Jesus Needs Us
November 19, 2006
The Rev. Dr. Anthony J. Godlefski, Pastor
Montgomery United Methodist Church
Jesus Feeds the Five Thousand
1Some time after this, Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee (that is, the Sea of Tiberias), 2and a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the miraculous signs he had performed on the sick. 3Then Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down with his disciples. 4The Jewish Passover Feast was near.
5When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, "Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?" 6He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.
7Philip answered him, "Eight months' wages would not buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!"
8Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, spoke up, 9"Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?"
10Jesus said, "Have the people sit down." There was plenty of grass in that place, and the men sat down, about five thousand of them. 11Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish.
12When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, "Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted." 13So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.
14After the people saw the miraculous sign that Jesus did, they began to say, "Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world." 15Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, good morning! Our topic for today is “Jesus Needs Us.” I’d like to talk with you this morning about what I think is one of the most beautiful stories in the whole Bible. It’s the story of Jesus feeding the multitude with just five loaves and two fish.
You know, this story is so beloved, and it was so beloved by the writers of the Gospel, that it appears in all four Gospels. Not many stories do. Some appear in the first three, and some appear just in John, but this story appears in all four. It’s a beauty.
It’s a story about a little boy and about Jesus. Let’s share it together. Do you remember what happened? Jesus was teaching people, and many, many thousands of people came to hear Him. Oh, how they loved to hear Jesus! His preaching was different. He preached good news. He preached redemption. He preached salvation. He preached hope and consolation, and people needed to hear Him. We still do.
Well, the day drew on, and the sun was going down. People were getting hungry. Jesus could tell that. He said to Philip, “Philip, where are we going to get enough food to feed all these folks?”
Philip thought about it nervously, and he said, “Lord, we have crunched the numbers, and we’ve found that it would cost as much as an entire yearly salary to feed all these people! Jesus, it doesn’t fit into the budget. We can’t afford to feed these people.” Now, I ask you a question. Did Jesus say “Where are we going to get the money to feed all these people?” No, He did not. He said, “Where are we going to get the food to feed all these people?”
Well, you know what? Somebody heard Him. Somebody really heard what He asked, and told one of His assistants. So Andrew came up to Jesus, and he said, “Excuse me, Lord. There is a little boy here, and I feel that, in the need and spirit of complete disclosure, I should tell you about something he wants to give you. It’s, ah….” And Andrew mumbled something.
Jesus said, “Excuse me, what did you say?”
Andrew sighed. “The boy has five loaves and two fish. But what is this among so many?”
Something really wonderful must have happened just then. Jesus must have received that gift and looked at the little boy. He looked at the faith in his eyes, and He looked at the gift, and He said to His disciples, “Tell the people to sit down.” What does that mean? It means, get ready, because something big is going to happen; fasten your seatbelts!
Jesus took the bread and blessed it, saying, “Blessed be Thou, O King of the universe, who bringest forth the grain from the earth.” It’s the traditional Hebraic blessing. And Jesus broke the bread, and He broke the bread, and He broke the bread, and He gave it to them all, and the disciples’ job was to carry the bread to all the people. The boy just watched as the bread was broken and shared with so many people.
There were all kinds of leftovers. There were twelve baskets, all from that little lunch that the boy offered. I love this story. I love it because it tells us something about what it means to follow Jesus. It tells us something about what it means to be a Christian.
What do we know about that little boy? First of all, I believe he had a grateful heart. I believe his giving was motivated by gratitude. So is ours, isn’t it? He was there, and he watched people being healed. He watched them being healed from physical diseases, because our God is a supernatural God, and God can heal. He watched people being healed from mental diseases. He watched people throwing demons off their backs, demons of guilt, demons of shame, demons of regret, and stand up and live. He watched it. Who knows what went on inside of him, and what insight he had as a little boy? He was grateful.
Are you grateful? I’m grateful this morning. I’m grateful to be here. I had a heart attack a year ago, and thanks to wonderful doctors and nurses in the hospital in Somerset and thanks to your prayers I stand before you today. I’m glad to be here. I’m glad to be anywhere! I’m glad for your blessing. It’s great to be alive.
I’m grateful for you. I was reading over your cards from Pastor Appreciation Month. Thank you for doing that! That meant so much to me. I tell you what – when you say a good word or sign your name on a card, I take every instance of that afresh. I deeply, deeply appreciate it. Thank you.
I’m grateful for something that happened on River Road not too long ago. I was driving on River Road from Route 206, toward my home, on a dark, rainy night. You know how winding and dark River Road is. A car was coming toward me and started flashing its high beams. I wondered why he was doing that; my high beams weren’t on. As I turned the corner, I slammed on the brakes, because there was a great big deer standing right by the side of the road. It was considering playing chicken with my car and racing across the road. A stranger, a complete and total stranger, signaled to another complete and total stranger – he didn’t have to – so that stranger wouldn’t get hurt. Isn’t that wonderful, in a world where we sometimes wonder about people’s civic good will? I thank God for whoever that was in that car.
How about you? Are you thankful today? I bet you are. So we have something in common with that little boy. He was thankful, too.
What’s the second thing we know about that little boy? He was thankful, and he was needed. He heard Jesus say, “Where are we going to get the food to feed these people?” and the boy said, “Here, Mr. Jesus, take what I have. It’s not much, but it’s all I can do.” He knew that he was needed. You know what’s amazing about this story? Jesus was, in a sense, saying, “I’m only going to do it if you help me.” That strikes me as amazing. He waited until someone helped, and then wow! What a miracle He performed!
You are needed, just as that little boy was needed. You are. I am. We all have gifts that we bring to the world. Yes, through Consecration Sunday and our financial gifts, but also through our time and talent and helpfulness. You are needed. I am needed. We are needed by Jesus. And there are things that Jesus will not do unless we help Him. That’s a wonderful gift to you and me.
Jesus needs us to give and to help and to bless willingly. You know, there was an innocent joy in what that boy did in giving his gift. And I think there should be about our giving, too. Don’t you? We need to give with a grateful heart, with a joyful heart. Give till it feels good. Give what you can be joyful about giving. Jesus needs you. He needs me, too.
And third, the little boy felt blessed. Three things he must have been thinking – I am thankful, I am needed, I am blessed. How was he blessed? He was blessed to see the result of his gift. He must have looked out and seen all those people being fed, knowing that Jesus started with just the gift he had given. He must have thought, “I am blessed to be part of that.”
Friend, you and I are blessed to be part of this church and what happens here. I had a wonderful conversation with one of our Sunday School teachers who came up to me very thrilled and said, “Oh, Pastor, we had the most wonderful Sunday School class today. I want to tell you all about it and about my terrific students and what they said and what they contributed to the class and the faith they witnessed.” I celebrated with her. I thought to myself, “All of us should celebrate that moment.” Because you’re here, and because of your gifts, and because we’re together, those children were able to witness in the way that they did. It is a beautiful heritage that you are helping and supporting. You are blessed to be part of this. God bless you for that.
So, my friend, why do we give? We give because we are grateful, because Jesus needs us, and because we are blessed. May you feel blessed and uplifted for being part of this church and for all that you do.
One last note: I have to answer Stryker’s question from our children’s sermon this morning. Stryker asked, “What was the little boy’s name?” I don’t know what the little boy’s name was, because the Bible doesn’t tell us. I wish I did. But you know what? Maybe that’s part of his gift to us. We don’t know his name…but you can fill in your name. You can be that child, and symbolically help him, helping the Lord and giving to the Lord. Fill your own name in there, and be Jesus’s helper.
May you be honored, blessed, and know that the Lord’s blessing is with you, for all that you do. God loves you. I do, too. Amen.
© 2006 Anthony J. Godlefski