I was studying John in the bible study I attend. Imagine yourself as a follower of Jesus. He’s called you to learn from him, and help him in his ministry, so you’ve dropped everything to learn from this person. You go to a wedding and Jesus turns the water into wine, and teaches what the deeper meaning is to you, his closest students. Oh This is GREAT! Our teacher likes to PARTY! Woohoo!
Then He goes to the temple. Now the temple in Jerusalem is a big deal. Herod the Great remodeled it and extended it and it glorified…Herod. But the Jews were very proud of their temple. It was a sacred place of worship…and commerce. To pay the temple tax, you had to use the coinage of the temple, and if you didn’t have that lying around your house, you had to exchange some of your currency for some of theirs. There was a profit to be made! When you came to the temple to offer your sacrifices, they had to be inspected by a priest to see if there was any blemish. If there was, or if you could not bring a sacrifice with you due to the long journey, you had to buy the sacrificial animal (guaranteed pure and without blemish) at the temple. By the way, your animal is ALWAYS BLEMISHED. More profit, and the inspecting priests got a kickback. But this is the way things worked in the temple and everyone took it for granted. What does your teacher do? He makes a whip and drives out all the money changers and salesmen. Why? Because they located this market inside the Gentile court of the temple and prevented the Gentile believers from worshiping. Now you’re worried. This teacher you’ve given up everything for has absolutely lost his marbles. You don’t go up against the Jewish leaders and expect to have a long career as a religious teacher. And you certainly don’t accuse them of hypocrisy!
But you stick around to see what happens next. Nicodemus, a member of the Sanhedrin and a religious leader came to get instruction from Jesus. Well, that’s credibility for you! You’ve also asked Jesus at least 1000 questions about what he means when he teaches and why, when he heals someone, he tells them to go sin no more. Is sinning the cause of the afflictions he’s healing? Is it the victims’ sin or their parents or grandparents? We aren’t taking notes because paper and ink are not all that easy to acquire. But he continues to do signs and wonders and teach you. And slowly, you start to see the bigger picture. You believe deeper in this Jesus who refers to God as his Father.
Then he decides he wants to go to Galilee, by way of Samaria. EWwwww! The Samaritans were the scum of the earth. They were from all kinds of different peoples and had adopted God as one of those deities you pray to so you don’t get eaten by lions. They worshiped in the wrong place, they prayed to other gods, they made up stuff in the law and the prophets, and they didn’t live by any moral standards that you could discern. You and the rest of the guys head into town to get something you can eat. You can bet it won’t be kosher. You get back to the well where you left Jesus and he’s talking to a woman! Men do not talk to unaccompanied women; teachers never talk to women; and nobody talks to a woman so low on morals that she collects water in the middle of the day to avoid fine upstanding Samaritans. I mean, really! Samaritans are the least moral of all the countries because they have the law of Moses, they changed it, and then they ignored it! They should know better and they don’t. So when you have someone so immoral that even Samaritans don’t want to be seen with her, that’s pretty awful! And here’s Jesus talking to her, and revealing that he is the Messiah. Well we’ve pretty much figured that part out…the things he does and says pretty much proves that. But he did no miracles for her, no signs other than telling her about all those husbands she’d had. He sits at a well, and then talks to a woman of ill-repute, tells her she’s a woman of ill-repute, then tells her he’s the Messiah. It must be the heat, or thirst or something. We get back with the food and he says he has food we don’t know about. Well, then why did we go to town?! Oh, my bad. He tells us that his food is to do the will of God, his Father. Then we stayed for 2 days! Is this a dry run for the pronouncement to the Jews in Jerusalem?
So we get to Galilee, and he does a long distance healing for this official. Doesn’t even go to his house. But he doesn’t make his announcement there. Maybe he’s waiting to do that in Jerusalem. We’re heading there for a festival. The climate has changed since the last time we were in Jerusalem. Jesus goes through the Sheep Gate by the pool and there’s a guy there who’s been sick for 38 years. (We talked to the folks around the pool to get the back ground.) It seems that every once in a while, the waters in the pool are disturbed by an angel, and if you’re the 1st one into the pool, you get healed. This guy can’t get close enough to the pool to just roll in when it moves. Jesus tells him to get up, pick up his mat and walk. Just like that. If he could have gotten up, wouldn’t he have gotten to the pool? And was he living at the pool? Were friends or relatives bringing him food? I don’t see a public toilet around either. Then to pick up his mat, that would mean he couldn’t sit back down on it and he’d lose his spot close to the pool. Then to WALK? The guy’s been sick for 38 years! How do any of his muscles work? But that’s just what this guy does! We ask him a bunch of questions about this! This Jesus is amazing!
He tells us stuff about Heaven, about redemption, and about love, and what’s weird is when we talk about it, every single one of us has a different meaning as to what he said. So we ask more questions, and he does more signs and teaches and trains us, and explains about faith and belief. Then he sends us out on an assignment, 2 by 2, to do the same thing as he’s doing, using his name of course. And it works!!! But now we have people pressing on us on every side to heal and cast out demons and stuff, and it’s hard work! I don’t know how Jesus does this day after day! I want to come home and sleep for a week, and I think the others feel the same way. We get back to Jesus and He suggests we take a vacation to a remote place.
We get to a beautiful spot on the side of a mountain and are just starting to relax when we see a city’s worth of people coming our way! Jerusalem is a big city, but you never see all the people out and about at the same time. We see whole families here! There might be about 5000 men and their families! This is frightening! And it’s getting late! It took as a while to get here and those folks aren’t going to be able to move as fast with little children in tow. The Logistics is Staggering! How were we going to feed all these people?! Why don’t they just go away and leave us alone?
Some have suggested that people brought food with them and when Jesus blessed the food and started handing it out, they got out their lunches too. Here’s the thing. When Jesus asked what they had on hand, the only person the disciples could find that had any food was some little kid with a lunch box. They didn’t find Martha Stewart in the crowd with a large basket of food. Would they have wanted to make Jesus king because he declared a lunch break? It’s like declaring your boss to be the CEO of Citigroup because your bank president let you go on coffee break.
Now we step out of the story and look. All this time, Jesus has been teaching and healing and telling his disciples that the only food he needs is to do the will of his father. He has been patiently teaching them for over a year. He’s sent them on missions to do this same teaching. Yet, when they see the crowd, they still think of the physical realm. THESE PEOPLE DID NOT COME OUT TO HAVE A PICNIC! When Jesus said, “You feed them,” could He have meant divide the people up and teach them and heal them? They came for healing and for Jesus’ words of redemption and the coming of the Heavenly Kingdom. He didn’t do the miracle for the 5000, he did it for his disciples. This physical food goes away, even if there are left overs. The people will be hungry again in a few hours. Will we feed them breakfast as well? The food they came for was the words of Jesus. The drink they longed for was the living water that Jesus offered in the spirit. They could have divided the crowd up and each disciple would have gotten about 400 men and their families to teach and heal. Would that have made the day go faster? No wonder Jesus sent them away on the boat by themselves! The feeding of the 5000 actually hurt his cause! When they found him on the other side of the lake, the crowd confessed him as the savior. Jesus said they only said that because their bellies were full. If he’d just taught and healed them, he might have gotten more support from the people because he was giving them exactly what they needed when they made that journey out to the mountain. The disciples might have suffered because then they might have had to contend with their thoughts that Jesus said he cared about these people, but then he didn’t tell them to go home or find a place to stay and eat, he just sat and talked and healed late into the night like he didn’t care if they were hungry and cold and tired. They might have seen Jesus as a guy famous for being famous–that Jesus was thinking that he was the most important person on the planet. (He was, but they weren’t ready to believe that…)
You can imagine the conversation Jesus had with his Father after they left: “Dad, I’ve been teaching these guys for a YEAR! They still think about physical things when faced with a problem! Why don’t they listen to me?!!!” “Well Son, you remember I gave them 10 rules to survive with, and they ignored them and tried to cut them down to 9 or 8, and then decided to legislate the rules and blow them up to over 600. They didn’t listen to me either.” “So stick to the timeline? Will they be ready when I come home to you?” “Yeah, I’ll send them the Spirit and with the 3 of us, they should do OK.” “Son?” “Yes?” “You missed the boat.” “I know, I’ll catch up to them…”