More than Just a Free Lunch

John 6

Some days I have trouble feeding my hungry family. It’s not because there isn’t lots of food options in the house (only some of them past-dated). It’s just that sometimes I didn’t plan ahead and I am missing that one ingredient needed for what sounds good, or I am just tired, or it’s simply one of those days I would rather be anywhere but the kitchen. Feeding 5 seems like a rather large chore some days. I can’t even begin to imagine what I would do if I was given the job of feeding 5,000 men! This is definitely time for a miracle!

The Feeding of the 5.000 must have been a favorite event to recall during the time of the early church as it is one of the very few (or, even the only) miracles of Jesus recorded in all 4 gospels. It is fun to see the slight differences each writer brings to their retelling.

Matthew records this event as happening right after Jesus heard about the beheading of John the Baptist(14:13). Mark and Luke recall that the disciples had just returned from their Jesus-appointed “mission trips” and were reporting on all they had experienced. Jesus was definitely looking for a quiet place to be alone with his disciples so he took them to a remote location. But the crowds still found him. As an introvert I love and value the time I have alone with my quiet. But as a follower of Jesus, I must remember so much of the job he would have me do requires connection with others (in-person or even virtually in 2020). Jesus had compassion on the crowd, re-ordered his calendar and priorities, and pushed back his quiet time with God til later (he DID still get his quiet time though – even if it was when most people were sleeping). Luke records, “He welcomed them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who needed healing.” (9:10).

Today we are reading of the event from John’s gospel. John had been an eyewitness to see so many of Jesus’ miracles, but he chose to include only 7 in his gospel account – one of them being the Feeding of the 5,000. Dr. Joe Martin, New Testament professor at Atlanta Bible College, loves to point out all the details we get from John. Unlike the other gospel writers, John wrote his gospel later in life, when the brain’s old memory bank is overflowing with fun little details of events long past. John is in fact the only author who tells where the 5 loaves and 2 fish came from – the little boy’s lunch. John even includes that the loaves were made of barley (a cheaper grain most often consumed by the poor). He also recalls and includes which disciple said what when. He did all he could to help his readers watch this amazing miracle unfold.

Can you picture yourself in that crowd, stomach growling but not wanting to leave to find food – you don’t want to miss a minute with Jesus. And then, you’re told to sit down and the food starts coming – and coming – and coming. Sure, it is simple barley loaves and fish, but they taste so good and filling. Word passes around that all this food came from one little boy’s lunch. How in the world could so many people eat and be filled with 5 loaves and 2 fish? There was no logical explanation. This man Jesus who had taken the bread and fish and gave thanks to his Father had just performed a miracle and you were there to see it and taste it and fill you up inside. You can’t wait to tell your friends and neighbors about your experience with this man Jesus.

After a retelling of the amazing walking on water scene (which truly deserves a devotion of its own), John includes the teaching Jesus gave calling himself the Bread of Life. Jesus realized that since he had miraculously fed the multitudes he would have a following constantly looking for another free lunch . How could he explain to them that through God’s plan, he (Jesus) could offer them so much more than a free meal that would fade away and be replaced with gnawing hunger again. God’s design was so much greater. Jesus said: “For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:40).

You may have missed the free lunch, but don’t let this offer pass you by!

Remember Jesus’ words to Satan (and recited from what would become Deuteronomy) “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4 NIV). Look to God, fill yourself up on His Word and His Son. Nothing else satisfies. Nothing else leads to eternal life but the Bread of Life, the Son of God.

-Marcia Railton

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to on BibleGateway here – John 6.

Tomorrow we will read Matthew 15 and Mark 7 as we continue on our 2020 Chronological Bible reading plan.

Remember Jesus

Luke 22

Luke 22 19 NIV
If you’re Facebook friends with my dad, Joe Myers, the chances are very high that you will see a post on Christmas morning about our family’s traditional Christmas brunch – steak and eggs, cheesy hash brown casserole, English muffins, and homemade Orange Julius. It’s a meal that my parents started enjoying the first Christmas that they were married, waaaaaay back in 1972. And almost every December 25th since, it’s what we have on our plates. There was one year that our family drove from Georgia up to North Carolina on Christmas morning to visit my uncle and cousins and so we ended up eating at Waffle House and it just wasn’t the same…

In Luke 22 we read about another meal that holds significance for all of us. The Passover meal was prepared every year as a way to remember the Great Egyptian Escape. In Exodus 12, God had very specific instructions for the food that the Israelites were to eat and how it was to be prepared and served. And it is this meal that Jesus and his disciples are eating in Luke 22.
Only now, Jesus is adding the New Testament significance to this meal. Jesus calls himself the Bread of Life (John 6:35). Accepting this bread means we will never go spiritually hungry. And the wine for this meal represents the blood of Jesus poured out on the cross for the atonement of our sins. Accepting this drink means that we can have a right relationship with God because our sins have been paid for in full.
Jesus instructs his followers to prepare this meal regularly in order to remember the sacrifice that Jesus made on our behalf. And so that is what we do. We remember Jesus’ life. We remember Jesus’ death and resurrection. And we remember the promise that was made – that one day, we’ll sit at a table with Jesus and eat a meal. What a wonderful thing to look forward to.
Bethany Ligon

Easy Life vs. Eternal Life

John 6 27 a

John 6

 

John 6 is a great example of the total disconnect between Jesus, and what he had to offer, versus the people following Jesus, and what they wanted.

The chapter starts with Jesus feeding 5000 men.  (I don’t even have space to discuss Jesus’ walking on the water right after that miracle.)  Once his followers enjoyed a free meal, they wanted more.  The chapter then has this recurring theme where the people want more food, and Jesus wants to focus on something more eternal.

I’ll paraphrase the story:

Jesus: You’re only following me to get more food.  You shouldn’t focus on food that spoils, but the food that I’ll give you that will endure eternally.

People:  Do a miracle for us.  Moses fed our ancestors in the desert. (Hint)

Jesus: I’m the true bread from heaven to give life to the world.

People: Feed us.

Jesus:  39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. 40 For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.”

People:  Grumble

Jesus: 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. 50 But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”

People:  Grumble about eating Jesus’ flesh.

Jesus: 54 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.  58 This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.”

People: Desert Jesus.

Jesus then asked the twelve disciples, “Are you going to leave too?”

I love Peter’s answer, “Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.  We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.”

 

Application:

In Jesus’ day, I assume the people had to work pretty hard to acquire food.  If Jesus could have just supplied all the food they would have needed for the rest of their lives, life would have been so much easier.  After all, God wants us to have an easy life, right?

Jesus was focused on doing God’s will, and looking forward to the resurrection.  Four times in this chapter, Jesus repeats that he will raise people up at the last day.  Five times he talks about eternal life.

How often do we focus on (and pray for and long for) God making life easy for us?  Jesus is clearly pointing out that we just need to “believe in the one he [God] has sent.”  Live for Him, and look forward to the resurrection.

So, where will you focus today?

 

–Steve Mattison

Lessons from the Wilderness: Jesus

Wilderness Wandering Lesson #4: God’s word sustains us when we are depleted by the trials of the wilderness.

god's word does.

This week, as we’ve been thinking about our wilderness wanderings, we’ve primarily looked through the lessons from the Old Testament. Today though, we’re going to turn to the New Testament to see an example of a wilderness experience that can teach us a lot about how to make sure this experience makes us and doesn’t break us.

In Matthew 4, Jesus is tempted in the desert by the Devil for 40 days and 40 nights before he begins his ministry. This is a familiar story that shows the humanity of Jesus and how he can relate to us, but today, I want to focus on where Jesus was tempted. It says in verse 1 that “Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the Devil.” In our time thinking about the wilderness, we’ve focused on the types of wilderness experiences we may have and how God’s faithful love can sustain us. As we look at Jesus’ experience, we can see how to survive and thrive in the wilderness.  

The first lesson we can glean from this passage is that sometimes, as is the case with the Israelites and Elijah, we are led into the wilderness by God. Jesus was led into the wilderness by the Spirit where he fasted 40 days and 40 nights. At this point, Jesus had not begun his ministry, so this time could have been for testing and strengthening Jesus’ faith and dependence on God so that we could learn from it. By asking ourselves during each wilderness experience “What can I learn from this? How can I grow?”, we can better face the times in wilderness with palms held open instead of allowing bitterness to grow in us.

The second lesson we can learn from Jesus’ time in the wilderness is that God’s word is crucial for surviving in the wilderness. In the wilderness, Jesus had to face physical hunger, thirst, and exhaustion. He also was probably emotionally drained in this time as well. This may sound like a description of ourselves when we go through times in the wilderness. How often in these times where we are sad, lonely, depressed and drained – how often do we pause in these moments and stop the spiral of depression and wandering by saturating ourselves in God’s word? By looking at Jesus’ example, we can see how we can stop temptations in their tracks by responding with God’s word, more specifically by aligning our actions with God’s word.

The last lesson that I want us to focus on today is looking at when this wilderness experience took place. Though Jesus had not begun his ministry yet, in the previous chapter, he had just gotten baptized. All too often, we think that if we have committed our life to God that things will go well, that we’ll never have to experience trials or periods of suffering. But, we can look at Jesus’ life to see that this is simply not that case. Aside from Jesus’ experience on the cross, we can look at the beginning of his ministry as well to see that as these periods will happened to him, they will happen to us.

Jesus survived in the wilderness, and he thrived in the wilderness. I’m not sure what Jesus gained spiritually or emotionally in the wilderness, but I know what I can learn from his experience there. In the wilderness, Jesus was able to overcome temptation and suffering, including not only physical trials – but also spiritual trials – through God’s word. God’s word sustained Jesus and allowed this time to be a springboard into Jesus’ ministry instead of something that would have crippled his ministry. Now, we can look at this story and lessen the impact of what Jesus was able to do because Jesus was the son of God. But, Jesus was capable of growth and change, as seen in Luke 2:52. This is what makes him the perfect mediator for us. So, as we close this lesson today, I want to leave you with the words of Jesus as he readied his disciples for the trials they would face during the days leading up to the crucifixion: “I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world” (John 16:33). With Jesus, we can conquer the world, including all our days of wilderness wanderings.

~ Cayce Fletcher

spurgeon quote

Feeling Hungry Yet? – Psalm 119:1-56

Bread of Life

I am just about the opposite of a foodie. Though my boyfriend has gone to culinary school and makes just about the best food I’ve ever had, when I cook for myself, normally my meals are limited to eggs or maybe pasta. This being said, I have a love-hate relationship with food. Though I can’t detect hints of cinnamon or nutmeg in my food, man, when it comes time for lunch or dinner (or breakfast), I’m ready to eat. I tried to fast once (yep! Just once.) and I remember getting halfway through the day and calling it quits. My stomach was starting to grumble and hurt. When I tried to run, I remember feeling a little faint. I felt like I needed that food, right then.

Yesterday, we talked about wisdom and how important it is to follow God’s wisdom and trust in God. Today, we are going to talk about what it means to desire that wisdom. If we look at Matthew 4:4, Jesus likens the word of God to bread, to our daily food. We need this spiritual food to live, just as we need actual food.

What is your relationship to God’s word? Stop and think now about how you think about God’s word. Do you long for it as you get up in the morning and as you go throughout the day? Do you pant for it like someone panting for water in the hot summer Sun? If you go without it, do you start to feel those spiritual pains of grumpiness, anger, and hunger? Do you get hangry? The daily nourishment of God is even more important than the daily nourishment of our bodies with food. This sounds like a cliché. But, let me remind you, if you go without eating for long enough, you will die! This is serious and important stuff!

Growing up, I did not long for God’s word. I would read it every now and then, but it wasn’t something that I read in order to survive, to make it through the day. I had a friend recently whose relationship with God and his word has completely changed. She mentioned how after she had made a point to daily meet God in his scriptures, she had begun to desire it. She needed it. And now, she can’t imagine life without it!

Our verses today come from the longest chapter in the Bible, Psalm 119. This psalm focuses on what the Bible does for us and how we should desire it. If we seek God with all our heart, we will learn to keep his commands. Psalm 119:11 says, “I have treasured Your word in my heart so that I may not sin against you.” Do we believe that God’s word is such a gift that we treasure it in our hearts? Though discipline and commitment are incredibly important in every stage of our relationship with God, if we desire him and his word, our relationship with him will grow so much deeper!

To follow down the right path of life that we talked about yesterday, we have to make it a point to pursue God through his word. Psalm 119:2 says, “Happy are those who keep His decrees and seek them with all their heart.” Do you seek God and His Word with all your heart?

Seek Not to Please Myself

John 6-7

john-6-35

Saturday, May 27

As I started reading John 6 & 7 a few key quotes from Jesus recorded in the end of John 5 were still ringing in my ears:

“For I seek NOT to please myself but him who sent me.” (John 5:30)

“I do not accept praise from men…How can you believe if you accept praise from one another, yet make no effort to obtain the praise that comes from the only God.” (John 5:41, 44)

Here Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Son of Man, was saying quite clearly and repetitively – it’s not about me.  He did not seek to please himself or earn the praises of men – his goal was only and always to please God and hear the praises of his Heavenly Father.

Chapter 6 begins with this same Jesus feeding the famished five thousand with five small barley loaves and two small fish – and ending up with twelve baskets of left-overs.  As the one primarily responsible for feeding my family of 5 three times a day, I have always been greatly impressed with this miracle!  And, he follows it up with walking on the water!  There is no doubt that this Jesus has just earned some serious bragging rights.

Instead, he turns it into a teachable moment and offers himself as the bread of life – the bread and body that must be broken for others to live.  This is what he offers to the world not because he is the one who dreamed it up, and not because he was looking forward to it, and not because he desired it – but because he knew he came, “Not to do MY (Jesus’) will but to do the will of him who sent me.” (John 6:38).

In Chapter 7 he continues, “My teaching is not my own.  It comes from him who sent me.” (7:16) and “I am not here on my own, but he who sent me is true.” (7:28).   While some wanted to kill him, others wanted to make him king.  And yet – none of that really mattered to Jesus.  He was teaching God’s Word and living – and later dying – God’s Will.  His one-track mind and life was centered on what his Daddy desired and had planned from the beginning of the world.

Two things seem clear.

First, Jesus was definitely NOT claiming to be God, nor did he desire to be considered as God in any way.  His repeated use of, “not me/mine…but He/His” were pointing out the differences – two beings, even though their purposes would be the same – at Jesus’ choosing.  Today, would I hold any credibility if I stated, “I do not seek to please myself, but only what I want?”  Or, if I said, “My teaching is not my own but it comes from me”, would people listen to me for long?  Over and over again, Jesus is drawing some pretty clear lines between His Father God and himself.  Two beings, united in purpose – because that is what Jesus chose – to follow His Father and not himself.

Second, how must I change my focus, my goals and my everyday life so that I, along with Jesus, can confidently say, “Not my will, but His be done,” “My teaching is not my own, but God’s.”  “I seek not to please myself, but my Heavenly Father.”  No doubt the Son of God set an example for us to follow.  It is a path that requires laying aside all selfishness and pride, as well as false teaching.    It is not an easy road.  But when we live our life to please God our Father, just as Jesus did, we won’t be disappointed in the end!

-Marcia Railton

 

(Photo Credit: https://dailyverses.net/john/6/35)