Daily Readings in John – Day Eighteen
October 19, 2017
John 6:1-15 (NRSV)
6 After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, also called the Sea of Tiberias. 2 A large crowd kept following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick. 3 Jesus went up the mountain and sat down there with his disciples. 4 Now the Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near. 5 When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?” 6 He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do. 7 Philip answered him, “Six months’ wages would not buy enough bread 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 among so many people?” 10 Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” Now there was a great deal of grass in the place; so they sat down, about five thousand in all. 11 Then Jesus 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 When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, “Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost.” 13 So they gathered them up, and from the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets. 14 When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, “This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world.”
15 When Jesus realized that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself.
Usually I’m struck – as are most readers – by all the food. Where did it come from? This is confidence and power from Jesus at levels we’ve not yet seen in John. I rarely feed more than ten or fifteen people, and even that’s a lot of work.
But today I’m struck by the ending. By any conventional leadership plan, this is going so well for Jesus. He uses a strength-based approach to the crowd’s needs, making the most of their community resources. He develops his leadership team by engaging them in the work, after which they aren’t depleted but each hold a full basket of leftovers. And the crows sees his sign and recognize he is no ordinary Galilean. He is a messenger of God, a leader they will follow.
Apparently not. Jesus sees where this is heading and retreats into the wilderness. He’s not interested in this kind of following. Jesus sees the beginnings of a dependency relationship, in which followers find Jesus impressive and look to him to tell them what to do, lead them in all things, and help them in every need.
Isn’t that what Jesus is for?
I think John’s Jesus is taking these signs in a different direction. Jesus wants us to see the possibility of a new creation, in which God is with us. And this connection with God will satisfy and fill us and empower us. Jesus wants to be living water that wells us within us, not a privately owned well we depend on.
What this means for me is that I’ll ask God for help today for the things I need, and the things a bunch of other people need as well. But I’ll spend more time asking God to teach me that God is with me, that my heart can be full in every situation and that I can be connected to God and do the work of God in every part of my day as well. I’m very much a beginner in my efforts to live this way, but I invite you to join me if you like.
Jesus, show us today that God is with us. Highlight the five loaves and two fish that are already in our hands, and make it more than enough.