As you’re being seated, if you would turn with me in your Bibles to John chapter 6, you’ll find it on page 891 if you’re using a pew Bible; 891. We’ll be studying verses 1 through 14 together this evening. John chapter 6:1-14. Before we hear God’s Word, let us ask His blessing on it. Let’s pray.
Father, what we just sang is what we want to experience as we hear Your Word preached – to love Jesus. Our hearts are often distracted, often cold, and we need to hear about abundance. And so we pray the Holy Spirit would work powerfully on this Word, that it would come alive for the good of our souls and the glory of You, our great God. We pray in Jesus’ name, amen.
John 6, beginning at verse 1. This is God’s Word:
“After this Jesus went away to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tiberias. And a large crowd was following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing on the sick. Jesus went up on the mountain, and there he sat down with his disciples. Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand. 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?’ He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he would do. Philip answered him, ‘Two hundred denarii worth of bread would not be enough 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 for so many?’ 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. 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. And when they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, ‘Gather up the leftover fragments, that nothing may be lost.’ So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves left by those who had eaten. When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, ‘This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!’”
The grass withers, the flowers fall, but the Word of the living God shall stand forever and ever. Amen.
I came across a book this week, started flipping through it – Junk. The subtitle of it was, “Digging Through America’s Love Affair with Stuff.” Junk was the first title of the book, written by Alison Stewart. And here’s the deal. She was talking about how much stuff we have, how much abundance we have in this culture we live in, so much so that, she says this. “Self-storage has its own association and lobbying group because it is big business. And as The Wall Street Journal reports, ‘recession-proof business,' generating more than $24 billion dollars in revenues in 2014. The United States is home to reportedly 48,500 to 52,000 self-storage units. That's about 2.3 billion square feet of storage." We have a lot of stuff, that's her point, and we have a lot of abundance. And yet here's the thing. I think if we were to be honest with ourselves, and if I were to ask most of us in here – maybe not most but a lot of us in here – would this be the way you describe your life with Jesus? Abundant? Over-flowing? Needing extra storage space for your spiritual life? I think most of us would say, “No, the words that I would choose would be closer to things like, ‘bored, disinterested, cold, distant.’” And here’s the good news – Jesus wants us to experience His abundance and He wants to show us the way back to that experience tonight. To know it, to live it out in our lives.
Let me set the context quickly. We’re going to be in the gospel of John for the next couple of weeks. John tells us the purpose of his gospel in chapter 20 verse 30. He says, “These things are written so that you might believe.” He wrote this gospel to move us from a position of unbelief to a position of faith. Faith in Christ. And this section specifically, chapters 6 through 10, is kind of the middle section of the gospel. It’s a turning point. John began in chapter 1 verse 1 telling us who Jesus is and it’s astonishing. He’s the Word that has always been there and yet He’s the Word that has now become flesh. And so for the rest of those first few chapters, Jesus is doing all of these signs and John keeps showing us those signs because he wants us to put our faith in Him. And then from this turning point onwards, the people are going to be divided between those who believe and those who don’t. And so this really is a section about identity. Who is this Jesus? And John keeps telling us over and over again, He is the Son of God but He is also God the Son.
And so this also, it’s important to note, is the only miracle recorded in all four gospels. And again, it highlights the central importance this miracle represents in understanding who Jesus is. And so the main point of what we’re going to look at is this. Jesus tests our faith in order to show us His overwhelming abundance. Jesus tests our faith in order to show us His overwhelming abundance. And we’ll look at that under three headings. First, in verses 1 through 4 and verse 14, Jesus is the object of our faith. And then in verses 5 through 10, Jesus will test our faith. And then in verses 11 through 13, Jesus will supply all our needs by faith. So Jesus is the object of our faith, He will test our faith, and He will supply all our needs by faith.
Jesus is the Object of Our Faith
There in the opening verses, verses 1 through 4, we read about Jesus after this. The time frame is uncertain, but He is traveling to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. And we’re going to talk more about this next week. And this crowd following Him. It’s probably about two-and-a-half miles that they walk to follow Jesus and hear His teaching. And why are they following Him? John tells us. “Because they saw the signs that he was doing on the sick.” This crowd was fascinated by the miracle worker from a backwater town in ancient Jerusalem. But see, the crowd here is more interested in the signs than the One to whom the signs point to. That’s why they want to make Jesus a king. They see Him do this sign and then they said, “This is the guy who is going to remove the boot of Roman oppression from our people! He’s the one who we need to make a king!” Which is why Jesus leaves them.
And this is the same danger we face today. Remember this – Jesus is always interested in us committing ourselves to Him, not just admiring Him. There are plenty of people who will not be with Jesus forever who admire His teachings, who love to hear about Him, but have never committed themselves to Him. And this whole gospel is written for us to commit ourselves wholeheartedly to Jesus, unlike this crowd. And so that’s where John begins for us.
And then he goes on to give us these two details which seem unimportant but they are extremely important. Verse 3, “Jesus went up on the mountain, there he sat down.” And verse 4, “Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews was at hand.” Why are those details important? Because John is probably the New Testament writer who gives you the most of the Old Testament. His other book, the book of Revelation, cites the Old Testament or alludes to it more than any other book in the New Testament. And it’s really no exception with this gospel. It’s kind of a second place to that. He’s always pointing us back to the Old Testament. And here is no exception. Why is Jesus going up on a mountain? Because Moses receives God’s Word from the mountain. Why is the Passover detail important? Because when Moses receives God’s Word on the mountain, what happens next as the people of Israel are making their way through the wilderness? He provides manna after he receives the Word. And this all takes place right after the Passover. And so what John is doing and highlighting for us is saying, “If you want to understand the abundance of Jesus, you need to understand that He is the better Moses, He is the sacrificial Passover Lamb who provides the manna. And He’s better than Moses because He’s Moses’ God. He doesn’t go up on a mountain to receive the Word; He goes up on the mountain to give God’s Word as God incarnate. He’s better than Moses!”
This is why this section here ends with verse 14, “This is the prophet.” And that goes right back to the prophecy that Moses gave in Deuteronomy 18:18. He says, “There is a prophet coming after me.” And as that verse was read over and over for thousands of years and Jewish interpretation, they began this anticipation of this great prophet who was more than a prophet and the people actually get it right here. This is who Jesus is. He’s who Moses promised. So there’s Jesus – the object of our faith. The new and better Moses. The better sacrificial Passover Lamb who provides for all our needs.
Jesus Will Test Our Faith
But then, things take an interesting turn. Verse 5, and we’ll begin – Jesus will test our faith. Verse 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?’ He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he would do.” What is Jesus doing when He tests our faith? Because if you’ve been a Christian any amount of time, you are going to have your faith tested. It’s going to come in different ways for each of us. But here’s the deal, you cannot follow Jesus and commit yourself to Him like John wants us to do without your faith being tested. It might be circumstances, it might be trials, it might be the own unbelief that we have in our hearts. But He will test our faith. Why?
Rely on Him
The first thing that He shows us here – He wants us to turn to Him and not rely on ourselves. He asks Philip – why does He ask Philip? Because earlier in the gospel, John tells us where Philip is from and it’s a village a few miles from here. So he’s the expert. He’s the local guy. Think about it this way. If you’re going to go to Greenville, South Carolina, my hometown, please come talk to me. I’ve got fifty restaurants to tell you that you’ve got to try before you leave! Why? Because I’m from there. I’ll tell you where to go. That’s why He looks to Philip. Philip is from that area. If anybody knew what to do, it would be Philip, but He’s testing him. And see, here’s what Philip is going to be tempted to do that we’re all tempted to do. Philip is going to begin to manage the problem, isn’t he? He’s going to begin to reason. We’ll come to that in a second. But he’s going to go immediately to trying to solve the problem, and that is not what Jesus is testing him for. Instead, He’s doing something that He wants to show us what to do in these situations. Aren’t we just like Philip? If a problem or a test or a trial comes our way, instead of turning to Jesus first, what do we normally do? We begin to try and solve it. That was Philip’s problem here. He went right to solving it. Something goes wrong, what’s our first response? Is it to pray or try and manage the problem? And so that same dilemma that confronts Philip here confronts us. When circumstances try us, when tests and trials come our way, what is our first response? Is it to turn to the Lord in faith or is it to say, “I’ve got to figure this out?” Jesus says, “Pause. I’m here to help.”
To Strengthen our Faith
And that’s the second thing He shows us here. He wants to strengthen our faith. And because of who He is, we can face the tests He sends with confidence. And that’s why John gives us that other important detail. Jesus knew what He was going to do! That makes perfect sense, right? He’s God in the flesh. He’s never surprised. He doesn’t have a Plan B. He doesn’t have something He needs to all of a sudden put into action because this catches Him off guard. He knows what He’s going to do. And that fact alone fundamentally changes how we deal with difficulties in our lives, doesn’t it? It changes it in this way – it first of all changes it because we know who is sending those tests and trials. Do we believe that? That they all come from God? And it’s easy to stand up here and say that, isn’t it? It’s easy to say that to one another, to do Romans 8:28. You know, “Everything works for good.” Let’s not say that to each other when we’re hurting. That’s a wonderful Bible verse, but it can become kind of just a slogan when people are hurting. “Well, all things work for good!” That’s not often what we need to hear, is it? We know that. We need to know that. But we also need to go back and see the God who sends all those trials and tests to us and believe afresh that they come from the hands of Jesus. That’s the first thing.
And then the second thing is this that gives us the confidence when we face difficulty, the confidence we need to make it through with strengthened faith. It’s that Jesus already knows how it’s going to work out. Looking into a room this size with this many people, I can assure you tonight there are things on your mind that you are trying to set aside right now, hopefully, and pay attention to the sermon, but that are consuming you, overwhelming you, and you wonder, “How is it all going to work out?” And here’s what John gives us this detail for. He tests Philip; He already knows what’s going to happen. He already knows the end from the beginning. This is the mighty Creator of everything and who upholds the universe by the word of His power coming down to have lunch with some disciples and before He gets there to test their faith. If He will do that for them, He will be there for us. If He will test their faith that way, He will test our faith. If He makes a way through it for them, He’ll make a way through it for us.
But notice Philip’s response. He says, “Two hundred denarii, eight months of wages, would not be enough for even the crowd to get a little bit.” What’s the size of the crowd? John tells us. About five thousand men. So scholars estimate about 20,000 total people. Okay, so Philip does what all of us would do. He reasons very logically. Why? He’s walking by sight, not by faith. We look at our circumstances and we begin to reason very logically. Now again, as a philosophy guy, I love logic! Please use logic! Logic is a good thing. Logic keeps us from getting hit by buses and cars and things. We reason. We need to reason! But it all depends upon where you start your reasoning process. You see, Philip’s reasoning was this. He says, “Here’s the circumstances, here’s the crowd, here’s how normal things happen, therefore there’s not enough to feed this crowd!” And that makes perfect common sense. Absolutely!
But here’s the problem with Philip’s reasoning. It begins with the impossibilities it sees and not the God of impossibility standing right next to him. It begins with the impossibilities it sees and not with the God of impossibility standing right next to him. And that God standing next to him changes everything about the reasoning process. So Jesus tests our faith to point us away from the circumstances we face to the God who controls all our circumstances and is right there with us in the midst of them.
And that’s why, when we get down to Andrew – there’s a boy here with five barley loaves, two fish – “But what is that among so many?” Andrew does a little bit better than Philip. We’ve got this food, but there’s still the unbelief there, right? There’s still the, “Jesus, I don’t know what You can do with this. What is this for so many people?” And we’re often like that, aren’t we? We go, “Jesus, all I’ve got is a little bit of faith. What’s that going to do? I’ve tried prayer. It doesn’t work.” Have you ever said that? Maybe you’ve never verbalized that. Maybe you’ve thought that. “I’ve tried prayer. It doesn’t work.” “What is this among so many?” And here’s the principle that Jesus is anxious for us to see – meager faith leads to mighty results. That’s a principle that God has given to us, His people, from the very earliest times. It spans continents, it spans timeframes, it spans everything. That principle is in operation here and it’s in operation today. Meager faith yields mighty results.
That’s why one of the best pieces of good news about the Gospel is this – you can begin wherever you are with Jesus tonight. You can begin with whatever little faith you have, bring it to Him, and He will bring mighty results from it. That’s the principle that’s in play here. That’s what’s available to us here tonight. Wherever you are, start here tonight. Whatever you have, bring it to Him. That’s what Jesus wants us to do.
Jesus Will Supply Our Needs
Our last point we see here is that Jesus will supply all our needs by faith. Look at verse 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. And when they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, ‘Gather up the leftover fragments, that nothing may be lost.’” And it’s like John is adding an exclamation point here. Not only did they just get a snack, they ate as much as they wanted, so much so that there’s leftover. God made leftovers. That’s hard to believe but it’s true! God made leftovers. Isn’t that amazing? He gave them so much, not just a snack, a feast, and enough left over to gather up twelve baskets. Why twelve? I think again there’s some symbolism John is using here. Jesus is saying, like the twelve tribes of Israel, gathered around Moses in the wilderness and were fed with manna and had enough all their journey long, He says, “Now I knew I’m the better Moses. Gather around Me and you will have everything you need.” And Jesus provides for them physically because He understands what it’s like to be hungry. But for the rest of John 6, He’s going to say, “Don’t focus on the physical provision.” That was easy. That was easy for Him to do. Focus on what that points you towards. Namely, the spiritual abundance we all lack and that Jesus alone can provide.
Now I was reading an article in The New York Times recently where a well-known and well-respected scientist just flat out said, “Miracles don’t happen anymore. They just don’t happen. They never did; they never will. So let’s stop all this talk about miracles.” So passages like these, for the past two hundred years, have been rewritten and reworked by scholars. I remember reading one scholar. Again, this guy was brilliant. One of the most well-respected Biblical scholars of the 20th century. And he said, “Here’s what happened. Jesus had a secret cave behind Him” – this is serious! “And He had loaves in it that He could reach behind that nobody saw and distribute them to the crowds. That’s how this happened.” He was serious. This was in like a scholarly publication. Okay? This passage and this teaching offends us and it always will as long as we reason with unbelief. You see, unbelief can take many forms. It’s not just the big-ticket unbelief like these scientists. It’s like Andrew and it’s like Philip.
And let’s just take one pause and look closer at that objection by our scientist in The New York Times. You see, here’s the reason why unbelieving science says there’s no such thing as miracles. Because it believes that nature is all that there is; that this physical world is all that there is. And we need to expose that assumption for what it is – pure, blind faith. If you watch the television series, “Cosmos,” how did it begin – “The cosmos is all that there ever is or was or will be.” Friends, let me ask you this – how would you prove that scientifically, that the cosmos is all that is or was or ever will be? Is there a way to do that scientifically to prove that? There’s not! So how does Carl Sagan know that? He doesn’t! He takes it on faith. And if you begin with a faith assumption that the universe is all there is, of course you’re never going to believe this! But if you’re willing to look beyond nature to the God who controls nature, namely Jesus, God in the flesh, then this does not seem impossible at all! Why, it seems like the most normal thing in the world. If He can make galaxies, what is barley and what is fish? He can do that. It’s no problem. And so Jesus says, “Look beyond all that senses and circumstances tell you. Look beyond and see the God that made them all. Look beyond that and see Me.”
Faith Sees Jesus’ Extravagance
The miracle, as it were, by the end of this passage takes a sideline because it’s so easy for Jesus to do. And therefore, what is He teaching us in our passage tonight? Let me say a couple of things as we close. First, faith sees Jesus’ extravagance even when circumstances don’t. Faith sees Jesus’ extravagance even when circumstances don’t or can’t. Remember the point of this gospel – to get us to place our faith in Jesus. And one of the hardest things to do as we walk by faith in Christ is to believe Him when our circumstances shout the exact opposite. And it’s a conflict we’ll meet again and again the Scriptures – the conflict between God’s providences and His promises. Oftentimes, His providences tell us the exact opposite of His promises. His ways of dealing with us seem to counteract, to be counter examples, to refute His promises to us. And faith looks beyond that.
Jesus is God in the Flesh
So how does Jesus help us here? First, He’s God in the flesh. You’ve got to grasp that. We need to be in awe of Him again. He’s God in the flesh. If we don’t grasp anything else from this entire section, it is God who has come down to us, who is talking to us. And that just needs to blow us away every now and then. When we pick up our Bibles and open them up and read Jesus’ words, this is God talking to us! He is reaching out to us! He is saying, “Let me show you how to live life! I want you to trust Me!” Jesus is inviting you, God is inviting you for a newer and greater experience of Himself by faith. And then not only does He do that, He says, “I am at work in your lives and in my life to wrench our grip from the things of this world that we so easily trust in.”
And here’s what Jesus is up to – He is telling us that sometimes the only way we can see Him more clearly is through the tears of difficulty. Sometimes the only way to see Jesus more clearly is through the tears of difficulty, of having our faith tested by circumstances, by tight finances, by wayward children, by jobs that don’t work out, by a life that, as you look back on it, you say, “I have so much regret.” And circumstances are hard. And Jesus says, “It’s sometimes only through that that I can get you to see Me more clearly.” We’re like Andrew and Philip, aren’t we? We think common sense will win the day. Let me ask you this. How often has common sense failed us? Pretty often, right? And here’s what faith does. Faith can take common sense, like we find oftentimes in the pages of the Scriptures, like Proverbs, and by faith see beyond that to see the God who gives wisdom through His Word. So where common sense fails, faith sees the Word of God which never fails. Jesus’ wisdom is what we need. When our lives fall apart, when our circumstances don’t make sense, Jesus says, “I know what looks like common sense. It isn’t!” Faith is not common, nor is sense oftentimes. But faith looks beyond common sense and an uncommon faith is what rules over common sense. That’s how Jesus is trying to get us to reason when we face difficulty.
Faith or Unbelief?
So here’s the question that faces all of us as we walk out of here tonight. Will it be faith in Christ or unbelief? Are we going to commit ourselves to Him fully or are we going to keep our options open? We live in an age that hates commitment and that shows up in how we walk with Jesus. Will we commit ourselves to Him wholly, totally, or will we say, “You know what, I’m still deciding”? Jesus never left that option open for us. He never left skepticism open for us. He says, “You’ve got to commit to Me or you will not be with Me.” And that skepticism might look different for all of us tonight. It might be the fact that we think, “Hey, I don’t know if I can really trust Him with my money. That’s very tangible. If I don’t have enough, bills don’t get paid. Are you sure I can trust Him?” It might be trusting Him wholeheartedly, and we were fraying from doing that because we believe, “I’m not sure He’s worthy of that.” What happens if I’m wrong? Have you ever thought about that? What happens if we’re wrong? “Maybe this is all just a hoax.” Has that ever crossed your mind? And that’s all species of unbelief.
And Jesus so calmly and gently invites us here tonight to say, "You can't keep Me at arm's length. You can't keep Me at a distance from you. Here's the way I want you to decide." That's what He's saying to us. He says, "Turn to Me. I know it seems risky. I know it means that you're no longer in control." And if we're really honest, that's the reason we don't commit to Him wholeheartedly, isn't it? We love to think we are in some part of control over our lives. And Jesus says, "Here's the first step: Stop thinking that! I've got so much evidence against that for you." Our daily lives are evidence against the fact that we have any kind of control over our circumstances. And Jesus says, "Good! Start there because I do control your circumstances and I love you and I want to fellowship with you. Turn to Me. Move from a management mindset to a vulnerable mindset, to a mindset that goes from, ‘I got this' to a mindset that says, ‘I have no idea what I'm doing, Jesus, but You're standing right next to me. And even though there are five loaves and two fishes and 20,000 people, You can do it.'" That's the childlike faith Jesus commends to us so often. It's childlike but it's not childish. And as our faith grows, as He grows it in our lives, it will move us from a management mindset, from managing problems to, “I don’t know, but I know You know and that’s enough. That’s enough for me to commit myself totally to You.”
Are you searching for abundance tonight? It reminds me of an interview I read a few years ago with Tom Brady. By anybody’s measuring metric, he’s got it all. Right? Supermodel wife, at the time I read this article, three Super Bowl rings, which probably ends the argument that he’s the greatest of all time because now he’s won five. Four-time Super Bowl MVP, more money than he can possibly ever spend and listen to what he says, after his third Super Bowl ring. “Why do I have three Super Bowl rings and still think there’s something greater out there for me? I mean, maybe a lot of people would say, ‘Hey man, this is what it’s all about! I reached my goal, my dream, my life!’ Me? I think it’s got to be more than this. This is can’t be all it’s cracked up to be.” This isn’t all it’s cracked up to be? How many of us in here would go, “I want everything you’ve got, Tom! That is all it’s cracked up to be!” And he says, “No, no it’s not.” And here’s how he finished it. What’s the answer? “I wish I knew. I love playing football and I love being quarterback for this time, but at the same time, I think there are a lot of other parts about me that I am trying to find.”
And whether you win Super Bowls or wash dishes, all of us are looking for abundance. And only when we find the Savior of abundance here on the pages of the Bible before us, will we stop searching. If you’re looking for that abundance tonight, look no further. Commit to Him tonight, right now, and find that abundance that we’ve all been searching for. Let’s pray.
Thank You, Lord. Thank You for abundance that goes beyond our wildest dreams, even though we can’t see it oftentimes in this life. Help us to live for You. Help us to know this abundance and abundant life. We pray in Jesus’ name, amen.
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