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When They Had Their Fill
June 26, 1977

St. Paul's United Methodist Church

1 KINGS 17:10-16; JOHN 6:1-14

Last year, the Oakland A's played a particularly exciting game with Boston. In the third inning the A’s were behind 6-0. They narrowed that lead until going into the ninth inning they were only behind by one run. It was 7-6. But oh, what a ninth inning! They made every move count. With just three hits, they made two runs. And they won the game pulling out in the ninth after a 6-0 score. Monte Moore, the sportscaster gets very excited at times. After that exciting game, he enthusiastically said, “A team that won't be beat, can't be beat!” There is always a way. 

Jesus refused to be beat, not for himself, but when he was confronted with human need, when he was confronted with people who were desperate or who were in trouble, when he cared and his compassion overwhelmed him, he could not be beat. No matter what the situation was, no matter how limited were the resources at his disposal, no matter how hopeless the situation seemed to be, he refused to be beat. This is especially seen in the story for today. 

Our lessons concerned the feeding of people, miraculously—Elijah in the Old Testament and Jesus in the new. The feeding of the 5,000 was a very popular story in the early church. The feeding of the 5,000 is the only miracle that is recorded in all four Gospels. We read it in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. How important and how meaningful this story must have been to the people! It essentially is a story that tells us how Jesus responds to our needs. Jesus had compassion and care, and refused to be beat when it came to meeting the needs of people. That day the disciples of Jesus had retreated across the Sea of Galilee. They were tired. Jesus needed rest so they went to a lonely place. This was during the Passover, there were a lot of people traveling a lot of people on the roads. Jesus tried to get away from the people and went across the Sea of Galilee to rest. 

But the people knew where he was going. They traveled miles on foot. Some of them came on boat across the sea. And soon he found that there were 5,000 people. Now one of the Gospels says it was 5,000 men plus women and children. Jesus didn't turn them away. He talked to them and as he talked, the day grew short, it was evening, it was supper time and they were far away from food. They were far from any village. They were far away from any place where people could go in a just short time to get food. What to do about these people? Jesus had compassion on the crowd. Jesus cared that they were hungry and Jesus met the need. He took what was available, and he multiplied it. The major point being that he responds to need. He responds when people are hungry. World hunger is now the number one crisis in this world. Jesus cares. God is concerned. Jesus has compassion. 

Whatever your needs are, whatever your problems, whatever burdens you're carrying, whatever worries you have, Jesus cares about you and Jesus responds. God cannot be beat. Paul wrote in Philippians 4:19, “My God will supply all your needs.”  Rest in the Lord. Wait patiently for the Lord and the Lord will give you the desires of your heart. The Good News Bible translates that verse, “Seek your happiness in the Lord and he will give you your heart's desire.” That's the promise. Trust in that promise and God will supply all your needs. 

The story illustrates not only that God can meet people's needs, but there are leftovers. Twelve baskets were filled with the leftovers. Not only did God satisfy the needs of the people on that day, but there was ample food left over. How Jesus can meet needs! 

The story also illustrates that Jesus in meeting human need, usually works through people. Sometimes he's frustrated trying to work through people, but he refuses to be beat. He persists, endures. 

Look at some of the people in that story, some of the characters. First, there were the disciples. The disciples saw that it was getting late. In the Gospel of Mark’s account of the story, it says, “When it was getting late, his disciples came to him and said, ‘it is already very late. And this is a lonely place, send the people away and let them go to the nearby farms and villages, in order to buy themselves something to eat.’” Now, that's logical. It's just common sense. It's late, it's dinner time. Let's break up this assembly. Let's send the people on their way so they can go get something to eat. It was not of paramount importance to the disciples that anything to eat was far away. That was not important to them. Because logic dictated that it was time to eat, let's quit and let the people go find something for themselves. 

The disciples were the presidential advisors, the Administrative Board, the Pastor- Parish Relations Committee. They were the realists. It was their job to be practical and they looked at the situation calmly, coolly and dispassionately. They were very logical, they understood the problem. They analyzed the problem. They studied all the resources that were available. They didn't have any money, and there was no food nearby. They looked at all the resources, they analyzed, and made a recommendation based upon their findings. It's necessary to have people like the disciples to be logical and practical, but sometimes it's not enough, especially when you're trying to meet the needs of human beings for human beings are neither logical nor practical. The needs of people don't fit logical schemes. Jesus told the disciples, “Go and buy something then for the people,” and they responded, “But we have no money.” They were logical and practical, but sometimes what is needed requires more. 

Then Jesus turned to Philip and asked Philip’s advice of what they should do. And Philip replied, “It would cost too much to purchase food. There's nothing that can be done. It's hopeless. There's nothing we can do.” Philip is the one who exemplifies the hopeless attitude. After all, it’s the third inning and the score is 6-0. We might as well give up. Let's quit. There's no hope. The situation is beyond redemption. Give up. These “positive lights” are so helpful to have in groups or in your family or in the church! Oh, it can't be done. It just can't be done. Or, if you think things are bad, now, just wait. Or, even while things may be fine now, but you just wait, there will be a bad corner ahead. We have some people in our church like that. To quote John Norris, “The characteristic attitude of this kind of people who look at things and say, ‘Well, things are fine now,’ is that we are temporarily not failing.” They just can't bring themselves to say that we're succeeding. We're just temporarily not failing. Well, we may be in the black right now, but summer is coming and we just had Easter. These are the people who for 25 years have been saying, “Well, the economy can’t hold up, there's going to be a depression any minute.” 25 years I've heard that. These are the positive lights! Wherever there are problems, they say, “There’s nothing that can be done.” And when things are seemingly going along fine, they say, “Well, it can't last.” Jesus had quite a time that day trying to work through people to satisfy the needs of the crowd. He had quite a group of individuals around him. The disciples collectively were too logical and practical and Philip as an individual was too pessimistic. 

But Jesus won't be beat. So he persisted. Then Andrew came to him. Thank God for the Andrews for Andrew said, “I'll see what I can do and I'll trust Jesus to do the rest.” While the disciples were analyzing the situation on the surface and being practical, and while Philip was wringing his hands and saying nothing can be done, Andrew was researching. Andrew was searching different options and other alternatives. Andrew was mingling through the crowd trying to find see what resources they might have. And Andrew found a little boy. Andrew went to Jesus and said, “I found a boy. I've done what I can do. Now Lord, it's up to you to do the rest. We've got five loaves and two fish”. Now the loaves were no bigger than our dinner rolls and the fish were little sardine-like fish that they catch in the Sea of Galilee, and then they pickle them. They're eaten as a relish with the rolls. So all he had was five biscuits and jam, peanut butter! But Andrew said, “This is what I found.” With all his optimism and all his hope, he took it to Jesus and said, “You do the rest.” With that kind of attitude, Jesus can work miracles. 

Now look at the boy. We don't know how old the boy was, but he gave up his lunch. We know the boy was poor because the loaves were made of barley. Barley bread was the food of the poor people. It was the cheapest kind of bread there was. But that little boy gave up his lunch. I wonder what his attitude was. Can you imagine the little boy sitting there? He probably has a basket or something hung over his shoulder, and up comes this strange man, Andrew who asks, “What do you have in your basket?”  “Well, I have five loaves and two fish.” “Would you mind sharing that with the crowd? You know that it's time to eat.” Imagine what the little boy said! What would you do? Would you give your lunch? I have three boys in our house and I know they wouldn't give up their lunch. They wouldn't even pass the peanut butter, much less share it. Think what went through that little boy's mind—such a risk. Andrew didn't ask if he would give half of it. He said all of it. “5,000 people around and I'm going to give my lunch and expect to get a little back?” Such a risk that boy took. Maybe Andrew just took it away from him, but I doubt it. That little boy must have gone through some real feelings, but decided to trust, decided to risk and gave all he had.

Now it wasn't much, but it was all he had, and Jesus took it and worked a miracle to satisfy the needs of the people. With that kind of attitude—not the attitude that says, “Lord, I'll share my leftovers. Lord, I'll take what I need and then I'll give whatever's left over”—not that attitude, but the attitude that says, “Lord, I'll give first, and then I’ll eat the leftovers, or whatever you give to me.” First fruit giving was the sacrifice in the Old Testament—the first fruits, not what was left over after the harvest. When the harvest comes in, the first of the harvest is what's taken to the Lord. The first of the harvest is what is shared with those in need. 

When we're willing to share, when we're willing to give up our money or possessions—whatever is dear to us—when we're willing to give our very lives, then what God can do is work miracles. And God takes care of us in return. My God will satisfy all your needs. The people had their fill that day. Their needs were met because Jesus found people, not as logical as the disciples and not as pessimistic as Philip but he found an Andrew who said, “I will do what I can.” And he found a little boy who was willing to give all he had. With those kinds of people Jesus can work miracles.

© 1977 Douglas I. Norris