Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:
‘Feeding the Multitude with the Bread of Life’
© August 4, 2013 by Steve Mickelson
Let us pray…
Last Sunday’s lesson outlined how many people, believers and non-believers alike, tend to confuse the definition of Jesus, the Word made flesh, with that of the Scriptures, being the inspired word of God.
On this Communion Sunday at BLCF, our lesson we focus on how some followers of Jesus, including the Disciples’, misunderstood what Jesus meant by the “Bread of Life”. This confusion may have arisen because prior to his sermon, the Lord has performed a miracle of feeding the multitude gathered on the Mount of Olives. But before we look at this miracle, let us briefly review the importance and impact of the Lord’s message, which is summarized by Wiki bits as:
The Sermon on the Mount (anglicized from the Matthean Vulgate Latin section title: Sermo in monte) is a collection of sayings and teachings of Jesus, which emphasizes his moral teaching found in the Gospel of Matthew (chapters 5, 6 and 7). It is the first of the Five Discourses of Matthew and takes place relatively early in the Ministry of Jesus after he has been baptized by John the Baptist and preached in Galilee.
The Sermon is the longest piece of teaching from Jesus in the New Testament, and has been one of the most widely quoted elements of the Canonical Gospels. It includes some of the best known teachings of Jesus, such as the Beatitudes, and the widely recited Lord’s Prayer. To most believers in Jesus, the Sermon on the Mount contains the central tenets of Christian discipleship.
The last verse of chapter 5 is considered to be a focal point that summarizes the teaching of the sermon: “be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect”, advising his disciples and followers to seek the path towards perfection and the Kingdom of God.
- ^ a b c “Sermon on the Mount.” Cross, F. L., ed. The Oxford dictionary of The Christian church. New York: Oxford University Press. 2005
- ^ a b c d The Sermon on the mount: a theological investigation by Carl G. Vaught 2001 ISBN 978-0-918954-76-3 pages xi-xiv
This morning, we will not be reexamining the Lord’s message given on the Mount of Olives, also known as the Olivet Discourse, which is the name given to the orderly and extended teaching given by Jesus Christ on the Mount of Olives. The subject of the Olivet Discourse was the end times and is recorded in Matthew 24:1 – 25:46 , with parallel passages found in Mark 13:1-37 and Luke 21:5-36.
Today’s lesson will focus on the account of the Miracle of Feeding the Multitude as recorded in the 6th Chapter of John’s gospel. This miracle was perhaps the most significant performed by Jesus prior to his resurrection from the grave. The significance of the miracle is misunderstood by many.
So let us begin by reading from John 6, found on the last page of today’s bulletin, John 6:1-15 (ESV), entitled:
Jesus Feeds the Five Thousand
6 After this Jesus went away to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tiberias. 2 And a large crowd was following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing on the sick. 3 Jesus went up on the mountain, and there he sat down with his disciples. 4 Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand. 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?” 6 He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he would do. 7 Philip answered him, “Two hundred denarii[a] worth of bread would not be enough 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 for so many?” 10 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. 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. 12 And when they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, “Gather up the leftover fragments, that nothing may be lost.” 13 So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves left by those who had eaten. 14 When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!”
15 Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself. . Footnotes: a. John 6:7 A denarius was a day’s wage for a laborer
We find that because of the Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes, the people were prepared to make Jesus king. This was not the reason Jesus came on the earth, to provide for our bodies’ physical needs, such as hunger and thirst. And Jesus did not come to feed us one meal at a time. But the Lord sensed that the people were ready to crown him because he had filled their bellies with food. And so Jesus withdrew to the mountain by himself.
We read in the beginning of the passage that the crowd had gathered because of the miracles of healing that Jesus had performed and no doubt had come to see more of the same.
I wonder how many who were feed on that Mount really listened to the sermon, instead choosing to focus on the miracle feast. The answer seems quite clear. For after delivering the sermon, Jesus went up the mount to pray and sent the disciples to sail the stormy sea, where he later joined them by walking upon the sea and calming the stormy waters. And many of the crowd followed, John 6:22-40 (ESV), where Jesus said:
I Am the Bread of Life
22 On the next day the crowd that remained on the other side of the sea saw that there had been only one boat there, and that Jesus had not entered the boat with his disciples, but that his disciples had gone away alone. 23 Other boats from Tiberias came near the place where they had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks. 24 So when the crowd saw that Jesus was not there, nor his disciples, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum, seeking Jesus.
25 When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” 26 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. 27 Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.” 28 Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” 30 So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? 31 Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” 32 Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34 They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”
35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. 36 But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. 37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”
This part of John’s gospel, Jesus explains his ‘Miracle of Loaves and Fishes’ as being a parable not of the manna provided to people of Israel who followed Moses across the wilderness to the promised land, but a parable for the spiritual manna which is the salvation and resurrection provided by faith in Jesus Christ.
Many Christians view the miracle where Jesus multiplied 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish to literally feed a multitude of thousands who had gathered to hear the Lord deliver his “Sermon on the Mount”, as an example of how the Lord provides for our needs. And we have seen that many of the crowd of followers had the same mistaken idea. We could excuse the peoples misunderstanding at Capernaum, because the Lord had yet to be crucified, resurrected or undergo ascension to heaven. And day of Pentecost was to follow as well.
We may see that miracles of both the Olivet meal and the manna provided for the people of Israel following Moses, served as parables to the eternal spiritual sustenance provided through faith in the son of God.
It should seem clear that understanding what Jesus meant by him being the ‘Bread of Life’, after his death, resurrection and the arrival of the Holy Spirit. However, many who focus on Christ’s physical miracles, failed to understand the greater importance of the spiritual gifts that Jesus brought to those who believe. In the epistle of 1 Corinthians 10:1-6 (ESV), the Apostle Paul echoes the same explanation:
Warning Against Idolatry
10 For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers,[a] that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, 2 and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, 3 and all ate the same spiritual food, 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ.
5 Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown[b] in the wilderness.
And even today, we see at our Wednesday outreach community dinner that some guests are impatient to be served dinner to fill their stomachs. And others hunger for the second course, which is the testimony or spiritual meal served at the BLCF Cafe.
To a degree, there is a similar disparity between the reasons why people attend church. Some come because of the desire to satisfy a physical need and others a need that is spiritual.
That does not mean that God does not provide, through the Holy Spirit, healing of afflictions of body and helps us to avoid sin. We still must be aware that such miracles are not as important as the spiritual salvation provided to all believers.
This brings us to the lessons provided by Jesus’ Miracle of Feeding the Multitude, as a parable to the gift of salvation Christ gave us.
Of all the miracles that Jesus performed, this miracle was the most public, with literally thousands of witnesses present. This was a miracle that fed both believers and non-believers alike, just like Jesus miracle of Salvation is available to everyone. Jesus provides the multitude of humanity his Bread of Life, to forever feed our souls. However, only those who truly believe in the resurrected Christ may receive and be filled by the Holy Spirit, as Jesus said in John 6:40, “For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”
Let us pray…
Hymn #317: Blessed Assurance, Jesus Is Mine
To begin the Communion portion of today’s service, I would like to share the final portion of scripture from John’s gospel, from which we may gain insight to what the Elements of Communion, the bread and the grape juice represent. You may find below the Order of Service on the inside of today’s bulletin, John 6:49-58 (ESV):
49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”
52 The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” 53 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. 56 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread[a] the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.”
. Footnotes: a. John 6:58 Greek lacks the bread
I would like to invite all those present, who hold Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, to join us with the partaking of the elements of Communion. Please take a moment to prepare, by prayer and reflection what these elements signify as we observe the sacrifice and gift of Jesus, as an expression of God’s love, until he returns. Please follow as I read Responsive Reading #626: ‘The Last Supper’ which is taken from Mark 14.