Thursday, October 13, 2011

Thoughts on the Feeding of the Five-Thousand – Philip or Andrew?


John 6:1-9

After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, also called the Sea of Tiberias.  A large crowd kept following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick.  Jesus went up the mountain and sat down and there with his disciples.  Now the Passover, the festival of the Jews was near.  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?”  He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do.  Philip answered him, “Six months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.”  One of his disciples, 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 among so many people?”

We are seeing a goodly number of large crowds gathering in our big cities lately. There are crowds protesting the state of the economy and the plight of the poor in this nation.  These are crowds looking for answers, for relief, for justice.  Long ago a crowd followed Jesus up a mountain.  They followed him because he was the answer to their physical ills and the hunger of their souls.  But Jesus was also concerned about their physical sustenance.  He cared that they had food to eat while they were on this pilgrimage.
                
Jesus still cares about our bodies, what we eat, what we drink, what we put on.  On that day there seemed to be a lack of food for a crowd of that size.  And there we meet two disciples who have two different approaches to the problem:
                
They are Philip and Andrew.  Philip’s approach was practical but faithless: “Six months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.”  Don’t we often feel that way when confronted with the staggering realities of world poverty and need?   In our own strength and our own resources there is little hope to feed this hungry world.  We sometimes get so overwhelmed that we just want to say it is impossible and give up.
                
Then there is Andrew.  Equally aware of the enormity of the need he looks around for an answer anyway.  He locates a humble lunch that a boy was willing to donate.  He admits it is not much to offer given the need, he offers it anyway.   We can be like Philip and throw our hands up in despair or we can also be like Andrew and do something, even a small thing.  That small thing made all the difference in world because from it the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes came to be. This miracle is so central to the truth of the gospel that it is the only miracle that is recorded in all 4. 
                
The text says that Jesus asked Philip where he would find bread for the crowd because he was testing him.  Jesus knew what he was going to do.  Still today Jesus knows what he is going to do.  He is going to use the likes of Andrew in this world who offer what they can to turn the world upside down and care for the needs of the poor. 
                
So you don’t have to have all the answers…just lunch…just lunch and Jesus will do the rest.  What do you have in your hand that you can offer to God to take and break and bless and multiply for the use of the kingdom?  Habitat for Humanity was begun in 1976 with a couple with a tool box and a truck and God did the rest.  Michelangelo had a cast-off piece of marble that he got from a dump and God used that humble stone to create the famous statue of King David.  God will take whatever you have to offer him to bless and feed a hungry world. 
                
Be an Andrew.  It is how the kingdom of God works here on earth!

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