John 6:1-15, Ephesians 3:14-21
A man was walking along the beach and he saw a sand covered bottle washed up on the shore. After he wiped of the sand with his handkerchief and polished it for a bit, low and behold a genie popped out and said “I grant you three wishes”. Startled but excited he asked for a bottle of beer that would never run out and “pop” there it was. Thirsty and to test the situation he guzzles down it down and unbelievably, after he’d taken the last drop it fills up again, and while thinking he’s hit the jackpot the genie announces “he still has two wishes left and asks for what does he wish from them” and in excitement he says “I’ll have two more of those bottles please.” That’s probably the kind of mistake I would make.
The scene for today’s Gospel see’s Jesus and His disciples traveling by boat across the Sea of Tiberias to withdraw from the crowds following, that they might rest and have time for prayer. It is said that the distance of travel by sea was only six kilometres and so, those following and seeing the direction of Jesus movements hastily set of on the twelve or so kilometre land journey so that only shortly after Jesus had arrived and taken refuge on a hill overlooking a grassy plain, the crowd had caught up and began to appear in droves.
Significantly it’s the time of the Passover (our Easter) and so the crowd reported as 5,000 men, meaning more likely 20,000 men, women and children has swelled to such great numbers with not the least being from those pilgrims on their journey from all over Israel to Jerusalem. Many of same people that would greet Jesus on His arrival at that Passover in Jerusalem with Palm leaves and their coats on the road before Him and shouting “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord-the King of Israel.” And many of the same people that but a short time later would deny Him, ridicule Him and even cheer for His executioners as they marched Him to the cross.
Yet with all this to take place, at the sight of the crowd Jesus ‘sympathy was kindled. They were hungry and they were tired, and they must be fed. Quite a predicament given that to feed such a gathering would have cost six months of the average wage, never mind that the two neighbouring towns of 3,000 residents could not have supplied such a mass of food even if they wanted too. So without Woolworths, Coles and Aldi’s approval still before Local government we have quite a predicament.
Enter the apostle Andrew who after putting the hat around returns to Jesus with a boy with the princely sum of five barley loaves and two little fish. Which in itself is ironic being that it would seem highly unlikely that those on pilgrimage would set of without any supplies and ironic that the one to come clean is this boy whose picnic lunch was that of barley loaves-the bread that was the cheapest of all bread and held in contempt by the middle to upper class plus a couple of sardine like pickled fish, and as we know the rest is history to where everyone ate their fill with still twelve baskets overflowing at the end.
In the Epistle Paul prays for us that: “May you experience the love of Christ, though it is so great you will never fully understand it” and in the feeding of those people that day we get a glimpse of the power and love of Christ which this side of heaven is hard to understand in its many aspects.
An amazing story of what can be, what is, and what will be that awakens and shakes the realities around us like that of the tale of an old German schoolmaster who, when he entered his class in the morning, used to remove his cap and bow ceremoniously to them. One asked him why he did this. His answer was ”You never know what one of these students may someday become”, and he was right-because one of those students was named Martin Luther.
Martin Luther who just may have had some Aussie heritage as seen in his conversations and attacks from the devil who after being told that he was basically a short of knowledge want to be as well as a sinner of many proportions would reply: “Well while that may be, I am a baptised and forgiven one.” Basically, “She’ll be right mate, Jesus has got my back covered.”
A great truth that allows us to be both amongst the crowd being fed, and amongst those helping feed.
The sinner in self and yet the saint in Christ. The served and the servant. The afflicted and yet the quenched.
Earlier in the service we heard from the book of Luke, that: I tell you that there will be rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents. We are that sinner and like those in the crowd on the banks of the Tiberias Sea saw and received a miracle, I stand today here before the recipients of not one incident but of the whole of the miracles and passion of Christ. I stand here before the greatness of Christ as displayed in you that has brought the angels and all the company of heaven to sing and rejoice.
Unbelievable and startling statements if not backed up by scripture in which they are. Amazing statements of the truth of how we sit before God the Father through Christ which can only be fathomed in faith. The same faith that saw Mother Theresa respond to a media question of her time in the Indian slums “that she has never seen God among such a situation, but I know he’s here.”
Her faith in the truth amongst what may appear. Her faith in the truth that Christ is with her both in the confines of here place of worship and in her place of work.
A little boy who gave up all his food, five loaves of bread and two small fish that Christ perform His miracle. A nun who gave up her life that she be that miracle to those still with empty stomachs, and Jesus Christ who gave His life that you be among those who have come out of the great tribulation and washed your robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. To receive the Lord’s shelter before his throne. To never again hunger or thirst. To not experience scorching heat nor the need to shed a tear and the Lamb at the centre of the throne, your shepherd who has lead you to His springs of living water.
There among those who have come out of the great tribulation. Standing before Christ: A nun and those that Christ touched through her. A little boy with not bread or fish but surrounded by those who Christ filled with them. To be alongside our mothers and fathers, daughters and sons. To be there amongst a great crowd of some you served, yet knew not. To be before the throne of God with our Great Shepherd Jesus Christ and know that when we bought failure, he bought success. To know that in all ways and things that Christ worked to guide us to that moment and hear for ourselves those angels once again sing and rejoice for our Saviour Jesus Christ who gave His life, that we have life-both eternally on that day, and life lived today eternally grateful that come what may-nothing shall ever separate us from the love of Christ. Amen.