After this, Jesus crossed over to the far side of the Sea of Galilee, also known as the Sea of Tiberias. A huge crowd kept following him wherever he went, because they saw his miraculous signs as he healed the sick. Then Jesus climbed a hill and sat down with his disciples around him. (It was nearly time for the Jewish Passover celebration.)
Jesus is tired of the crowds who have started following him. He is looked upon as the miracle man. Where Jesus goes, marvel follows. So, he takes his disciples with him to the hills looking down on the Sea of Galilee.
Let’s review the importance of location in the events in the life of Jesus. The Sea of Galilee is really a lake. It is the only freshwater lake in the Middle East. Fishing is the biggest industry here. This is interesting because the people of Israel are not a seafaring people at the time. They are afraid of the sea, especially the Great Sea, which is their name for the Mediterranean. But, Lake Galilee is navigable when it comes to fishing and travel. It is about the size of Big Bear Lake.
The mountains surrounding the lake are similar to our Valley mountains. We would call them “hills.” There were vast fields of grass and also mustard plants. Wild flowers, like lilies, also grow there.
Jesus is going to use his environment for teaching illustrations. Almost all of his teaching is outdoors and so it is easy to simply point to his surroundings to make a point. Ok, now let’s go to Jesus and the hills above the Lake Galilee.
We recall John is writing this gospel to show the evidence of Jesus from a first hand perspective.
Remember these verses?
The disciples saw Jesus do many other miraculous signs in addition to the ones recorded in this book. 31 But these are written so that you may continue to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing in him you will have life by the power of his name.
John is writing like a good detective novel, giving us clues along the way. But. unlike a detective novel, John is not trying to confuse us with false leads and take us on tangents to get us off the trail to solve the case. John will use true clues that take us to strategic places helping us consider whom Jesus really is.
Here’s a big clue. It is passover time again. The minds of everyone are occupied with Moses and the Exodus. The people are, once again, getting ready for Passover.
Moses is the most famous and importance person in the Old Testament other than God himself. The great leader and prophet. The contrast between Moses and Jesus is intentional. The Jewish audience of Jesus is not going to miss the clear signs of how Jesus is bigger and better than Moses.
The crowds follow Moses and Jesus because of the signs they have seen.
With Moses, the Israelites follow him after seeing God at work in the plagues; with Jesus it us abundance and healing that attract the crowds.
Moses spends time in the wilderness. Jesus goes away in the wilderness. Moses spends time in the mountains. Jesus is in the mountains. But, Jesus is bigger than Moses.
Moses talked mouth-to-mouth with God. Jesus is God come to earth.
Moses given God’s name when he asks, Jesus is God’s name. Moses saw God’s backside, Jesus in the heavenly dimension is with the Father directly.
Moses brings Israel out of Egypt and across the Red Sea, receives the Ten Commandments on Mt. Sinai, and lead the people through the wilderness to the Land of Promise. Jesus does more. We will see.
Use your imagination to consider what this scene in the real life of Jesus looks like to you.
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?”
Like Moses, Jesus is going to feed the multitude in the wilderness with one key difference. When Moses and the Israelites are wandering in the wilderness, Moses doesn’t know where their food us going to come from. He says to God,
“Where am I to get meat to give to all this people?”
Well, God is in charge of the meal service. He sends down manna from the sky. It is a bread like-substance that comes like frost on on cold morning. It is called, “manna” because it is so strange. “Manna” means “What is it?”
But when it comes to feeding the multitudes, Jesus already knows what to do. He is not going to pray for manna to come again.
He was testing Philip, for he already knew what he was going to do.
Jesus uses these circumstances to measure how well his training with the disciples is going. He tests his disciples and they fail the test.
Read Exodus 16 today.
Philip replied, “Even if we worked for months, we wouldn’t have enough money to feed them!”
Jesus turned water into wine. What problem is he going to have bringing some food for the picnic? Philip is thinking in scarcity terms. Not enough money, not enough food. But, Jesus isn’t big on ordering carry out.
Then Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up. “There’s a young boy here with five barley loaves and two fish. But what good is that with this huge crowd?”
At least there is something helpful that Andrew is pointing out. This is a good indication that Jesus and his disciples are hands on in their ministry. They know the people they are connecting with. Even a young boy is not overlooked, though children often were, if you recall. The fact that there is a kid with the five barley loaves and two fish make it all the more interesting.
Though there are a million other questions I want to ask. There are no adults who have packed a picnic lunch? Or maybe the adults are stingy and are hiding what they have. Good for you, kid.
But, Andrew doesn’t get it, either. He is thinking scarcity, there is not enough to go around. But, Jesus?
Well, Jesus knows, with God, there is always enough. Jesus works with what is available. This is more than enough.
How have you experienced more than enough from God?
“Tell everyone to sit down,” Jesus said. So they all sat down on the grassy slopes. (The men alone numbered about 5,000.) Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks to God, and distributed them to the people. Afterward he did the same with the fish.
Sounds like a quite a picnic, doesn’t it? The number 5,000 doesn’t appear significant other than sensing the size of the miracle. There are women and children here, as well, but they aren’t in the count. Rather than trying to take modern sensitivities and project them back to the time of Jesus, let’s just go with, there are 5,000 guys there.
This is a big crowd. And there are no large towns near where they are.
But, like Moses in the wilderness, there is always more than enough for everyone to eat their fill. Notice, the story slows down as Jesus shows the power of God.
Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks to God, and distributed them to the people. Afterward he did the same with the fish.
We don’t want to jump the gun and think of the obvious connection to the Last Supper, Holy Communion, which isn’t even instituted, yet. But, it is clear there is a connection. Except that instead of serving tilapia at worship, we will have wine! But, for this picinic, bread and fish for everyone!
And they all ate as much as they wanted. After everyone was full, Jesus told his disciples, “Now gather the leftovers, so that nothing is wasted.”
I am going to pause here and think about our amazing God. The crowd of people are given what is necessary for them to survive in the hills. To satiate their appetite. Minimal caloric content and such. But, not with Jesus. Jesus goes over and above.
Not as much as they needed. As much as they wanted. Now, we shouldn’t try to make this into a general biblical principle about what God is all about. The principle is, God provides. But, let’s realize, our God is full of surprises. Yes, he does want us to be satisfied. Content with what we have. But, sometimes, it’s not about what we need, it’s what we want. Can you imagine the blessed life we can lead, when we get what we want?
Well, you can have that life starting today. A life of abundance. The key is to learn to want what God wants for you. Where your will, your choices, match what God wants for you. This takes living close to Jesus, day to day. This takes realizing that as you open yourself to Jesus and invite him in as the one who works through you, you can be satisfied. You can come to this place in your life that you have no desires, except one. Seeking his Kingdom. Seeking what Jesus wants for you. Then you always come away full and satisfied. Content. Everything is going to be alright. Shalom.
But, here we go again, Jesus is the greater one than Moses…
So they picked up the pieces and filled twelve baskets with scraps left by the people who had eaten from the five barley loaves.
12 baskets left over. One basket for each of the tribes of Israel? That’s symbolic isn’t it? And nice it is only the bread that they have leftover for later. No refrigeration, so no fish leftovers to eat. That is fortunate.
How is this Jesus as greater than Moses? Well, through Moses God is teaching his people to be satisfied with what God gives them and to expect that God will keep showing up. Trusting in God alone is their wilderness lesson. But, the Israelites don’t go for this day-to-day trust in God.
And Moses told them, “It is the food the Lord has given you to eat. 16 These are the Lord’s instructions: Each household should gather as much as it needs. Pick up two for each person in your tent.”
17 So the people of Israel did as they were told. Some gathered a lot, some only a little. 18 But when they measured it out, everyone had just enough. Those who gathered a lot had nothing left over, and those who gathered only a little had enough. Each family had just what it needed.
19 Then Moses told them, “Do not keep any of it until morning.” 20 But some of them didn’t listen and kept some of it until morning. But by then it was full of maggots and had a terrible smell. Moses was very angry with them.
There we have it. With Moses it is as much as they need. If they try to stock up, it’s like the manna is fish leftovers. Stinky and no good. With Jesus, we can learn to be satisfied with as much as we need, and through Jesus we can become the kind of people who get whatever we want. As long as we want what he wants.
When the Israelites tried to collect left over manna, it would spoil. But, the abundance Jesus provides remains available.
What are five examples of abundance you have received from Jesus?
When the people saw him do this miraculous sign, they exclaimed, “Surely, he is the Prophet we have been expecting!”
When Jesus saw that they were ready to force him to be their king, he slipped away into the hills by himself.
There they go. They just get more than enough, but it is not enough.
This is our human dilemma. Always more. Some psychologists tell us there are two main things that drive our behavior. Pain and boredom. So, what are we looking for? Pleasure and excitement. Pain relief, feeling good (or not feeling at all) and entertainments of various kinds. Without living actively with God working through us in our lives, we are restless. Relentlessly pursuing our wants until they become seen as our needs.
It’s fascinating when you think about it. So often, we do think we need these two things. The advertising world thinks we need two these two things. The products that are hawked relentlessly out there are promising these same two things. To live pain-free, pleasure instead of pain, and always be entertained.
If you can give us those two things, we will be free to pursue happiness. It’s a trap!
The crowds rightfully recognize Jesus as the prophet Moses told them was coming. The Messiah is that king. But, they want to control the king and have him do their bidding. Not just food. More.
For Israel in the first century this points to military conquest. Getting rid of the Romans. Taking charge, where they get to be the boss of everything. Come on Jesus, just like Moses, lead us to the Promise Land…Then we will be satisfied.
NO. Jesus is not going to be your puppet to be used to support your agenda. Jesus is bringing a new world. A new creation. This new creation is already started. Heaven and earth are already intersecting with Jesus. The same power that is able to access the abundance of heaven and bring bread and fish out of the atmosphere onto the earth, well this is the new man. The one who brings true satisfaction and contentment. We are restless until we rest in him.
We want it any other way in our life and Jesus withdraws. He won’t have it our way. It’s his way alone.
Unlike the Burger King promise to “have it your way,” King Jesus’ promise is so much greater.
“Have it my way.”
Look for examples of this concept of escaping pain and boredom in your own life. Thank deeply about this.