Eighth Sunday after Trinity 29.7.12 John 6.1-21

22 07 2012

Plenty and Power

This is John’s third story of excess. We had an excess of wine in chapter 2 and of water in chapter 4. Now it’s bread. As previously, the excess is astonishing because it first seemed that there would be by no means enough. The story of the storm only serves to underline the point: Jesus is a person not only of significance but power; though the nature of that power is just as easily misunderstood as it is underestimated.

John 6.1-21

After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, also called the Sea of Tiberias.  2A large crowd kept following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick. 3Jesus went up the mountain and sat down there with his disciples. 4Now the Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near. 5When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming towards him, Jesus said to Philip, ‘Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?’ 6He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do. 7Philip answered him, ‘Six months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.’ 8One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, 9‘There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?’ 10Jesus said, ‘Make the people sit down.’ Now there was a great deal of grass in the place; so they sat down, about five thousand in all. 11Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he


had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted. 12When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, ‘Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost.’ 13So they gathered them up, and from the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets. 14When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, ‘This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world.’15 When Jesus realized that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself.
16 When evening came, his disciples went down to the lake, 17got into a boat, and started across the lake to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. 18The lake became rough because a strong wind was blowing. 19When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the lake and coming near the boat, and they were terrified. 20But he said to them, ‘It is I; do not be afraid.’ 21Then they wanted to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the land towards which they were going.

Reflections and Questions

‘After this’ v 1

Or more literally, ‘after these things’.  It is worth reading though the previous chapter. It is about healing and controversy.

What do you see as the connecting threads with chapter 5?

A large crowd..  v 2, v 5

The point is underlined by repetition. And it is implicit both in the large amount of left-overs and in v 14 and 15 – the voice of the people was clearly going to take some serious resistance.

How do you feel about the suggestion that Jesus took the risk of getting a large crowd together?  And the implicit suggestion that contemporary Christianity often lacks the ambition, nerve or vision to do things that might gather an excited crowd?

‘as much as they wanted’ v  26

Notice the feel of this phrase. Jesus not only met their needs, but their desires.

What is the difference between spiritual leadership based on ‘meeting needs’ and that based on ‘engaging desires’?  Where are you most comfortable? Which is most like Jesus?

‘The lake became rough because a strong wind was blowing.’ v 18

In this way the lake is a bit like the crowd – who were going to take Jesus by force to make him king (v 15). It seems that Jesus is not having a quiet life but is in places where there is a lot of dangerous energy.

Where are the places of dangerous energy today? Are they places of ministry?  Who will go there?

3rd Sunday before Lent 5.2.12. Mark 1.29-39 Prayer, Vocation and Mission

22 01 2012

Prayer, Vocation and Mission

Last week’s passage was about teaching and authority. This week’s is about healing and prayer.  But the questions of power and authority are never far from the surface.

 Mark 1.29-39

29 As soon as they left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. 30Now Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once. 31He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them.

32 That evening, at sunset, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. 33And the whole city was gathered around the door. 34And he cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.

35 In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. 36And Simon and his companions hunted for him. 37When they found him, they said to him, ‘Everyone is searching for you.’ 38He answered, ‘Let us go on to the neighbouring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.’ 39And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons.

Reflections and Questions

‘as soon as’ v 29. The pace remains crisp. There are no pauses.  Synagogue – home – sickness – healing – service: breathless. It seems odd to us that the poor woman sets about serving as soon as she is well. ‘Normality is resumed’ seems to be the message.  To what extent do you see Jesus as the restorer of the normal – or its questioner?

‘the whole city’ v 33 Once again we have a crowd scene.  But this time the demons do not speak (see Mark 1. 24).  Jesus has complete power over them.  The plot is beginning to develop.  What do you understand by spiritual power?

‘In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed’. v 35  Well, what else is there to do after a day’s healing and coping with demons?  Might it be that the pace and dynamism of Jesus’ ministry both requires and enables such withdrawal?  How do you imagine his ‘deserted place’?  What are yours?

‘Let us go on on to the neighbouring towns’  v 28 The energy level is back. The missionary passion is there. But notice that before, or at least alongside, mission comes vocation: ‘that is what I came out to do’.  Maybe that was what the prayer was about: reconnecting with vocation which is both ‘call’ and ‘send’.  What is your call? How does it connect to your ‘send’?