Pentecost 10b

Preached: August 9, 2009

Faced with the Impossible, Entrust It to Jesus
John 6:1-15

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Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The Word from God through which the Holy Spirit points us to Jesus and his kindness is John 6

After these things, Jesus went away to the other side of the Sea of Galilee (the Sea of Tiberias). A large crowd was following him because they were watching the signs he was doing on the sick. Jesus came to the mountain and there he was sitting with his disciples. (The Passover, the feast of the Jews, was near.)

Then lifting up his eyes and seeing that a large crowd was coming to him, Jesus says to Philip, “Where should we buy food so that they may eat?” (He was saying this testing him, for he knew what he was going to do.)

Philip answered him, “Two hundred denarii [over 8 months wages for a day-laborer] of bread is not enough for them so that each one gets a little bit.”

One of the disciples, Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, says to him, “Here is a young boy who has five barley loaves and two pieces of cooked fish. But what is this for so many?”

Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” (There was much grass in the place.) Then the men sat down, numbering about five thousand. Then Jesus took the bread and giving thanks he distributed it to those who were sitting down, likewise also the pieces of cooked fish, as much as they wanted.

When they were full, he says to his disciples, “Gather the extra left-over pieces so that nothing is wasted.” Then they gathered and filled twelve baskets of pieces from the five loves of barley bread which were left over from those who had eaten. Then the people seeing the sign which he had done were saying, “This one is truly the Prophet who is coming into the world. Then Jesus, knowing that they were going to come and seize him in order to make him king, departed again into the mountain, himself alone. (John 6:1-15)

Dear friends in Christ, fellow saints washed clean in the blood of our risen Savior:

“Build a box-shaped boat about the size of a quarter of a football field from the goal line to the fifty and half-way across. Make it about as tall as a four story building. You'll live on it for almost year with many kinds of animals.” Sounds rather impossible, but that's what Noah did.

“You need to move to a new land where you'll be a stranger. And your wife will eventually have a child, even though she's already sixty-five and was unable to have children during her child bearing years.” Sounds impossible, but that's what God promised Abraham.

“Although you are a virgin, you will give birth to a son, and he will be the Son of God.” How impossible! But Mary believed the divine message.

Don't we see again and again in the Scriptures God's people facing the impossible? Think of Moses, Gideon, Ruth, David, Elijah, Daniel, Esther, and so many more. And still today, you, God's people, face the impossible. But we're no Abraham or Moses or Mary. So how are we suppose to do it?

Let's see how Jesus trained his disciples to face the impossible.

A. He places the impossible in front of us

1. What impossible situation did the disciples face?

Jesus had taken his disciples to a remote shore of the Sea of Galilee. But the crowds, eager for miracles, followed him, thousands of people, possibly more people than in all of Stevens county -- Alberta, Chokio, Donnelly, Hancock, Morris, and everywhere in between. Jesus asks the impossible of Philip. “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” (John 6:5 NIV). Philip realizes how impossible this is. “Eight months' wages would not buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!” (John 6:6 NIV), he answers. They didn't have the money to feed these people, and even if they did where would they buy food in such a remote place?

Jesus doesn't give him a solution at that time. Remember that John mentioned that Jesus asked this when he first saw the crowd. The other gospel writers make it clear that after seeing the crowd Jesus went on to teach them for the rest of the day and heal the sick. Can you picture Philip and the other disciples discussing this among themselves throughout the day? “How are we going to feed these people? Jesus is going to have to send them away. If he would only stop teaching and let them go to find their own food. That's the only solution. We certainly can't feed them. That's impossible!”

In fact the disciples became so desperate that they finally said to Jesus, “This is a remote place . . . and it's already very late. Send the people away so they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat” (Mark 6:35, 36 NIV). Mark records that. But Jesus tells them again, “You give them something to eat” (Mark 6:37 NIV). Not just Philip this time, but all of them try to explain to Jesus how impossible that is. “That would take eight months of a man's wages! Are we to go and spend that much on bread and give it to them to eat?” (Mark 6:37 NIV). But Jesus replies, “How many loaves do you have? . . . Go and see” (Mark 6:38 NIV). After that searching, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, answers, “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?” (John 6:9 NIV). You see, Jesus, it's just impossible, simply impossible.

2. What impossible things has Jesus placed before you?

What impossible things has Jesus placed before you? In these economically troubling times, he asks you to face the future without worry about money, without being consumed with financial plans or with making that penny stretch. In our age of materialism where so many luxuries are viewed as necessities, he asks you to be content with basic food and clothing. Despite our world gaging success by how many things you amass and measuring happiness by whether you have more than your neighbor, Jesus asks you to give cheerfully, freely, abundantly to support his work and to help the needy, trusting him, not your money or things, to take care of you and bring you happiness. If he can feed five thousand, he can feed you -- you don't eat that much. He is your priceless treasure. He's your fount of purest pleasure. Yet it seems so impossible, for so much of our time and energy is wrapped up in earthly things, just like those disciples worried about earthly food.

But there's more to the impossible. When faced with temptation, no matter how powerful, deceptive or seductive, Jesus asks you to refuse it without regretting what you think you're missing out on. When faced with pain, illness, disease, he asks you to bear it patiently. When faced with the lose of a dear friend or loved one or faced with rejection, he asks you to persevere. When insulted or mistreated, he asks you to return kindness. When wronged, he asks you to forgive. Yes, in all those things that lead us to cry out, “Why me?! It's too much! I can't put up with it! You have to take it away. Send it away from me,” we sound like the disciples: “Send the people away, for it's impossible to feed them.” It's impossible for me to patiently endure. I just can't do it.

3. Why does Jesus place the impossible before us?

But those are the words Jesus wants to hear from you: “I can't do it.” We live in a can-do culture that's infected even many churches. Jesus confronts us with the impossible to bring us to our knees, so that we cry out, “I can't! Even using all the resources I have, I can't do it.” He brought that home to the disciples. Even after gathering all the resources they could, they only had five loaves and two fish. But what did the disciples do with what they had? They brought it to Jesus. That, dear friends, is what must follow our cry, “I can't.” So then, take it to Jesus.

The world will never do that. When the world faces the impossible, they might redefine success claiming, “I can do it well enough.” They might dismiss it as unimportant: “I can't do it, but it doesn't matter.” They might excuse it by looking at others: “I can't do it, but they can't either.” They might use it to indulge for their laziness: “I can't do it, so why bother trying. I'll just do my own thing.” They might falsely appeal to the strength of humanity: “I can't do it, but we can do it together.” Or they might give up in despair: “I can't do it, so it's all hopeless.” But the world will not bring it to Jesus.

But you, dear Christian, when faced with the impossible, entrust it to Jesus. That's why he places the impossible in front of us. So that we entrust it to him.

B. He works it out his way, not mine

1. When we realize we can't do the impossible, what do we pray?

When faced with the impossible, entrust it to Jesus. Pray, “I can't, Jesus, but you can. You can. So work in me what you will. Lead me in your way, not mine.” Take note. This is not a prayer of spiritual laziness saying, “I can't, so I'll just go do my own thing and you, Jesus, do what you want for me.” That's the world's thinking once again.

As Jesus works his will in you and leads you on his way, it's not easy. It doesn't necessarily feel good to you. It can put you into awkward situations or even into apparent danger. I wonder what I would have been thinking if I were one of the disciples at the point were Jesus tells them to have the people sit down and distribute the food. Might I not have thought, “Jesus, do you really know what you're doing here? If we have these people sit down, they'll expect something to eat. What are they going to do when we run out of food? I don't want a riot here? Do you really know what you're doing?”

Whatever the disciples may have thought, they listened to Jesus instead. So our prayers don't stop with, “Jesus, I can't.” But we pray, “I can't, Jesus. But I trust you to work your way in me. I won't refuse where you lead. I will listen and follow, though I don't understand or see the outcome. Your way, dear Lord, not mine. Your will be done, not mine.” And he may well lead us through dark valleys and thorny thickets, over treacherous mountains and burning deserts, paths that are impossible for us unless we are following him. But even as we follow, they are not easy paths. You will struggle. You will bleed. It's the narrow way.

2. Describe the blessing Jesus brings as he works his way in you.

But follow on, dear Christian, follow on, no matter how dark or thorny, how rugged or hot. Though the way be drear, though the foe be near, follow on. Follow on. For from the impossible Jesus works blessing beyond we you can anticipate. Do you think the disciples imagined they'd have enough food. “Eight months' wages would not buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!” (John 6:7). Well, each one did not have only a bite but as much as they wanted. They were all full, and twelve basket fulls were left over. The more impossible the situation, the greater blessing Jesus works. So entrust it to Jesus to do it his way, not your way.

So often with earthly things, Jesus teaches us contentment not by giving us more, which would be our way of handling it. Rather he teaches us that no matter how little we have (even if it's just five loaves and two fish), we have all we need if we have him. He's our priceless treasure. In him we have true happiness and contentment, no matter what our earthly lot.

And what great blessing he has worked for you by traveling the most impossible path of all! He takes wretched sinners like and me and prepares us for the presence of the holy God, the brightness of our heavenly home, the glory before the throne of the Almighty. He prepares us to join Noah and Abraham and Mary and all those who have gone before us in the faith, to join them in singing: “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power for ever and ever!” (Revelation 5:13 NIV).

For the Lamb was slain and with his blood he purchased you for God no matter what tribe or language or people or nation you are from. He made you to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God and to reign with him. What blessing he was worked out for you by traveling that impossible path to the cross, weighed down by the sins of the world, that impossible path by which our God became one of us and died in our place, that impossible path by which he conquered death and rose in victory to give that victory to you who believe in him. Jesus followed the impossible path to bring you the glory of heavenly riches beyond whatever we could imagine.

So when faced with the impossible, entrust it to Jesus. Remember that theme, dear friends: Faced with the impossible, entrust it to Jesus. Follow him on the impossible paths of life, listening to his voice as it calls to you from the Scriptures and the Sacraments. `For he feeds you not only for a day. He feeds you for all eternity with his heavenly manna. Amen.

The peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and mind sin Christ Jesus. Amen.

Pastor Gregg Bitter

St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church
859 5th Street
Hancock, MN 56244
(320) 392-5313