Sunday Message for 25 July 2021: “Lord of Fish & Loaves”

Today’s message reveals Jesus feeding hungry folks in the wilderness (John 6:1-21). There’s a culinary oddity here such that a small amount of fish and bread were miraculously multiplied.

A crowd had followed Jesus because they were attracted by his earlier healing miracles. Jesus’ had a wonder-working reputation and this drew people. Jesus had previously provided healing so people expected that he could somehow give them something to eat. The equation could be as simple as this: Jesus the wonder worker + expectant hungry crowd = miraculous free food.

The hungry crowd following Jesus knew that they’d need food after lingering in the wilderness. Then came the miracle of multiplying the fish and loaves. You’d think that Jesus’ closest followers would have gathered around their Lord and obtained an insider’s view of precisely how he accomplished the food miracle. Unfortunately, we don’t have those alluring details. Can you imagine standing there seeing parts of a fish and morsels of bread pop-out of thin air?

Given his ability to heal and produce food it follows that the crowd was convinced that Jesus was capable of achieving anything. This is why the mob tried to forcibly make Jesus king. This is a huge development and it makes sense that people thought that Jesus was a great prophet fit for ruling them. Imagine how neat it would have been to have a leader who, unlike the cruel and corrupt despots ruling Israel, there could be a loving Jesus providing free food and healings. What a social safety net that might have been!

Pause for a moment and consider the alternative history if Jesus had been ruling instead of the Romans and their Herodian stooges. As you may have guessed, Jesus would have none of this king-making. Alas, he managed to escape the crowd by retreating to a mountain. To further settle the matter, the disciples sailed toward the other side of the Sea of Galilee and Jesus followed soon after.

It is entirely understandable that miracles gain attention and attract people. There’s nothing wrong with witnessing and acknowledging God’s wonders. Yet there can be a problem when anyone focuses too much on sensational theatrics rather than what lay behind miracles. Jesus often expressed a reluctance to perform showy, public miracles because he knew people would follow him more for those than for the underlying spiritual truths. As much as miracles are wonderful, they can also become distractions.

Another insight from today’s lesson is that God can feed people literally and figuratively. Jesus taught that those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will be filled. Do you have an appetite for something other than your next burger? Jesus didn’t want to become the baker-elect for folks who just wanted full bellies.

More than just a free meal, Jesus provided food for the soul and living water for the spirit. People might have fattened themselves with easy meals but that would accomplish little compared with spiritual health.

Despite the crowd’s intentions, Jesus ruling an earthly kingdom was not part of God’s plan. It might have made interesting history for Jesus to become emperor but he chose instead to leave a lasting influence through spiritual empowerment.

It is much better that Jesus rules in the kingdom of heaven rather than by sitting on a palace throne in Jerusalem. The great news is that Jesus feeds people with much more than fish and loaves. The Son of the Almighty provides soul food to provide your deepest needs.

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