In the Gospel of John chapter six Jesus and the disciples “cross to the far shore of the Sea”, perhaps to get away from the crowds. Yet, in the very next verse we learn that a great crowd followed Him. In fact, over five thousand people show up. Craig Barnes states the obvious. Crowds come with needs. Crowds make demands. This is something that preachers know all too well. The Gospel of John is a reminder from the start that crowds can be needy. They need more wine. They need a sign. They need their children to be healed. Crowds come with needs.
Barnes likes to bring our attention to the subtext. For example, to make John chapter four about race relations or a woman who can’t seem to hang onto a husband is an attempt to make the text safe for us. Instead, John may want us to realize that we can try many things multiple times and in multiple ways – and still, it will not be enough. Barnes wants us to work with the text as if the congregation is always looking over our shoulder asking where they are in the story. That job did not give you renewed sense of purpose. That car did not grant you meaning. That vacation you are planning will not provide salvation. Nor will your next attempt, or the next, or the next… I think you get the point.
And in chapter six, Jesus looks up only to find another crowd. A hungry crowd. He then turns to Philip “Where are we to buy bread, so that these may eat?” We do not know why Jesus asks Philip (Barnes says this is like calling on the B team). No matter the reason, all Philip has are figures to say that six months wages would not be enough to feed this crowd. However, Andrew discovers a boy with bread and fish. One thing we know for certain, Philip and Andrew do not have enough. Yet, Jesus gives thanks.
We have probably never been caught in the dilemma to feed a crowd like this. Yet, we know all too well what it is like to try to figure out how to help others in need. We know when a situation seems impossible or when we only have a little bit to work with. What are we to do with the little bit that we have? Like in the Gospel, the crowds can be demanding. Like Philip and Andrew, we do not have enough. But, as in the Gospel, in the hands of Jesus – what we have is enough.
We sometimes get caught up in the miracle. We find ourselves asking “how did that happen?” John may only want us to know what we already know, it happened on account of Jesus. Barnes presents this text as a picture of preaching. A reminder that preaching is difficult. That preaching sometimes seems to be impossible. Other times, we just don’t have much to work with. Yet, the Gospel would encourage us to bring what we have. Bring our words to Jesus. In His hands, what we bring is enough.
We bring our words. Sometimes confidently, other times not. Words from us are never enough. Sometimes we bring our best efforts. Other times, not so much. But, Jesus takes what we bring. And He gives thanks. We recognize a hungry world, but also a Savior in the midst of it. And in His hands, our words are enough.