JOHN 6:1—15 ESV
1 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 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.
There’s so much going on in this scene. The disciples are learning from Jesus’ every move. The crowds are following Him everywhere He goes. Some want to see miracles, some want to be healed, and others are just hungry.
But what is so comforting, so important, is that Jesus never stops being ‘Jesus’. No matter what demands the people put on Him, no matter what things they believe are important in their own eyes, the will of God is what will be done, in and through Jesus.
Just before this scene, in chapter 5, Jesus goes to great lengths to tell the people that He only does what He hears the Father saying. Therefore, when Jesus asks the crowd to sit down and challenges the disciples with feeding the multitude, it can only mean that what Jesus heard God saying that day was for Him to feed and care for these people.
We often forget that Jesus doesn’t have an agenda. It so easy for us to say that God feels this way or that way about any given topic. At the end of the day, the things we see on the news, read in the paper, or hear from our friends at the local breakfast place, are simply the overflow of chaos. In a broken and fallen world, the headline is always going to be skewed in favor of one thing or the other.
So, if Jesus doesn’t have an agenda, then what does He have? He has the will of God. God has seen it fit to reconcile this world, bridging the gap that sin has created between God and His beloved creation. For Jesus, there is only one thing that matters: turning the eyes, ears, hearts, and lives of people toward the God who is redeeming them. That is His focus.
This past December I learned a hard lesson on focus and perspective, and it was one of the toughest times I’d had in a while. My grandmother passed away. I’d never known life without her. She died on Friday, we buried her on Saturday, and we preached our Christmas services here on Sunday.
As she was passing, we were doing everything in the world to comfort her. We said all we could say but we were scattered. The heaviness of the room was overwhelming. This is the woman who taught all 14 people in the room about Jesus and His love. Suddenly, I did what she would do. I filled the moment with music. I told her I was going to sing to her. The only thing I could muster up was the chorus to ‘Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus’. I started singing:
Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in His wonderful face
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace
It is the glory and grace of God that melts away sin and sadness. The things of earth fade in the presence of God. The world and its agendas, its issues, its politics—they all grow strangely dim when we focus on God’s will to meet the world right where it is.
If you want to find Jesus, whether in Scripture or in the world around you, look where there is hurt, where there is brokenness, and you’ll find Him reaching out to forsaken places. You’ll find Him at the kitchen table of swindling tax collectors, in the market square forgiving prostitutes, and even serving communion to the one who will betray Him unto death.
One of my favorite movies is probably one of the silliest films ever made. Its called The Three Amigos, a comedy starring Steve Martin, Chevy Chase, and Martin Short. They play three movie stars who haphazardly become real life heroes. Their heroic tag line is a cheesy knock-off of famous cowboys and heroes from comics and films. It goes like this:
Wherever there is injustice, you will find us.
Wherever there is suffering, we’ll be there.
Wherever liberty is threatened, you will find…The Three Amigos!
Its silly, but it’s also not too far off from the heart of God and the ministry of Jesus. Psalm 34:18 says, The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Jesus is turning the heart and focus of the people unto to God, the One from which salvation and wholeness and healing come. You heard Psalm 121 read earlier, one that has saved me from many a down-day, as it says:
1 I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come?
2 My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.
3 He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber.
Jesus—tired as He may have been as the crowds followed Him and demanded so much from Him—did not slumber or fail in feeding the 5,000 that day. No matter the reason they were there, varied as those reasons may have been, He sat them down, with what little they had to offer, and He made it much.
Jesus did what He heard the Father saying. We can ask ourselves today, What do we hear the Father saying? With a master building plan at work, with The Tillman House becoming a mission site for ministry in the community, I would say that our church has its pulse on what God is saying. We are meeting people where they are in Smyrna—creating a place for them to belong, where they can be fed and nurtured in every possible way. May our prayer be that we are always listening to God’s voice of compassion and redemption, loving the people in front of us, and showing them grace that leads to salvation. Amen.