Part of the spiritual preparation that my son Noah and I are pursuing before heading to Haiti for a mission trip at the end of this summer, is a 30 Day Guide created by a long term missionary. Today’s lesson was on the familiar passage of the feeding of the 5,000 from the Gospel of John.
While camping on the side of a mountain in South Dakota on vacation and waiting for the kids to get up… I thought I would share…
Do you pass the test?
I know our Christianese sensibilities don’t like that language at all, but do you pass the test? We live in a grace versus works mode of thinking that truly is at odds with itself.
Is the Gospel of Jesus about grace, or is it about works? Does Jesus do everything, or do we have a role in the process? The answer is easy… it’s yes.
John 6:1-14 illustrates:
- A huge crowd follows Jesus
- He sits down, a sign that a Rabi is about to teach
- He sees their numbers, at least 5,000 men and probably closer to 15,000 total once the women and children are counted
- He asks the question, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?”
This may just seem like a run of the mill reporting of a Jesus rally from back in the day, but verse 6 does not allow us to keep the story that simple.
6 He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he would do.
Hmmm… apparently Jesus does test us. So, does that mean we are about works, or are we about grace? Once again… yes.
Let’s finish the story. I promise, it’ll make sense in a minute.
Phillip responds to Jesus by saying, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread would not be enough for each of them to get a little.”
But, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many?”
First, look at Phillip’s answer: it was fear based, it was whiny, it was defeatist, it was sarcastic, it was negative, it focused on the problem.
Second, look at Andrew’s answer (great name this guy has, by the way): it was positive, it was hopeful,it was a little silly, it only answered part of the question, it was focused on a solution.
How did Jesus view their responses? He went with Andrew’s!
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.
Jesus took Andrew’s optimistic, goofy, very poorly thought out response and did a miracle. Jesus did what no one else could do. If He hadn’t turned a sack lunch into an All You Can Eat Sea of Galilee Buffet © there would have been no lunch… it was all on Him.
So, it IS about grace… or, is it about works? YES!
Our salvation is all on Jesus. He loved us, pursued us, lived for us, died for us, saved us, redeemed us and is changing us!
But, in our discipleship, He puts us to the test. He grows us, challenges us, works us, and tests us.
He is looking to see if we have matured enough to be a Phillip or an Andrew. Do you point at the problem, or do you point at a solution?
Even if you don’t have all the pieces, all the resources, or enough of anything… Andrew knew the answer… it was Jesus.
So, yes, it’s about grace and works. Saved by grace and tested in our works to see if we know the answer.
And the answer is always, Jesus.
John 6:1 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. 14 When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!”