Second Reformed Church

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

"God of Creation" Sermon: John 6:1-15

“God of Creation”

[John 6:1-15]

August 2, 2015Second Reformed Church

            God created everything that exists out of nothing.  Before God created, there was God – One God in Three Persons – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – perfectly equal, perfectly united, perfectly in harmony and in love with Themselves.

            Then God created to glorify Himself through creating, because He is worthy.  And He created everything that is and was and will ever be.  So, everything that is belongs to God; God is the Owner of everything in existence.  And God can do whatever God wills to do with everything that He has created.

            If that is all true, and God the Father loved us and sent His Son to make us right with Him – as we see in John 3, is God not able to give us everything we need – even more – much more – than what we need?  Do we believe that God loves us in such a way that He will give us what we need, and even more?

            Jesus said, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.  Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone?  Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent?  If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:7-11, ESV).

            And again, Jesus said, “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.  If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it” (John 14:13-14, ESV).

            With this in mind, let us turn to our text:     

“After this”

            Chapter six of John picks up about a year later – after Jesus’ Galilean ministry – about which John says almost nothing. 

It is about a year before the crucifixion.

“Jesus went away to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tiberias.  And a large crowd was following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing on the sick.  Jesus went up on the mountain, and then he sat down with his disciples.  Now, the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand.”

We see first, that the people followed Jesus for the sake of the signs, not for His being God the Son and Savior.

Specifically, the people saw Jesus heal the sick and they went after Him.  Some went after Him wanting to be healed – or to have a friend or relative healed.  Others went because they wanted to see the signs continued – they wanted to see another sign and another sign.

And it is certainly not wrong to desire to be well; it is not wrong to desire that our family members or friends be well.  We are encouraged to bring our concerns before God the Father and pray through the Holy Spirit in Jesus’ Name for whatever is on our heart.  And Jesus promised that whatever we pray for that is according to His Will, He will do it.

The problem with the crowd was they were very interested in the signs – and the benefits of the signs – but they did not desire the Savior of sinners – they did not go past the signs to the One the signs pointed to.

We have said that the point of miracles is to point to Jesus as God the Son and Savior.  Miracles are also called “signs,” as we see here – because the primary point of a miracle or sign is not what is done, but the One it points to.  The point of Jesus healing all of those sick people was not first and foremost to heal those sick people, but to reveal through what He was doing that He is God the Son and Savior.

The darker side of this mistake is seen in the TV “healers” who make their money off of people parading across the stageas they “throw” the Holy Spirit at them, causing them to fall to the ground and rise up healed – unless the response wasn’t big enough – then the person gets up, but needs another “wallop” of the Holy Spirit to be well again.  This is, at least, mistaking the sign for the One it is pointing to, and more frequently, an actor devilishly confusing desperate people.

And then there are those, like this crowd, whose blindness doesn’t allow them to look past the sign to the One it is pointing to.  It is like coming upon a stop sign and admiring its shape and color scheme, the metal it is made out of, where it is placed, the pole on which it rises, but not having a clue as to what it means.

Have we ever wanted to hear a speaker or go to a church because the pastor is famous, well-spoken, well-dressed, handsome, has a big church, has lots of money, has a beautiful wife, is funny, is a great writer, and associates with other famous, well-known, and rich people?

The man speaking or preaching is only a herald – his only importance is the message he is giving – he must be pointing to the One Who is the Gospel – Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Savior.

Jesus started up the mountain, and sat down with His disciples, looking at the crowd walking across the plain.  And we are told that the Feast of Passover was at hand – the Feast during which the people of Israel remembered and celebrated God’s deliverance of them from slavery in Egypt into the freedom of the Promised Land.

“Lifting up his eyes, then, and seeing that a large crowd was coming towards him, Jesus said to Philip, ‘Where are we to buy bread, so these people may eat?’  He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he would do.”

Second, we can become so anxious about our problems that we forget He Who is the Answer.

As Jesusconsidered the crowd forming before Him, He decided to test Philip and the other disciples to see if they understood the point of the miracles – the signs.  And we find out as we continue in our text there were about five thousand men in the crowd – and if we estimate that there were an equal number of women and children – there could have been around fifteen thousand people sitting on the grass before Jesus.  Fifteen thousand people.

And Jesus asked Philip, “Where are we to buy bread, so these people may eat?”

“These people have followed us from the other side of the shore, walked around the Sea of Galilee.  The hour is getting late; they must be hungry and tired.  Where can we get them all a meal?  Where can we get lunch for fifteen thousand?”

How would you have answered?

When we see that we received about $400 a week in income, and we have $2,500 a week in expenses, and the question is raised, what can be done?  How do we answer?

When you are out of work, seeking a job – any job – with all your might, but nothing comes, and you are being as thrifty as possible, and you still can’t pay your bills, what can be done?  How do you answer?

When the government seems corrupt, wherever we look, and the average person is no better, and we hear of potential wars, and secret evil deals, and lies function as the “news,” what can be done?  How do we answer?

When we have a problem and have exhausted everything we can think of to solve the problem, and it is still haunting us, what can be done?  How do we answer?

“Where can we get lunch for fifteen thousand?”

Minimally, our answer to this question, and in times when we don’t know how we can get to a God-glorifying result, should be the same as Ezekiel’s when God presented to him a valley full of dry bones that were very dry, and God asked him if those bones could live.  Ezekiel answered, “O Lord God, you know” (Ezekiel 37:3b, ESV).

“Where can we get lunch for fifteen thousand?”

“Lord God, I have no idea how it would be possible, but I know You know.”

And even better answer from someone who had spent the past two years with Jesus, seeing His signs and learning from Him, would be something like:

“Lord Jesus, You are the God Who created everything that is out of nothing.  You are the Sovereign God and Owner of everything in all of Creation.  And just as You changed the water into wine at the wedding in Cana in overwhelming abundance and highest quality, I know that, if it is Your Will, You can bring forth a meal for fifteen thousand out of Your great storehouses.”

Jesus tells us not to be anxious about our lives.  He said not to be anxious about our food and drink and clothes, but to look at the grass and the birds and see how our Father cares for the Creation and to remember that He loves us more – He has sent His Son to live and die and physically rise to be our Savior.  If God our Father owns everything and loves us enough to send His Son to become a human and suffer and die, will He not give us everything we need and more, as we ask according to His Will?

James wrote, “You do not have, because you do not ask.  You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions” (James 4:2b-3a, ESV).

If we do not ask, we can’t complain that we didn’t receive.

If we ask and plead before our Father, and we do not receive, it is because what we thought we needed was not what we needed.

But if we ask and plead for what we believe we need, and it is what God wills for us, God, our Father, is able and will provide.

Are we asking?  Are we asking?  Do we trust our loving and able Father?

How did Philip and the disciples respond?

“Philip answered him, ‘Two hundred denarii worth of bread would not be enough for each of them to get a little.’  One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, ‘There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many?’”

“Fifteen thousand people!  Two hundred days wages wouldn’t be enough money to buy bread for them – and we certainly have nowhere near that much money.”

“Wait a minute!  This boy has five barley loaves and two fish – but that’s not going to go very far, will it?”

What was this panic and dismay?  The disciples had been with Jesus as He had healed and some of them had been with Him when He had turned water into wine.  They were with God the Son and Savior, Creator and Owner of everything that is.  How could they not know that He had a way already planned to feed the crowd?

How can we, looking back with the surety of Jesus’ death, physical resurrection, and ascension – with the clear history of the Gospels and all of Scripture – and be anxious and doubt?

We may lack due to our sin.

We may lack because we are being disciplined.

We may lack because God knows it would not be best for us.

Or, it may be that we lack because we have not asked, believing that our Loving Father is able to do all things according to His Will with everything in existence.

“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.  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.  And when they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, ‘Gather up the leftover fragments, that nothing may be lost.’  So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves left by those who had eaten.”

In Jesus’ familiar way, He took the five little pancakes of barley bread, and He gave thanks for them, and then He broke them and gave them to the crowd.  And in the same way He took the fish, and gave thanks, and broke them and gave them to the crowd.

So Jesus did this sign, and He fed the crowd.

But that’s not it, is it?

For, third, we see that when God gives, He gives lavishly.

Jesus did not just miraculously make five loaves and two fish enough food for the crowd.  No, He made enough food for the crowd to eat as much as they wanted – and – for there to be twelve full baskets of pieces of bread and fish.

Jesus did not just make this small lunch into enough food to feed all fifteen thousand people a small lunch.  No, Jesus made there to be enough food that everyone could eat until they were stuffed and, when the disciples collected the leftovers, there would be far more food leftover than what they began with.

We live in a culture and at a time when it is hard for us to recognize the lavish way in which we live.  We tend to think we live modestly and actually deserve more, when the fact of the matter is that we have more than most people in the world.  And we have far more than we realize.  Are we alive?  How is our health on a scale from dead to ten?  Do we have a place to live?  Do we have family?  Friends?  Clothes?  Food?  Any money anywhere?  A TV?  Books?  Music?  Cable?  Phone?  Internet?  If we listed everything we have, we will likely be surprised at how much God has given us – because everything is God’s – and He owes us nothing – so hasn’t He been generous to us?  Hasn’t He been lavishly generous to us?

That is not to deny that there are people in real need – and we have been given so much – especially in this country, so we can help meet the needs of those who truly need as God’s means of providing for them.

Please – let each of us consider all that we have and give thanks to our God Who gives us far beyond what we deserve – let us raise our voices in prayer and praise to Him Who freely gave us some of all that is His so we would glorify Him for Who He is.  And let us find a way that we can give more to others in thanksgiving to God for His bounty to us.

The disciples saw that Jesus has the ability to provide for our every need – do we know that and believe it? 

Yet, we know from the “health and wealth gospel” that we can turn this lavish generosity of our Father and make promises to ourselves that God has never made:  “God wants us to be healthy and wealthy,” God never promised.

“When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, ‘This is indeed the Prophet who is coming into the world.’

            “Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountains by himself.”

            Fourth, the people missed the Savior for the sign.

            Having fed the crowd like an American Thanksgiving dinner, with grunting and opening pants for comfort, they remembered a prophecy:

            “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers – it is to him you shall listen – just as you desired of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly, when you said, ‘Let me not hear gain the voice of the Lord my God or see this great fire any more, lest I die’” (Deuteronomy 18:15-18, ESV).

            Moses told the people of Israel that God was going to send a human like them to be a prophet before them, and God would not bring them into His Presence to hear His Voice again; He would be the Mediator between God and Israel.

            The people saw Jesus – the rabbi Who healed the sick and produced massive amounts of food out of – almost – nothing – and the people were elated!  “This must be the Prophet Moses spoke of – He will heal us and keep us in food so we never have to work again.”

            And remembering the coming of the Feast of Passover – with its presentation of God’s deliverance of Israel from slavery in Egypt – the people jumped to the conclusion that Jesus was Prophet and King – He had come to overthrow the Roman government and free Israel once again – setting them up in a land of health and wealth and abundance of food.

            Jesus was warned in His Divinity that this was what the crowd was thinking, and before they could take Him and force Him to announce a kingship against Rome and the restoration of Israel, Jesus went back up into the mountain away from them.

            Our God and Savior is the Almighty God, Creator and Owner of everything in existence.

            God, our Father, loves us and sent His Son to save us from His Wrath.

            God gives all of us more than we deserve and most of us lavishly more so we can use what He has given us to help others and glorify Him.

            But we have a tendency to be anxious and throw up our hands as though there is no one who can meet the needs before us.

            And at the same time, we have a tendency to think that we deserve anything and everything, “just because.”

            Yet, we don’t ask, believing that God is able and lovingly desirous to meet our needs to His Glory.

            Above all, we still miss the Savior for the sign:  God does love all we who believe in Jesus savingly, and He does tend to give to us lavishly, but the great reason for this is so we will see how great and worthy our God in Trinity is of worship.

            Ultimately, it’s not about my being healed, or your getting food, but it’s about God being glorified for Who He is.  God created and entered into relationship with us so we would know Him and be in awe of Him and love Him and worship Him for Who He is.

            So, let us be thankful and give all praise to God.

            Let us ask for what we need, believing that God is able and will give lavishly according to His Will.

            And let us be thankful, knowing we deserve nothing, but have been given everything through Jesus Christ our God and Savior.

            Let us pray:

            Almighty God, our Father, we come boldly into Your throne room through the Blood of Jesus Who has saved us.  We thank You for Your unmerited generosity to us, and we ask that You would help us to believe that You are able and willing to give in great measure out of the storehouses of Creation.  Cause the Holy Spirit to well us up in prayer, confidently asking You for all we need to be Your people in this world.  Help us to show the Light of the Glory of the Gospel of Jesus Christ through all we receive and all we do with what You have given us.  Make us faithful and thankful stewards who turn to You, not in sin, but to wonder that You have chosen to make us Yours and provide for us as Your children.  For it is in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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