Subject: Redeemer Downtown Devotional: Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany - February 5, 2012
Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany - February 5, 2012
After this 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 there he sat down with his disciples. Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand. Lifting up his eyes, then, and seeing that a large crowd was coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?” He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he would do. 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?” 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. When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come 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 mountain by himself.
John 6:1-15 (ESV)John tells us that this next sign, a feeding miracle, happens at Passover. For John, his purpose is not merely to draw our attention to the time of year, but to draw a line to a moment in history. The Passover was the ultimate redemptive miracle in the life of Israel, when God liberated His people from slavery in Egypt, led them through the Red Sea and the wilderness, and brought them into the Promised Land. Along the way, He fed them “bread from heaven,” manna.
In John’s account here, several thousand people had come to a remote wilderness area to find Jesus because of the signs He had been performing. And the problem of feeding so many quickly became apparent to the disciples: not merely the sheer amount of food necessary or the cost involved (200 denarii was equivalent to 200 days’ wage for a common laborer), but the fundamental issue of coming up with enough food to meet the urgent demand. Think about the supply lines and logistical support that such a gathering of people would typically require. It’s impossible! And yet the narrative describes the solution to the problem by the multiplication of a child’s meal that feeds a multitude, seated in a grassy area, with the disciples gathering baskets filled to overflowing with leftovers. The episode ends with the people saying, “This is indeed the Prophet...”
Do you see the sign? In Deuteronomy 18, God says to Moses that He will “raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers.” Just as sheep listen to the voice of a shepherd, people would be drawn to the voice of the Prophet. In the same way that a shepherd leads his flock to grassy fields where they could find rest and eat, a Prophet like Moses the Shepherd, would lead people to find true rest and satisfying nourishment, “bread of life.” And just as Moses would lead God’s people from slavery to freedom, so the Prophet would lead God’s people out of bondage to sin and into the true freedom of the sons of God. Do you see the sign now?
Set us free, O God, from the bondage of our sins, and give us the liberty of that abundant life which you have made known to us in your Son our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
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