July 25, 2021
Metropolitan UMC, Indian Head, MD
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New International Version
Jesus Feeds the Five Thousand
6 Some time after this, Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee (that is, the Sea of Tiberias), 2 and a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the signs he had performed by healing the sick. 3 Then Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down with his disciples. 4 The Jewish Passover Festival was near.
5 When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” 6 He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.
7 Philip answered him, “It would take more than half a year’s wages[a] to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!”
8 Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, 9 “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?”
10 Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, and they sat down (about five thousand men were there). 11 Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish.
12 When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” 13 So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.
14 After the people saw the sign Jesus performed, they began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.” 15 Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.
This passage from John’s Gospel covers two miracle stories: the feeding of the five thousand and Jesus walking on the water. Only the former is paralleled in all three synoptics. (In addition, Matthew and Mark have a story about a feeding of four thousand.) The story of Jesus walking on the water follows the story of the feeding of the five thousand in Mark and Matthew (but is not present in Luke). These were stories of obvious importance to the early church, and though we tend to read them separately, they clearly belong together—especially in John’s Gospel, where the account of Jesus walking on the water is followed by Jesus’ efforts to explain the miracle of the bread and the fish.
John uses these two stories to invite us into relationship with the living Christ. The true miracle is not the multiplication of loaves and fish, but the multiplication of God’s grace—not that Jesus walks on water, but that he comes to us and takes hold of us. The God who is the source of all life offers us the possibility of participating in the divine life, of discovering a “true” life and “eternal” life in God that is stronger than evil and death, stronger than all our desperate efforts to multiply life for ourselves or to go it alone across the rough seas of life.
While questions of historicity (did these things really happen?) are inevitable, they will offer us little help in delving into the deeper meaning of these two stories. John himself writes that those who sought Jesus because they were impressed with the miraculous feeding did not really see the “sign” (6:26). They were looking for the wrong kind of bread. These two stories are more than journalistic accounts for the morning newspaper; they are rich theological constructions that draw on larger biblical themes.
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Notes from Point 1
Notes from Point 2
Notes from Point 3
 John P. Burgess, “Tenth Sunday after Pentecost, Year B,” in The Lectionary Commentary: Theological Exegesis for Sunday’s Texts, Volume Three, ed. Roger E. Van Harn (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2001), 505–506.