There is a crowd large gathered, after all Jesus has been doing signs and wonders. Jesus was seeking out some down-time but as the crowds gather Jesus chooses a grassy hilltop on which to teach them.
Seeing approximately 10 000 – 15 000 men, women and children gathering to hear Him Jesus leans over to Phillip and essentially says; ‘How are we going to feed all these people?’. Philip is astounded. I can imagine him thinking; ‘This is unreasonable, this is not our problem, we don’t have the resources for this, Lord what are you suggesting?’
Can you empathise with Philip?
Have you ever felt like God was being unreasonable?
John doesn’t record Philip ever recovering from his feeling limited by their apparent available resources – in South African currency Phillip estimated that it would have cost R20 000 to buy enough bread to go around.
What is going on here?
Why would God ask us to do what only He can do?
John 6:6 contains the key to the answer to questions such as these.
He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he would do. (John 6:6)
Jesus is not scatterbrained, hasn’t lost the plot, isn’t unaware of realities and constraints. No Scripture pointedly reveals Jesus’ motive in the scenario; ‘He said this to test him’. Jesus was not uncertain as to how He was going to deal with this dilemma of so many people and feeding them, John records; ‘for He Himself knew what He would do.’
There is a difference between what we think we believe, what we say we believe and what we do believe. What we truly believe is revealed by our responses to situations and our actions.
I know this feeling. It’s easy sitting in your room with your bible or sitting in church listening to preaching or in a small group discussion thinking or saying what you believe… And then it happens! Something arises in real life and that belief is tested, is it real, do I really believe?
Philip no doubt has just been with Jesus, heard Jesus’ clear claims to being the divine Son of God, has seen Jesus do amazing miracles – but did Phillip truly believe?
Jesus sets up a scenario that will test him, will squeeze out of Philip and the other disciples whether they truly believe that Jesus is God, that Jesus has authority over all things.
Paul writes to the Thessalonian believers in such a way that it is clear that he can empathise with Phillip, Paul knew what it felt like to have God test his faith, test him to see what was really in his head and heart. (1 Thessalonians 2:4)
Likewise, James urges believers to consider it pure joy when we are tested, when our faith is put on trial because such tests from God give us the opportunity to see steadfastness grow in us so that we might mature in our faith not. (James 1:3)
What’s happening in your life that might be God testing you?
Is there anything God’s asked you to do that you think is unreasonable?
Friend. God’s not malicious, He’s not having fun with you. No, your heavenly Father wants to test the genuineness of your faith, wants your faith to grow and to mature.
Andrew did better than Phillip in this moment. Philiip doesn’t manage to lift his thoughts above the challenges and constraints and reasons why he can’t do what Jesus is suggesting he do.
Andrew at least thought about what they did have and believed Jesus could do a miracle. He probably didn’t know what Jesus would do, didn’t know the magnitude of the miracle Jesus would do, but his actions do reveal that he did believe Jesus was able to, was going to do something astounding and miraculous.
What do you have in your situation?
Focus on what God had entrusted you with.
Give that to Him for His purposes mixed with faith.
And watch Jesus grow your faith and reveal His majestic power and purposes.
This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him. (John 2:11)
John records 7 signs in his gospel that all point to Jesus’ being the Messiah. This one is the first of those. It happens in a quite unique context, the context of a party, no mourning, no suffering mentioned, no demonic influence needed to be overcome.
Jesus and His disciples have only been together as a band of brothers for about 3 days by now. They must have still been getting to know one another, working out relationships, who’s who, and probably thinking; ‘what are we going to be doing together and what does this all mean’?
Jesus gets invited to a wedding, along with some of His other family members and the disciples get invited to join in. They get there and at some point in the wedding the wine runs out. Jesus’ mother who knows that the angel’s promised about Jesus, maybe sensing that its time for Jesus to get into the limelight hints to Jesus; ‘They have no wine’.
Was she just a busy-body, after all it wasn’t her responsibility, was she just compassionate for the host, or was she wanting a stage for her son? Jesus’ response to her seems to hint towards Him feeling like it was the latter! ‘Mom; it’s not my time yet!’ back-off please…
And yet on the quiet, in full view of the servants and His freshly chosen disciples Jesus reveals His power over physics and chemistry turning water into choice vintage wine by the gallons.
Jesus doesn’t take centre stage, isn’t looking for fame or notoriety but what He has just done doesn’t go unnoticed by his new followers. In this moment John records that Jesus, ‘manifested His glory’ and the result was that ‘his disciples believed in Him’ (vs11).
The miracle was a sign, one that pointed to Jesus’ true nature and His purpose. When those men saw what Jesus did – they believed.
After the wedding John records that Jesus and after a few days off at Capenaum go into Jerusalem and Jesus goes into the temple and in what must have been a surprising act to the disciples and those there in the temple – rebukes those who are selling and trading in the outer courts of the temple; “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” (vs16)…
Who did Jesus think He was?
By what authority was He doing these things?
Why was He calling Almighty God His Father?
Some Jews in the temple challenge Jesus effectively saying; ‘On what authority are you doing these things – show us a sign that you have authority to say and do this here?’
The disciples saw the sign in Cana at the wedding, they had believed and yet they must have felt awkward in this moment, is what Jesus is doing appropriate? Now those who didn’t know who Jesus was and didn’t believe they want a sign…
Jesus answers them with what is essentially a riddle that the disciples only got after Jesus’ death and resurrection; “Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”” (vs19)
The sign these Jews should have seen was that Jesus was doing what He was doing in the tempe because of who He was – the Messiah. But it was a veiled sign at this point not even abudantly clear yet to His own followers.
From our vantage point in redemption history we can see that even Jesus’ actions in the temple were actually a sign of His authority of His passion for His Father’s house.
We have the advantage of the New Testament, we know the whole story now of Jesus’ life death and resurrection, we have the greatest sign of Jesus’ nature, identity and purpose (the cross). The question is do you believe like Jesus’ disciples did?
Having died forsaken by all, and then having risen remarkably, showing Himself to a few and then to the whole group of His disciples Jesus then tells them what’s next. We know from other gospel accounts that Jesus told them about His imminent ascension.
But what next?
What were these followers of Jesus supposed to do now?
Go home? Go back to their old lives?
Is this the finish line or is it in fact the start line?
Jesus clearly commissions these ones who had given their lives to follow Him. Jesus tells them to “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation”.
There is no going back home, no retreat, this is not the finish-line or the end of the road! This is the start of the rest of the great adventure, the beginning of the church of Jesus Christ proclaiming what Jesus HAD DONE for anyone who believes in Him.
And whoever believes that message about Jesus will be saved, and those who are saved should be baptised. These believers (and all believers that were to follow) get equipped with authority over sickness and any demonic influence – to set people free so that they can believe in Jesus. They are promised the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and the gift of speaking in tongues, they will do miraculous things in Jesus name… Jesus will empower them to do remarkable even miraculous things to confirm the message they carry about Him.
These last words are not just their mandate alone, but our mandate too. It is what the church of Jesus Christ is commissioned to do, what our individual lives ought to be taken up with (Jesus’ mandate to proclaim the good news about Him) and should be characterised by (demonstrations of kingdom power that authenticate the message).
Let’s live out this great adventure!
Believing in Jesus is just the start-line for us all, it’s not the end of the road, it’s the beginning of living the rest of our lives for Jesus and for His mission to reach the whole world.
Are you on-board?
[Theological Sidebar: Does this passage (vs16) teach that you must believe and be baptised to be saved? No. Note how although Jesus says whoever believes and is baptised will be saved, it goes on to only say that those who do not believe are condemned. Jesus does not say that those who do not believe and are not baptised are condemned. Baptism in water as a believer is a visible sign of the ]