Food for all – John 6:1-15

SNL Sunday 25 November 2012

Jesus was always doing the unexpected. The crowds are getting bigger and he is having attention drawn to himself – so he moves off, cutting across the northwest corner of the Lake[1]. But the crowd simply run round the long way and soon catch up with him. We could see it was not easy to get away – but then, what happened later made that worse.


On the hills on the far side[2], he sits down and talks to them – and as always they hang on his every word till the day is far-gone and they realize they are hungry.


I always loved Jesus’ sense of humour. Philip was the local boy[3] but also the worrier. So Jesus tests him[4]. ‘Where will we get food for them all?’ Philip’s mind goes into overdrive – eight months wages would not be enough to give each of them a snack – never mind a meal. But helpful Andrew[5] brings a youngster who has five crackers[6] and some fish paste[7] – barely enough for himself but in this crowd?


Jesus take them and says grace – and then, this is the bit that blows my mind still – he gave us – all twelve of us[8] – a bit each – less than half a cracker and a small dollop of the fish paste. And told us to go feed them.


Can you imagine what it was like walking up to the first person and not knowing whether to give them all of it, most of it or hardly anything at all? Talking afterwards most of us went for broke and gave the most of it to the first person, and by the end of the first row we knew what was happening – couldn’t believe it but could see it in front of our eyes – the people didn’t catch on for a while – Most of them did not know how little there was when we started – but the word quickly got round.


By the end we were practically skipping and singing as we gave out food – do you see what we experienced – the miracle only happened when we took the pitiful morsel we were given and started to give it away. We were part of the miracle.  And it didn’t end there – at the end we had gathered twelve big baskets of bits left on the ground – enough for all twelve tribes of Israel?[9]


But his popularity hit new heights – well it would, wouldn’t it? Soon he heard them discussing making him King – they were looking for a Messiah to rid them of the Romans, a new Moses to lead them to freedom. So he slipped away – he was good at that – one minute he was there, the next nowhere to be seen. Off into the hills to pray, and probably for the whole night, if it followed pattern. And we were left waiting. The lure of a comfortable bed back in Tiberias was very inviting so off we set – but then that’s another story. I’ll keep it for next week.

[1] The Sea of Galilee, of Tiberias. The Greek word means sea or lake, and at this time it was gradually being called Tiberias after the city on its western shore  rather than Galilee. By the time John is writing that changeover is complete – hence both names are given

[2] The Golan Heights in today’s nomenclature – hill country rather than a specific mountain.

[3] From Bethsaida further down the eastern shore.

[4] Or should that be teases him!

[5] Andrew is nearly always spoken of bringing people to Jesus, starting of course with Peter! (1:41)

[6] John gives the detail that they are barley loaves – barley was the poor man’s grain – and they are more likely to have been like oatcake rather than a bap.

[7] John also does not use the word for fish but a word that means cooked or pickled fish, more like fish paste than an actual fish

[8] John actually omits the disciples’ role as waiters but the other gospels include it.

[9] This may be an allusion or may simply be that each of the twelve disciples took a basket to clean up and hence there were twelve baskets!