First of three parts.
I have been intrigued for years by the story of the feeding of the 5,000. This is one story among many that are a virtual feast in themselves, miracle stories found in all four Gospels.
Jesus said, “I am the living bread,” and in John 6:50, “But here (meaning Himself) is the bread that comes down from Heaven which a man may eat and not die.”
My last column two weeks ago focused on Christ’s teaching about the power of rest, relaxation and renewal and how, when mixed with prayer, these things empower us to work such miracles. My plan is to feast for a few columns on these feeding stories and the lessons found in them.
Two weeks ago, Barbara Walters did another TV special, The Secrets of Billionaires. She has focused on that topic since 2008. In this most recent installment, I saw parallels in their “secrets” and the principles Christ teaches us about “the Living Bread.”
Walters featured several billionaires: Lynn Tilton, who owns more companies than any other woman in America; John Paul De Joria, the CEO of Paul Mitchell Products, a shampoo manufacturer, who was formerly homeless; and Tony Hsieh, who created Zappos.com, an online shoe and clothing retailer that generates more than a billion dollars a year in gross revenue. There are lesson to be learned in all their stories that I hope to examine too.
Billionaires can eat as much as they want every day and as often as they want, unlike the poor in America whose stomachs are seldom filled. Earlier in John’s Gospel version of the story, in John 6:1-14, Christ made the people happy when He fed them until they were satisfied. Some were probably so poor, they likely had never known how it felt to have enough and even have leftovers.
A good Christian might ask here, “Am I following Christ for the loaves of bread or for the loads of His love?” In connection with this message, one could ask; “What does, ‘Feasting on the Living Bread’ mean?”
John (6:22) says, “on the next day,” after the feeding, the people watched as the disciples finally pulled off to get that much needed rest in a boat, without Jesus. Then it was a new day and perhaps once again the people were hungry. So they anxiously searched for Christ and when they could not find Him on one side of the lake, they sailed to the other side.
In John 6:18-21, there is another important point. When the disciples did cross the lake, “a strong wind was blowing and the waters grew rough.” Christ’s disciples knew the ride sometimes gets rough in His boat. The trouble didn’t end until they saw Jesus and “invited Him into the boat and immediately the boat reached the destination.”
As we read John 6:23-24, we easily understand why the crowd was still seeking Christ. They had eaten well and were greatly affected by the miracle of the feeding of the 5,000 and Jesus’ masterful prayer. It also tell us when some boats landed, the crowd seized them and went to Capernaum looking for Jesus. The hypocritical crowd, unlike Christ’s disciples, had a smooth ride over, while Christ’s disciples had a rough and stormy ride, until Jesus entered the picture.
Christ’s lessons were different from that of the day before. He didn’t satisfy the crowd by feeding them again; rather, He empowered them through teaching and made no further effort to feed them.
The point is that Christians sometimes find “feasting on the Living Bread” gets rough, while for non-Christians feasting and living seem easy. But we must remember things get better for us in the storms and at the table when we invite Christ to get into the “boat” and sit down.
All this happens before the discussion even starts about “The Living Bread.”
So when the crowd got to the other side, they asked, “Rabbi when did you get here?” Jesus shows us from the start that He knew their motives and their corrupt principles and why they acted in following Him.
In the next column I shall examine the motives and principles of the crowd, what Jesus taught them, as well as some of the secrets of Walter’s Billionaires. See you then.
The Rev. Dr. R. Joaquin Willis is pastor of the Church of the Open Door in Miami’s Liberty City community. He may be reached at305-759-0373 or firstname.lastname@example.org