How can we feed all these?

John 6:1-21, from the Question Mark series of talks?

When work is tough, or people get into work late, what excuses do they have?

·      I’m not coming in because I am having a mental day

·      Can’t make it in – I have a chance of filling in for someone on jury duty

·      The dog ate my car keys – we’re going to hitchhike to the vet

·      I’m not coming into work today because my computer has a virus, and my computer means more to me than this job

·      I sprained my wrist cooking dinner in the microwave last night

·      I was late again: the reason was that I was having porridge for my breakfast, when our pet budgie fell into it, I couldn’t leave the poor thing like that, it took me over an hour to clean the porridge off Jenny.


What is the relevance of these excuses to today’s story?

Have you ever faced a difficult situation at work? Begun a new day or turned up at work and it all is more difficult than you expected? In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus has taken the disciples away on some ‘time out’, and he looks up and there is a huge crowd. This is the story of the feeding of the 5,000 that we mentioned last week in our sermon series. What does Jesus do in a challenging situation? (He does not make excuses) He looks at the situation, has compassion on the people, asks a question of the disciples, works with what there is, and he prays


The story again: the crowds love Jesus, and follow him round the Lake. He is healing and he is teaching and we note the relevance for today - we all want healing and we look for wisdom …There is nothing different today. Jesus has gone up on a mountainside, and sat down with his disciples – presumably intending to teach them. It is the Jewish Passover season. Then Jesus looks up and sees a great crowd coming towards him!

He says “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?”

(How can we feed all these?) The person he asks is Philip one of the 12 disciples, the character who continually asks Jesus questions recorded later in John (we all have children who do this…). Andrew Peter responds.


A bit about Philip from John’s Gospel

Philip is a disciple from the very beginning (see John 1). Jesus is beside the river of baptism and John the Baptist is there. John the Baptist has two disciples mentioned, and Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother is one of them. Andrew hears that Jesus is the Lamb of God, and goes to find out more (‘come and see’). He tells his brother Simon, and takes Simon Peter to Jesus. The next day, Jesus is on his way to Galilee, and ‘finding Philip he says to him, follow me’ (John 1:43). Philip is also from Bethsaida, the fishing village by the Sea of Galilee. Then Philip goes to call Nathanael and says “we have found the One Moses wrote about in the Law; Jesus of Nazareth – the one the prophets also wrote about”. “Can anything good come from there”, says Nathanael? Philip says: “Come and See”.


The Feeding of the 5,000

bread & fishesLast week we reflected together on the crowd and disciples, and Jesus’ compassion on them all. The feeding of the 5,000 was the setting of the reflection. Jesus had compassion on the crowd because they were hungry, in the account from Mark. The gospel writers knew this to be an important miracle, because it is recorded in all 4 gospels; the only other miracle in all 4 gospels is the resurrection of Jesus. NB. There is a separate story about the feeding of the 4,000 and that is different not a repeat of the same miracle (the Gentiles sit down, not the Jewish community; a different location, a different time of year, a different Greek word for the baskets of pieces left over (Gentile vs Jewish style of baskets) [Matthew 15:29-39; Mark 8:1-13]


In this feeding of the 5,000, Jesus looks at the situation, all the crowds coming towards him. He has compassion on the people, they are hungry. He asks a question of the disciples, where can we get bread for all these? The Bible says that he knows already what he will do. So Jesus works with what there is, and he prays.


Jesus asks a question of the disciples – where can we get bread for all these? The Bible says that he knows already what he will do. He works with what there is: the disciples are willing to think alongside, to support Jesus and his ministry and the disciples learning from Jesus. And there is a small boy and his packed lunch ….which he offers to help. What a daft offering for such a huge crowd! I wonder how what the boy thought when he offered it – am I mad to give this to him? It is a ridiculous mismatch! What can he do about all these? But offered to Jesus, who can do amazing things with our small gifts,

and Jesus prays: and the small gift becomes the solution. We read earlier from Ephesians, 3:20-21, “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory…” What a wonderful promise.


Illustration from Tearfund

I would like to illustrate this Biblical miracle with a contemporary story from the Mission organisation, Tearfund. Please check out the website. This story is from 2013. TEARFUND speaks of partnership and principles of working with the local churches in areas of need:


Nadine Parkinson


Tear Fund writes this: WHY WE EXIST

When a community lifts itself out of poverty, everything changes.

Poverty does more than exhaust, starve, trap and kill people.

It destroys their sense of worth, limits their horizons, robs people of the chance to reach their full potential.


Tearfund’s call is to follow Jesus where the need is greatest.

We long for new life and a new sense of worth for people.

We do whatever it takes to end poverty and rebuild poor communities.

We work through local churches, because they're Jesus’ body on earth, ready to care for the whole person - and the whole community - inside and out.


A quote from Meseret Kumsa, A Tearfund Self-Help Group Member, Ethiopia

“Before, You Knew Us For Our Droughts, Our Poverty. But Now The Poor Are Transforming This Country, And Poverty Shall No Longer Be Our Name”

Accessed on 25 July 2015


TEARFUND STORY from Uganda (2013)

Life for Lily Anek in rural north-west Uganda used to be a hand-to-mouth existence. Getting by was the order of the day for the 57-year-old and her husband Owingo, but their limited horizons often meant they struggled, with few signs of improvement. Climatic changes and the environment itself didn’t help. Minimal rainfall and poor farming methods led to low productivity, which meant food was in short supply. But Lily’s eyes were opened to a new way of living after she did a Bible study with her church as part of Tearfund’s Church and Community Mobilisation process. Hearing the story of the feeding of the 5,000, Lily was struck by the compassion of Jesus for the hungry and how he was moved to act ‘because they were like sheep without a shepherd’. (Mark 6:34). As someone who had known what it was like to be hungry, this proved to be an eye-opening moment of realisation – suddenly she saw that God hated hunger and poverty as much as she did. She also realised that God was on her side and that when we become his co-workers, he can multiply even the most frugal of resources to enable the escape from life-limiting material and spiritual poverty. If Jesus could multiply the fishes and loaves of the boy in the Bible story, Lily became excited at the potential for change he could bring in her life. Lily learnt how to do tailoring and this soon became a more than useful money-spinner, which in turn boosted her confidence. As her savings grew, so did her vision for her family’s future.


A motorcycle was bought for Owingo her husband, who used it to earn money ferrying goods and people around the district of Wadelai. Seeing from his wife what could be achieved through purpose and planning, Owingo soon profited from his new working opportunities. His self-esteem improved and his relationship with Lily was strengthened. Lily and Owingo are much closer now than before and their marriage has blossomed into a new era of love and respect. This is reflected in their development of a three-year plan to improve the quality of their lives and those of their two daughters, which includes building a new, permanent house from bricks. Seeing from the Bible what can be done with five loaves and two fish, they have bought a boat, which they hire out to local fishermen and also to ferry people around. They’ve invested in a fishing net too.


Spiritually, Lily is on fire for God. Now a regular churchgoer, she leads a prayer group and wastes no opportunity to tell those she meets how God has changed her life. Acan Gosbert, the leader of the programme for Lily’s district, said the couple had become an example to others: ‘I see a bright future ahead for Lily’s family. I believe the community is going to be transformed through the lifestyle of this family.’ Lily and Owingo are just one family in the area reaping the benefits of this transformation process.  Elsewhere people are setting up poultry collectives, savings-and-loans schemes and livestock-breeding programmes – all resulting in change coming to their communities.


Where are we in this story?

So here is a story of how the feeding of the 5,000 has led a lady in Uganda to trust in Jesus for needs today. So what can we learn in Hook?

Jesus has compassion on the crowd – that moves him to action

Jesus asks for help from the disciples …

The smallest offering is given to Jesus

And he takes it, blesses it, breaks it, shares it, and there is enough for all (just as we shall do in the Holy Communion Service shortly)

And more left over!


When we look out on the crowds in our world, and see the immense need, what can we do? Over coffee later, please come to tell me when you have been part of something much bigger than yourselves. When you have offered what you have in your hand, given to Jesus, and then seen what he has done with that


From our own Choir, is the example of Sophie, who has gone out to Tanzania today. She is with the Scouts. And she will be serving the community in a building project for the next 3 weeks. She will be training teenagers of 14-18years old. She is serving because God has called her to serve. We pray for her and her family at home in UK.


Other examples close to home: Many here have offered their gifts to serve in this church – and I want to say thank you for the blessing you have been to us as a family. We celebrated the gifts of ministry last Sunday, and thank you for the amazing BBQ last weekend.


Jesus looks on the crowds and has compassion. They are like sheep without a shepherd. They need food – and he asks his disciples to help. The Question is, “How can we feed all these?”  We have a large community in Hook, a village that is spreading: how can we share the good news here?


We have a local Food Bank, and we send contributions weekly. I have heard some stories of how much this has blessed families in the area who have been in need. Thank you all who help with this.


In September we shall have a prayer weekend – not for physical food – although some people may tell us about particular needs. A National Weekend of Prayer, linked with CWR, and coordinated by Hook Churches Together, Roman Catholic, Life Church and ourselves. Put in your diary now for 25-27 September. There will be a leaflet for everyone in the village; 3 post boxes – one in each church; 3 one hour prayer times – one in each church; And all of us to support it. We shall be asking: is there anything you would like us to pray for?



Question – how can we feed all these?

We see the needs around the world are immense.

Jesus sees the need and has compassion

His solution is to involve the disciples. Philip. Andrew.

Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother finds a boy with a packed lunch – what is at hand?

The ridiculously small packed lunch, in the hands of Jesus, is enough to make a party for 5,000 and more

And recorded for always in all 4 gospels

Well done disciples

Well done small boy – and well done small boy’s Mum for the picnic!


Let’s listen to Jesus – what is our packed lunch?


Marion de Quidt, St John the Evangelist, Hook, Sunday 26th July 2015