Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on April 17, 2016
Open your Bibles to John 6:1-20. The sixth chapter of John is the longest chapter in the New Testament. I am not sure how long we will spend in this chapter. Perhaps I will decide to break it into two sermons, perhaps three, perhaps four. We shall see.
One reason that I do not want to rush through this chapter is that, not only is it the longest, but it is earth-shattering in its doctrine. This chapter contains teachings of Jesus that may flip your entire theology on its head. It may completely reorient how you view the sovereignty of God in relation to your salvation. Therefore, over the next several weeks, I would encourage you to soak in John 6. Read it daily. Study it. Break it apart. Put it back together. Pray over it. Allow God’s Word to shape you.
We must remember that the Bible is 100% truth, inspired by God, inerrant and infallible. Therefore, when we see things that we don’t agree with, it is we who must change, not the immovable rock of God’s Word.
Now that I have all of you on the edge of your seat about chapter 6, today will be gentle, for today is somewhat like Chapter 5, for it is a miracle that is setting the stage for conversation that we will begin to unpack next week. Having said that, today is still fundamentally important and has deep application in itself. So with that said, let us read John 6:1-20 and see what God desire to reveal to us today.
We See Dimly
The title of my sermon today is “Seeing Christ Dimly.” I get that title from 1 Corinthians 13:12 which says, “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.” So what does that mean? It means this. Living is seeing. In this world there are people who are blind to reality. They are blind to purpose. They are blind to God. They are blind to Christ. The God of this world has blinded them to from seeing his eternal glory in the face of Jesus. If Christ is not the central reality of your life, then you are not living. I think this is why John says in John 1:4, “In him was life, and the life was the light of men.” Seeing Christ as life is seeing. Before you saw that in Christ is life, you were blind, tripping through life in the darkness of this world. But when the Spirit of God blew into your life and birthed you by the power of his spirit, you could see Jesus as preeminent.
Having said that, you as a born again believer see, but you only see dimly. You have vision because you are born again but you do not have perfect vision. If you recall from last week Jesus said in John 5:19-20, “the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. 20For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing.” Jesus had perfect vision, this perfect vision translated to perfect obedience. We, even though we are born again, we are not perfect in our seeing, our knowledge. We see dimly. Therefore we are not perfectly obedient.
Today, our story, I believe, points to this reality, that no one on this side of death, sees Jesus perfectly. No matter if you are saved or unsaved, all of us fall short of Christ-like knowledge. However, that does not mean that we throw up our hands in frustration. No, instead we are to respond like Paul did in Philippians 3:12-14, “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
The Shadow of the Passover
So with that said, let us look at our text today. The backdrop of our text is found in verse 4, “Now the Passover, the feast of the jews, was at hand.” The reason that John tells us this is to make a connection to help us understand what Jesus is doing. So what is the Passover?
The Passover was the celebration of God leading his people out of captivity in Egypt so that they could be his covenant people and worship Him at Mount Sinai. As I have stated before, the Passover is, in a sense, like out 4th of July. It was there declaration of independence. For God did many signs and the final sign was the straw that broke the Pharaoh’s back. For after God sent the Angel of Death who passed over those who had the blood of the Lamb painted on their doorposts, the birth of a nation occurred. And a multitude of Jews were released from Eygytian oppression and crossed the Red Sea and into the Wilderness where they wandered for 40 years.
And while the Israelites wandered around for 40 years God provided them with a food called manna. This manna would appear each morning like a thick dew on the ground, and the Israelites would go out and pick it up. But they could only pick up enough for each day, except for the Fridays when God would allows them to pick up two days worth of manna so that they could avoid working on Saturday, the Sabbath. It was through the provision of this bread like food, manna, that God sustained the Isralites until they reached the promised land.
This is what the Passover feast celebrated, and this was what John and God wants to be on your mind when reading the events in John 6. For once we think about the Passover and the events of John 6, we can easily see the correlation. First, we see in verse 1 that Jesus is on the other side of the Sea. Second, we see in verse 2 that a large crowd is coming out to be with him because of the signs they saw him do. Third, we see in verse 3 that he is located on a mountain. And fourth, and most obvious we see Jesus supplying bread to those who have none. This correlation is not accidental, this is how God tells his story. The Old Testament creates shell of the the categories, and when Christ comes he fills in the substance.
This story of Jesus feeding this large crowd is the only miracle, besides the resurrection of Christ, that is in all four Gospels. Why? One answer is because God wanted it that way. But the second answer is perhaps because of this miracle's utter Godness. In this miracles Jesus is creating matter before their eyes. Sure, he started with five barley loaves, but with each break of the bread matter was coming into existence. And this Ex Nilo, out of nothing, miracle was the greatest public display of the miracles that Jesus performed. Many times, the miracles of Jesus were intimate, one on one, personal. This miracle was performed for thousands. Our text today says 5,000 men. In Matthew 14:21 it says, “And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.” Therefore it is estimated that the number of the large crowd as between 15,000-20,000 people. Therefore the crowd would have been 6-8 times larger than the town of Cascade. It is safe to say that Jesus's ministry was very public. Which, once again bolsters the truthfulness of these events. Not only do we have four historical writings confirming this miracle, but when each of these Gospels were written there would have been many eye witnesses of this event who would still had been alive. For Matthew, Mark, Luke and John to make up such a sensational story and then claim that 15,000 people were eyewitnesses only makes sense if it truly happened.
Blindness of the World
Now the first thing I want to draw out attention to is the response of he crowd after the performance of this miracle. Look at verse 14, “When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!” 15Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself.” What does it mean “this is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the World.” This thought by the crowd is a reference back to Deuteronomy 18:15 where Moses tells the Israelites wandering in the wilderness, “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—“ For centuries, the Jews had been told to look for this prophet. They were primed for this prophet and upon seeing this amazing miracle, they made the connection that this must be him, the prophet.
And you know what? They were right. Jesus is the prophet that Moses was referring to. He is the prophet that the world is to listen to. In fact, at the Mountain of Transfiguration God himself said this, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”
Now the problem with the large crowd and their understanding of Jesus as the prophet is the same problem the Israelites had in 1 Samuel 8:19-20. The Isrealites during the time of 1 Samuel did not have a King, God was their King. Every other nation that surrounded them had a King except them, and they wanted to be just like the World. The prophet Samuel warned them about having a King and we are told in verse 1 Samuel 8:19-20, “But the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel. And they said, “No! But there shall be a king over us, 20that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles.”
1000 years later, the Israelites of Jesus's day were just like their stiff-necked forefathers. Blinded by the ways of this world, and failing to see the greater reality of what God was doing. We can tell by Jesus's reaction that he was not on board with their plan to make him king. Verse 15, “Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself.” Jesus did not desire to be King on their terms, his desire was to be King on His Father's terms. The large crowd was focused on the things of this world, where moth and rust destroy. They were concerned about political positions, economic freedom, national security, liberty from Roman oppression. They were seeking heaven on earth.
And I can't help wonder how many people today fall into this short sided, and distorted category, seeing Jesus merely as a political figure. I would perhaps put the King and County type people in this category. People who use Jesus for political positions. Desiring that Jesus to have a seat at the desk of the oval office, but caring less if he comes and sits at the table of your heart. This view of Jesus is not a Biblical one. Jesus says very clearly to Pontius Pilate hours before his death, in John 18:36, “My kingdom is not of this world.” If you are waiting for Jesus to Make America Great again, then I am sorry to tell you, it ain't happening. It may have sounded poetic in 1961 when John F Kennedy said it and 1980 when Ronald Reagan said it, but America is not the shining City upon a Hill. This designation is reserved for God's chosen people, not from one nation, but from every nation. The crowds were blind to eternal realities, they were blind to who Jesus was and they were blind to why he came.
Seeing Christ Dimly
Which leads us to the second group that witnessed this miracle, the chosen 12. in reality, this massive miracle displayed before 15,000 people wasn't for them, it was for the 12 disciples. You can see evidence of this in verse 5, “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?” 6He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he would do.” Jesus knew how this was going to play out. In fact, as I said earlier this miracle was to set the stage for the next day's conversation. A conversation that was for those who had ears to hear, not the deaf.
The question posed to Philip, and all of the disciples by implication, was to expose their lack of site. The disciples had been with Jesus for quite some time by now. They had seen the lame walk, the blind see, the deaf hear, the mute speak, and water turning into wine. They believed that Jesus was the Messiah, but when asked a simple question, they failed as miserably as the unconverted. Philip and Andrews response was worldly. They set their eyes upon the mountain, forgetting who was testing them. In summary, the disciples failed the test.
Jesus, being the patience and the graced filled Christ that he is, does not rebuke their lack of sight, but shows them instead, by taking the God ordained circumstances of the moment and putting them in the hands of Christ. I can't help but wonder what Philip and Andrew were thinking when they watched as Jesus took over the situation and saved the day.
Now what is important to understand at this moment is what the symbolism of the bread is. In John 6:35, “Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger.” So the bread that Jesus is distributing is symbolic. It is a symbol of Christ. And we are told in verse 12-13, “And when they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, “Gather up the leftover fragments, that nothing may be lost.” 13So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves left by those who had eaten.” Jesus intentionally provided more than the bare minimum. Why? Because if the bread is symbolic, pointing to Jesus, then the abundance is also symbolic. Jesus is providing a picture that he is all satisfying. He is demonstrating that he is all sufficient. That Jesus has more than enough grace to fill you up, not matter how far you are away from home. This teaching is very similar to what Jesus told the women at the well in John 4:14, “but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again.” Now Jesus is not telling just one Samaritan women, he is proclaiming the reality to 15,000 jews.
Having said that, what I find interesting is not only is everyone satisfied with what Christ provides, but that there is left overs. How much? 12 baskets. Why twelve? I think the answer is found at the end of Chapter 6.
At the end of chapter 6 the large crowds had left Jesus because he didn't play their political game, and he turns to his disciples and asks if they are going to leave Him too, and Peter says in verse 68, “ “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, 69and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” 70Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you, the Twelve?”
I believe the 12 baskets coincides with the 12 disciples. I believe that the picture that Jesus wants to create is that not only does he satisfy, but that for each of his chosen, he has a storehouse of his grace that he is assigned to each of his children.
And here is another reason I believe this. After these events, Jesus leaves the twelve and ascends up the mountain. As night comes, the disciples depart without Jesus. Perhaps with the 12 baskets. Their journey is one that pushes them out into the darkness of the sea. Wind is blowing and waves are crashing and it is not easy. They row, they labor, for 3.5 miles. It is not easy, but off in a distance they see Christ. He cries out to them to let them know that they are not alone. And as they hit the shoreline of their destination, they are reunited with Christ. In between the intial giving of the bread and the shoreline, what do they have? The bread that Christ provided.
I cannot think of a better picture of the Christian walk then this. For when we come to Christ we are given the bread of life that satisfies our soul. From the moment we taste and see that the Lord is good, he feeds us with his constant Spirit. However, in this life he is with us and not with us. He is with us in the provisions of his grace in the deposit of his Spirit, but he has also ascended and sits at the right hand of the father. We continue in our life, moving across the waters of this dark world, laboring, while the wind blows and the waves crashing against the boat of our life. But we must remember, that we are not alone. Christ is always with us, even if we see him dimly across the bow of our lives. And we must remember that someday as we reach the shoreline of Heaven, we will not longer see him dimly, but we will see him face to face as he gets into the boat and we reach our final destination.
“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.”