John Bradshaw - Great Chapters of the Bible, John 6
This is It Is Written. I'm John Bradshaw. Thanks for joining me. A friend told me this true story. I know how it can be with true stories; you wonder sometimes just how true they really are. But this is a true story told to me by the man who was right in the middle of it. In a rural area in a country in Africa, there was to be a big celebration as a new church was being opened. People would be coming from near and far. But, it was at a time of real financial challenge, and there wasn't money enough to feed the crowd that would assemble.
So what do you do? Well, these people knew just what to do. They prayed and they asked God to provide. But a situation arose where they had to drive a long distance to pick something up that was needed for the big day. So they drove several hours to the city, picked up what they needed, and then started the long drive back along the lonely road. Ahead of them was a flatbed truck. In the United Kingdom you'd call it a lorry, most likely. In the United States, maybe a semi. In the South Pacific, it's a...a truck. And as they were gaining ground on the truck, they noticed something fly off the back. They stopped and realized it was a 10-kilogram sack, a 20-pound sack of mealie meal, maize meal, cornmeal, basically. It's what you'd use to make sadza, or ugali, or pap, depending on what part of Africa you're in.
Now, I know what you're thinking: Now they have food for the celebration. But no, they wanted to return it to the driver of the truck. So they got back on the road and pursued the truck and its driver. But then another 10-kilogram sack of mealie meal flew off the back of the truck. So they stopped to retrieve that. And then another, and then another, until, loaded down with mealie meal, they couldn't hope to catch the truck, and it sped off into the distance. They had to call it providence, a miracle, even. The church opened, and there was plenty of food for all. Can God provide? Yes, He can. He does. And as we continue our series, "Great Chapters of the Bible," we see that God can do the amazing, that He can provide for us in ways we don't expect, and that when He does, it's for reasons we want to remember.
We're looking at John chapter 6. There's so much going on in this chapter we could talk about it all day. We'll start at the beginning of the chapter. Verse 1 says, "After these things Jesus went over the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tiberias". And you'll notice in verse 2 that "a great multitude followed Him, because they saw His signs which He performed on those who were diseased". Now, the tense used indicates they "were following" Him, constantly, because they "were seeing" Him do these great miracles. Up on a mountainside overlooking the Sea of Galilee in the north of Israel, "Jesus lifted up His eyes, and seeing a great multitude coming toward Him, He said to Philip, 'Where shall we buy bread, that these may eat?'"
He wanted Philip to really understand Jesus and His mission. Philip remarked that even 200 days' wages wouldn't be enough to buy food for a crowd that size, when Andrew, the brother of Peter, said, "There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two small fish, but what are they among so many"? So Jesus asked that the little boy's lunch be brought to Him. And notice what happened next: "And Jesus took the loaves, and when He had given thanks He distributed them to the disciples, and the disciples to those sitting down; and likewise of the fish, as much as they wanted. So when they were filled, He said to His disciples, 'Gather up the fragments that remain, so that nothing is lost.'"
Of course, a skeptic is going to say, "How's that possible"? And I'd say, "Remember who we're dealing with here". This is God, who does the impossible. He created the world. He formed Adam and Eve from the dust of the ground and breathed the breath of life into their bodies. This is Jesus, who raised the dead and healed the sick. We shouldn't be amazed by the things He does. We should be blessed. We should be encouraged. But we shouldn't be amazed. The God of heaven is a vast God, a great God. And you don't want to limit Him. Verse 14 says, "Then those men, when they had seen the sign that Jesus did, said, 'This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world.'" This was evidence that Jesus was the Messiah, the Savior of the world, and if you allow it to do so, it'll convince you of that.
Some thoughts to consider about this miracle... Number one: Jesus provides for our needs. It's what He does. There were hungry people, and He met their needs. Remember that He provides for you. When you're in a tight spot, remember that God is able. Even when things are good, remember that "every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights," as James wrote. Don't forget where your blessings come from. Now, notice that Jesus fed them with...bread and fish. Now, these were barley loaves, very simple food. The little fish were sort of a side dish, which was fine, of course. But He didn't provide caviar and champagne or french fries and burgers or a 10-course meal. He gave them something that was good for them, adequate for their needs, and not excessive.
Yes, God promises to bless you richly. Read in Malachi about how God wants to open up the windows of heaven and pour out so much blessing that we won't have room to receive it. But God has promised to provide our needs, not all of our wants. If He's blessed you with health and a home and a family, be careful about wanting an extra million dollars and a mansion. Of course, those things can be okay, but be careful where you focus. If you're following Jesus thinking He's going to give you more stuff, it could be that your priorities are in the wrong place. Jesus could have given away 100-dollar bills. He could have given away new clothing and tickets to sporting events. But He didn't give away luxuries. The people went home no richer, no smarter, but they went away blessed. And He encouraged them to gather up the fragments so that nothing would be lost. In other words, don't waste.
Now, when I was growing up, we didn't waste anything because we couldn't afford to. I read that a third of Americans spend more money on coffee than they do on their retirement plan. Now, that's what we would call a waste. One government agency said that the average U.S. household spends one percent of its yearly income on alcohol, but that's the average. There are people who spend thousands of dollars a year on something they could very easily live without, something they should live without, and I'm just getting started. Our blessings are from God. Wasting them isn't part of God's plan.
You notice in another account of the story Jesus says, "You give them something to eat". He's encouraging us: Help others; provide for others. The blessings He's given us are to be used in relieving the needs of others. And one more: All the boy had was loaves and fishes, and with God's blessing it was enough to feed, according to Matthew, 5,000 men, plus women and children, easily 10,000 people. You think you don't have much? Much talent, much to give, much faith? Bring what you have to Jesus like that little boy's loaves and fishes and see how He multiplies what you have. A little with God's blessing is a lot. In a moment, more from John chapter 6: water that doesn't act like water. That's right ahead.
Thanks for joining me on It Is Written. We're continuing our series, "Great Chapters of the Bible". John chapter 6 opens with Jesus feeding a multitude with only five loaves and two fish. If that doesn't convince you that He's the Son of God, the chapter continues with another phenomenal story. John 6:15 says, "Therefore when Jesus perceived that they were about to come and take Him by force to make Him king, He departed again to the mountain by Himself alone". Now, it's really interesting that Matthew says He "constrained," or compelled, His disciples to get into a ship and go to the other side of the lake, ahead of Him. Jesus wasn't on the earth for the sake of earthly greatness. He had His chance to make political change here, and He didn't take it. Jesus was on earth to change hearts. He was serious about this, reflected in His instruction to the disciples and to the people who He sent away, according to Matthew's account. Then Jesus went up on a hill to pray on His own.
Now, what do you think He prayed for? The Bible doesn't tell us explicitly, but you'd expect He would've prayed for His disciples, who seriously misunderstood His mission. If they were supportive of the mission to make Jesus king, they clearly didn't get it. In that group were James and John, who thought force was appropriate. Remember they wanted to call fire down from heaven on one occasion and incinerate people that they didn't agree with. Jesus told them at the time they did not know "what manner of spirit" they were of. This was a year before Jesus' death. It was Passover time. Jesus would die at the following Passover. And here were the people and His closest followers missing the point of His mission by miles.
Now, keep in mind that Jesus prayed, and if Jesus found it necessary to pray, don't you think most of us could do something about our prayer life? I don't ever remember hearing about anyone who said that they prayed too much. One study showed that 55 percent of Americans claim to pray every day. Seems to me a lot of the people who answered that survey might need to pray for forgiveness. It's important to pray. Life doesn't happen well without prayer, and in prayer you are connected to God, and you receive His presence in your life. But it's what happened next that we tend to remember the story for. The disciples were heading across the lake towards Capernaum, which is at the north end of the Sea of Galilee. It's about 15 miles in a straight line from southern Lebanon, not much further from Syria. It was dark at the time, and in Matthew's account of the story, it says that "the boat was now in the middle of the sea, tossed by the waves, for the wind was contrary". You have to wonder what was on the mind of the disciples.
Now, they wanted to see Jesus made king, and their hopes had been disappointed. So it's likely they were brooding. The storm clouds were a reflection of what was going on in their minds, and as God so often does, He allowed something to happen that would get their minds off pointless concerns and on to something that matters. John 6:18 says, "Then the sea arose because a great wind was blowing". They've navigated for about three or four miles, which should have brought them to Capernaum, except, no doubt, they'd been blown off course. And it was desperate out there on the big lake. And then they see Jesus walking to them on the water. They thought it was a phantom of some kind. I imagine they weren't expecting Jesus to show up right then and there.
Jesus said to them, "It is I; be not afraid". And verse 21 says, "Then they willingly received Him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land where they were going". But in Matthew's account of the same story, Peter says, "Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water". And so Jesus says, "Come" to me on the water. Peter did. He, he got out of the boat and walked on the water to Jesus. Now, we know what happened next. The text says that "when he saw that the wind was boisterous," he began to sink, which is interesting. It hints that Peter's focus was on the wind and not on Jesus. When he was worried about his surroundings, concerned about what was going on around him, he sank. When his focus was on Jesus, he walked on water. Is there a lesson there? When your focus is on Christ, you stay upright. When you let Jesus get out of view, you begin to sink. So how are you doing in keeping your eyes where they ought to be? This world is full of distractions, and we fall for them too easily.
Now, you might think that Peter couldn't be blamed. After all, they were out there in the midst of a storm, and he was walking on a lake. But that was all the more reason for Peter to watch Jesus, to keep his eyes where they needed to be. If things are difficult around you, that's all the more reason to keep Jesus right where you can see Him at all times. It was about this time that Peter prayed a three-word prayer. Matthew records it as "Lord, save me"! Sometimes there's no time for flowery praying. Sometimes you've got to come right to the point, and Peter's prayer is the model prayer for sinners everywhere. If you're sinking, "Lord, save me". If you're lost and you need to be found, "Lord, save me".
The passage tells us Jesus did save Peter. He took him by the hand, and He got him back to the boat. When you pray that prayer, you can know that God saves you. When things are going bad, don't focus on the bad. Remember that there is a God. When trouble comes up, it might be that you feel like you're at the end of your rope, but Jesus is there. The disciples were battling a stormy sea, and Jesus was right there with them. You can do the impossible. When Jesus calls you, even if He calls you to walk on water, you can do it because God's will is being wrought out in your life. As long as it's the call of God, it can be done in your life.
Paul wrote in Philippians 4:13, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me". That's still true today. If God calls you to do something big, something unlikely, keep your eyes on Him, and it'll get done. Take your eyes off God, and you'll sink. And when you pray for God to save you, He saves you. Believe that. He just does. Have faith that He will do that for you, and He will. In a moment, John 6 finishes with the vast majority of people walking away from Jesus. I'll be right back.
Thanks for joining me on It Is Written. We're looking at John chapter 6 in our series "Great Chapters of the Bible". The chapter starts with Jesus feeding a multitude with only five loaves and two fish. Then Jesus walks on water, and looking at Matthew's account of the same story, we see that's when Peter walked on water, too. So you'd think, then, that if you see miracles like that, you're going to believe that Jesus is the Messiah. Well, that belief is tested in the remainder of the chapter. It was the next day. The story of how Jesus walked on water undoubtedly is by now well-known. And a large crowd had come to Capernaum wanting to know how Jesus got there when they knew He hadn't taken the same boat as the disciples.
And Jesus said in verses 26 and 27, "Most assuredly, I say to you, you seek me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him". They were following Jesus, but from the wrong motives, and this would become painfully obvious. So they asked Jesus what sign He would perform so that they could believe in Him. It's a lot like asking how many times you need to fall in a river to be convinced the river is wet.
They talk about the manna in the wilderness, and Jesus responds by saying this: "My Father gives you the true bread from heaven". "Then they said to Him, 'Lord, give us this bread always.'" And then He said, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me shall never hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst". That's John 6, verse 35. Jesus makes this wonderful promise in verse 37: "All that the Father gives me will come to me, and the one who comes to me I will by no means cast out". But the Jews complained, according to verse 41: "Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How is it then that He says, 'I have come down from heaven'"? Jesus responds by saying, "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day".
Now, starting in verse 47, "Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in me has everlasting life. I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is my flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world". Now, this perplexed the people who had gathered. They acted as though they were offended. Keep this in mind: Here was a group of people who'd follow Jesus because He could feed thousands of folks using a little boy's lunch. He walked on water. The disciples said that even Peter walked on water. They knew He had healed the sick. They wanted a deliverer. But Jesus refused to be the kind of deliverer they were looking for.
Instead, He was saying, "Eat my flesh and drink my blood". He went on to explain that, "The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life". In other words, "You want a deliverer? I'm giving my words to you. That's real deliverance," Jesus was saying. To eat the flesh and drink the blood of Jesus is to receive Him as a personal Savior, believing that He forgives your sins and that you are complete in Him. You "eat" Him and "drink" Him by accepting Jesus into your life, by having Him become part of your being. You feed on Him. You feed on His words so that His life becomes your life. You assimilate His grace and love. And did the people want to do that? We'll look at John 6, verse 66, some of the most tragic words in the Bible: "From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more".
Can you imagine that? They turned and walked away. Imagine being Jesus, knowing you'd come to save these very people, knowing you were their only hope, you lay it on the line for them, and they hear what you have to say, and they turn their backs...and leave. That's what happened. And it's what happens today. There's no other savior but Jesus. No other way of life, no other way to eternal life. Only Jesus. And yet people walk away from Him all the time. Before Jesus turns to His disciples, let me suggest this to you. You know what Jesus is talking about here is a full surrender: laying aside your will, your desire, and deciding it's more important for you to know God's will, God's desire for your life.
This isn't somebody who says, "Oh, Jesus, I'm a follower". There were lots of people following, but they weren't real followers because they weren't prepared to eat His flesh and drink His blood. They weren't prepared to live "by every word that proceeds from out of the mouth of God". They didn't want their life lived God's way. That's not what they wanted. You see, Jesus is calling for our heart here. He's saying, "Give me your heart. Let my life become your life and your life become my life". And Jesus wants to give us a complete mind change here. The people weren't willing. And so Jesus turns to the disciples; He said, "Do you also want to go away"? Peter answers for them in verses 68 and 69. He says, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God".
There's the question and the answer. "To whom shall we go"? Who else is there? You have the words of eternal life. You're the Christ, the Son of the living God. He was then, friend, and He is now. To whom will you go, if not to Jesus? Where else would you turn, if not to Him? Are you eating His flesh and drinking His blood, feeding on His Word, His life in your life? Jesus is still the bread of life. He's your hope. He's your strength. He's your spiritual food. He's your spiritual health. You know, if you don't eat, you get weak, and then you get sick, and then you die. Which is why we see so many dead men walking, zombies, even in the church. If you don't feed on Jesus, you get weak. Temptation overwhelms you. You get spiritually sick, and then you're spiritually dead. But Jesus is the bread of life. If you have Jesus in your life radically, totally, completely, and you can when you invite Him to be just that for you, His life becomes your life, and then you live knowing that eternal life is yours.