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Aug 6 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

August 5, 2018 – John Chapter 6

Everything Is A Test

After these things Jesus went away to the other side of the Sea of Galilee (or Tiberias). A large crowd followed Him, because they saw the signs which He was performing on those who were sick. Then Jesus went up on the mountain, and there He sat down with His disciples. Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was near. Therefore Jesus, lifting up His eyes and seeing that a large crowd was coming to Him, said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these may eat?” This He was saying to test him, for He Himself knew what He was intending to do.
Philip answered Him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, for everyone to receive a little.”
One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to Him, “There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are these for so many people?”
Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in that place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand. John 6:1-10

Intro: Does John give us a clue that of something special in this chapter?

In the stories of Jesus, episodes are marked by a scene changes
– for instance, there is usually a shift:
• in time — After these things
• place — Jesus went away to the other side of the Sea 
– here we find both in the first verse, so now the story gets underway
• but then John inserts a notation regarding Passover
◦ Passover would typically indicate time (spring) or place (Jerusalem)
◦ but here it doesn’t seem relevant to anything

Passover is a week-long commemoration
– it is mostly preparation for the central ritual — a sacred meal
• Passover is what launched Israel from Egypt into the wilderness
◦ there they ate manna for forty years
• we will soon hear echoes of that journey in the dialogue later on
– sometime after the miracle of feeding a crowd of thousands
• Jesus confronts the crowd that had tracked him down
◦ it is a wild conversation that reaches its climax in verses 53-58, where Jesus claims,

He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day (v. 54)

• perhaps John is suggesting something that parallels Israel’s Passover
◦ what Passover meant to the Jews, Jesus is to his followers
◦ namely, a full participation in the salvation God has provided

Jesus knew what he was about to do

But first, he presented the challenge to Philip as a test
– the test may have included such issues as:

  • what had Philip learned about Jesus?
  • what did Philip know about himself?
  • how would he react in a pinch, when the pressure was on and he had no answer?

• Jesus’ presentation of the test is skillfully done
◦ he gave Philip the impression that it was up to him to resolve the problem
◦ but Jesus dropped this impossible task on him in a safe context
(there was the safety net of Jesus already having the solution)
– Philip made a quick calculation and admitted defeat
• Andrew jumped in to help,
◦ but after reporting their sparse inventory, he too admitted defeat
• both of them attempted to find a rational solution to meet the need
◦ but given the situation and their resources, there was no rational resolve

Did they pass the test or did they fail?
– I don’t think it was that kind of test
• more like sounding the depth of a body of water by dropping a line into it
• it was simply a measurement — how far had they had come?
– then, still not telling them what he was going to do,
• Jesus told them what to do – and by way of a miracle he fed the crowd

(It’s my defensive self-justification that imagines Philip and Andrew saying, “Oh yeah, a miracle! We hadn’t thought of that. Well, of course! Why didn’t You say so in the first place?”)

• afterward, Jesus went one way and the disciples another
◦ alone, he headed for a mountain; they went out on the lake
◦ in the darkness of that stormy night, he caught up with them as he water

So this chapter began with a test

The crowd Jesus fed had been looking for him
– when they found him, there were more tests, and they kept coming, one after another
• for example, what if Jesus tells them:
◦ they’re wasting their energy working for wrong kind of food?
◦ what they need is bread that descends from heaven?
◦ that he is that bread?
– they were convinced by the miraculous mean Jesus was the Prophet
• this is someone that Moses prophesied would eventually replace him (Deut. 18:15-19)
• so they were ready to take Him by force to make Him king
◦ but did they have any idea of what knowing him or what having him as their king meant?

So with his strange statements, Jesus challenged them
– and he kept at it until they were frustrated and complaining
• even then he kept pushing with that strange statement about his flesh and blood
◦ the bantering continued until finally, in verse 66,

As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore (v. 66)

• they could not keep pace with him
– this whole time, Jesus was probing their hearts
• he was drawing their motives to the surface
◦ he was testing their faith in him,
◦ testing their willingness to accept him
• and he was also trying to enlighten them

There were moments when they thought they understood Jesus
– but even then, what he was saying did not make sense
• Jesus was let them know, they did not understand him
◦ they could not, because they were using the wrong tools
◦ what were the right tools?

It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life (v. 63)

– his images sound concrete,
• and with their rational minds they took him literally
◦ but the truth enters a different door than the rational mind
◦ faith is foreign and unintelligible to the rational mind
• the truth Jesus revealed has to be received (ingested) differently
◦ it had to enter them like food and drink

What was it in Philip that Jesus was testing?

This: had Philip been able by now to turn his belief into trust?
– what had the disciples seen?

  • Jesus turn into wine
  • a variety of other “signs” (Jn. 2:22)
  • healing at a distance (Jn. 4:44-54)
  • the healing of a man who had been “ill” for thirty-eight years
  • the miraculous feeding the crowd
  • Jesus walking on water

– as a result of all of this, they came to believe in him

What had the disciples learned?
– perhaps a better question might be, What had Jesus tried to teach them?
• they were not to always take him literally
◦ that he would frequently cause a short-circuit in the rational, literal mind
• for example:

It would take Jesus only three days to rebuild the temple single-handed
To enter God’s kingdom, a person had to be born again
To have eternal life, a person would have to drink living water (and never again be thirsty)
To do God’s works, a person had to believe in him, eat his flesh and drink his blood

– now, had all of this training developed in the disciples a solid trust?
• it doesn’t seem like it – to the end they were still misunderstanding him

This chapter has a beautiful ending – almost!
– after being deserted by the others, Jesus looked at twelve and asked,

You do not want to go away also, do you?

• Peter answered, in effect, “And go where? We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God”
◦ and if the story had ended there, it would have been perfect
• but Jesus doesn’t leave it there

Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you, the twelve, and yet one of you is a devil?” (v. 71)

– ultimately it was not about what they believed or knew
• as James said,

You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder (Jas. 2:19)

– it wasn’t about what disciples believed, but what they lived
• and that comes down to trust

Why does our trust have to be tested?

Why can’t we just take a multiple-choice or a true or false test?
• for the same reason the DMV requires both a written and driving test
• as important as it is to know the information,
◦ the question of trust is whether or not it’s real
◦ has it entered your body? can you live your trust?

The tests are for our education and training
– this is how our beliefs are turned into trust
• how we make faith our own
• how we deepen into the kind of trust that can survive anything

Friday evening I had the opportunity to introduce my daughter, Karen, to James Langteaux, my longtime friend. As they became acquainted, he told her about a desperate time in his life when he was wrung out, confused, and lost. During that wilderness season he called me and said, “Chuck, I am not doing well and don’t even know what I believe any more. I believe God exists, but, but beyond that I’m not sure of anything.” I told him, “That’s great, James!” leaving him more than a little surprised. “Now you can begin building your own life in God, following only his instructions for you. You can let go of all the stuff you learned that doesn’t work or turns you into a religious robot or clone.” The beliefs he had lost were the usual doctrines and practices that people usually receive from good Christian people. But until we are tested, those will always be someone else’s beliefs. They only become ours through the tests of hardships, questions, doubts, and the slow journey of developing a faith we can live.

– Jesus comes the closest to us when we are tested
• when there is no one else and nothing else to hang on to
◦ when we’re desperate enough to trust him
• when our world is “formless and void”
◦ Jesus comes to fill the emptiness

For me, personally, if I can’t see an answer to misery, injustice, greed, and so on, I’ll walk away
– I may feel disappointed or even heartbroken,
• but if the problem is beyond me, then it’s not my responsibility
• but that is exactly the test
◦ do I always walk away? is that what I’m supposed to do?
◦ do I walk away from responsibility even when it’s my own addiction I can’t control?
– we do not learn trust by walking away,
• but by walking with Jesus – wherever that takes us

Conclusion: Here is what I recommend we do when Jesus tests us:

Hand the problem back to him

When God had Ezekiel survey a valley filled with the dry bones of people who had died and not been buried, God asked him, Son of man, can these bones live?
Who would ask such a question? Well, if it’s God who asks the question, the possibilities of what can happen expand.
Ezekiel wisely answered, O Lord GOD, You know (Eze. 37:3)

– turn the question back to Jesus, “Lord, is it time for a miracle?”

In the dark days of Israel’s judges, during a period of siege and oppression, God sent an angel to call Gideon into active duty. The angel greeted him, saying, The LORD is with you, O valiant warrior (as we learn, Gideon at that time was anything but a valiant warrior). Gideon replied, O my Lord, if the LORD is with us then . . . where are all his miracles which our fathers told us about? The answer that came back was, You’re God’s next miracle.

If Jesus asks the impossible of you
and you ask him how he wants to make it happen
and his answer is, “You’re going to be My next miracle,”
then put your whole trust in him.
And and buckle up

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