going to feed everyone, and Philip responded with how expensive it would be! Now by this time, the disciples may not have yet realized exactly who Jesus was — that He was God in the flesh — but they had already seen Him do some amazing things. Same goes for us — we read in the Bible of God’s great works and we’ve experienced them in our own lives. So why, when a problem comes up, do I immediately start figuring out how to pay for it or how to learn enough to overcome it or how to seek out the right people to fix it? Why on earth do I not automatically go to the One who can solve it, to the One who has done above and beyond what we can ask or imagine? Why don’t we expect that our God is still at work today?
Like Pastor Dan said, it’s a simple answer. We need to trust Jesus. We need to trust that He knows what He’s doing. We need to entrust our lives to Him and walk in His way. And as we do that, He invites us to work with Him. We give Him what we have — five loaves, two fish, our basement suite, our extra cash, our time. We trust Him to do His work with it.
And if we answer that first question — “Who is Jesus?” — with the correct answer, then He is always worth trusting, always worth believing, and always worth the journey.
So let’s practice trusting Him this week!