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5-3-20: Online Sunday School: Jesus Encounters...The Great Crowd: Bernie Shoemaker

The Word: John 6:1-13, 26-33

Think of a time when you felt completely overwhelmed in the face of a task at hand. Perhaps your first semester of college knocked you off your feet, or the first day of training at a new job left you convinced you would never figure it all out. Facing our own inadequacy can be very uncomfortable. How do people typically handle extreme stress and worry? · Do we tend to look within for strength? Or do we seek external support? Why? · Do most of us have a tendency to cast blame on ourselves or others? Why? Our culture lifts up those who seem to have made their own way in the world, against all odds, and with minimal support. These “success stories” suggest that winners are the ultimate source. In our passage today, the task at hand seems impossible: feed this crowd of thousands!?! The disciples immediately dismiss the suggestion as impossible. And yet, with Jesus our “not enough” is transformed into “abundantly more.” Jesus reveals himself to be, not only a sign-producing prophet, but the very source of our eternal sustenance. All worry, doubt, and fear of inadequacy are silenced as we trust the True Bread to meet our needs extravagantly. We are put in our place, not as the source of life, but as participants in God’s redemptive work in the world. In our text for this week, we have a miraculous feeding of the multitudes (John 6:1-13), followed by part of a lengthy dialogue of Jesus with opponents as well as sympathizers (vv. 26-33). LARGE CROWD—SMALL LUNCH (Read John 6:1-9) Jesus has developed a reputation as a man who performs signs. People are captivated by the signs He is performing; some out of their own sheer need and others perhaps out of curiosity or spiritual hunger to bear witness to God’s action in the world. Whatever their motivations, a huge crowd has gathered. Jesus’ question to Phillip is unexpected. The disciples have been observers of the previous signs, not participants. Phillip’s response is immediate rejection: it’s impossible. Andrew responds by procuring a small lunch, but with no expectation that it will meet any meaningful need. · The crowd expected Jesus to heal not feed them; yet, Jesus ministers to them in this unexpected way. Why might Jesus have chosen to perform this particular sign? What might it reveal that the other signs do not? · Consider the significance of divine provision and the role of bread throughout the story of God. What connections do you see to the larger biblical story? · Why do you think Jesus chose to perform this sign with the participation of His disciples? SMALL LUNCH—LARGE YIELD (Read John 6:10-13) Jesus continues to involve others in this sign, accepting the boy’s meager lunch, instructing the disciples to seat the people, presumably to help distribute the now abundant food, and to gather up the remainder. The sign is not one of “just enough,” but of “abundantly more.” In fact, the leftovers seem almost extravagant, even excessive. In this highly visible sign, Jesus reveals His power clearly to those who bear witness to it. In spite of their conviction that the situation was impossible to remedy, the disciples cooperated with Jesus by following His instructions. · Jesus chose not only to provide adequate provisions for all present, but to provide an excess. Why such abundance? What does this aspect of the sign reveal? WHAT KIND OF MAN IS THIS? (Read John 6:26-27) The people pursue Jesus, but not because they understood the revelation in the sign of the bread, but because they want more bread. Jesus encourages the crowd to devote themselves to the pursuit of spiritual sustenance, which Jesus can and will provide to those who are willing to receive it. Jesus himself is the source, the chosen one of God, approved and ordained for this very task. It is likely that a significant number of those in the crowd following Jesus were poor and genuinely concerned, if not anxious, about their daily bread. Jesus encourages the crowd to work for “food that endures to eternal life,” life of the coming age of the kingdom of God. · What “food” might Jesus have had in mind? BREAD FROM HEAVEN (Read John 6:28-33) The crowd responds to Jesus’ challenge by asking how they might perform the works of God. Jesus’ simple response, believe in the One sent by God, is not well received. They demand even more signs, referencing God’s provision for daily manna in the wilderness. The crowd however attributes the gift of the bread to Moses, not God. Jesus not only corrects their corporate memory but also claims that the Father now sends the True Bread from heaven for the sake of the world. · The crowd initially seems eager to participate in the work of God. How does this attitude change and why? · Jesus contrasts the manna of Israel’s memory with the Father’s new gift of the True Bread from heaven. How is the gift of Jesus similar to the gift of manna to Israel in the wilderness? How is it different? God is on the move in the world, redeeming, restoring, healing, reconciling. Jesus not only invites us to participate in this kingdom life, He promises to sustain and provide, as the True Bread, given from heaven for the sake of the world. Jesus took the small offerings, of the disciples’ participation in the midst of doubt and of the boy’s lunch, and performed one of His most well-known signs. Silently consider, · What small offering might we be holding back from God for fear that it is too small, meaningless, or unimportant? · What would it look like to offer what you have to God, trusting God to take your “not enough” and make it “abundantly more”? "Give Me Jesus" by Fanny J. Crosby "Take the world, but give me Jesus; All its joys are but a name, But His love abideth ever, Thro’ eternal years the same. Take the world, but give me Jesus, Sweetest comfort of my soul; With my Savior watching o’re me, I can sing tho’ billows roll. Take the world, but give me Jesus; Let me view His constant smile. Then thro’out my pilgrim journey, Light will cheer me all the while. Take the world, but give me Jesus; In His cross my trust shall be, Till, with clearer, brighter vision, Face to face my Lord I see. Refrain O the height and depth of mercy! O the length and breadth of love! O the fullness of redemption- Pledge of endless life above!" Did you figure out who the True Bread is?

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