Series B Pentecost 10
"Making Much of Little"
August 20, 2000
John 6:8-12

Introduction:  Many people think they are worth very little to the kingdom because they are, in their own eyes, are insignificant and poor. “What can I do?” they may ask, “What can I contribute?” “What can I offer?”  “Can this church really use me?” Have you ever has those sort of thoughts or feelings? If you have ever thought this way then this sermon is directed at you. In fact, this sermon is directed at each of us as we consider where the Savior is leading us here at Friedheim and what He is able to do in our life and work.

In our Gospel lesson for this morning we have a message of assurance and encouragement for each of us in this congregation. If Christ can take a kid's lunch, not a dinner, and feed 5,000 folk with it - just think of what He is able to do in your life and in our work together!  The possibilities are endless! For you see, the same miracle is repeated when we give our all to Christ in surrender and dedication.  Let's see how Jesus can make much out of little.

1.  You may be small- only a lad, with only a lunch to give - v. 9  "There is a lad here, which has five barley loaves, and two small fishes; but what are they among so many?" 

A little boy, who doesn't know any better, offers what he has, and it is more than enough! 

Illustration: A family was spending their vacation in a large city. They drove by a park that had numerous homeless people. Their young daughter, around 4 years old, at the time, asked about the people. Answered the mother: "They are homeless. They have no place to sleep. They have nothing to eat." "Well, why don't we feed them?" asked the daughter in all her innocence. Why, Why, don't we feed them? A little boy, who doesn't know any better, offers what he has, and it is more than enough! 

William Easum in his book "Sacred Cows Make Gourmet Burgers" asks in various ways throughout his book: "What gifts do you bring to the Body of Christ that, if we equip you to use them, the body of Christ will be more whole and so will you?

John reminds us that this little kid offered the Savior "barley" loaves ("krithinos"). Bible scholars tell us: "Wheat bread was more common; barley loaves were cheaper and served for the poor.” (Brown) It would seem that these three loaves were looked on as a meal for one small person. The offering of bread was a meager offering of a “poor man’s bread”.

Then there’s the fish. Bible scholars again tell us that John’s word for “fish” (“opsarion”) is not fresh fish, but rather “dried or preserved fish”. This was not fresh fish that was presented but stale leftovers. No wonder Phil would say “but what use is this to serve so many!”  Not only is the boy’s offering small, it isn’t very much to look at. Someone today might say “Well, what we have to offer here isn’t much, in fact, it’s nothing but junk!”

Five loaves made of barley and two fish isn't much, but in this case it was more than enough. It was more then enough because it was offered in faith and the Savior used it for good. Consider our maze project. It isn’t very much, and who would think that such a small idea could grow into such a big thing. But here it is, once again being used to draw people from our parish together, to generate our name into the community, and in a large way witness to the people around us what great things can be done by our yes, simple and humble efforts. When solving the challenges in our congregation and school we need to begin with prayer, just as the Savior, asking Him to use what (little) we can offer from our gifts and resources to be multiplied and used of Him.

Transition:  What can Jesus do with your little? There is plenty He can do when you…

2. Give your all to Christ - v. 11 "And Jesus took the loaves: and when He had given thanks, He distributed to the disciples, and the disciples to them that were set down; and likewise of the fishes as much as they would."

The actual miracle itself is contained in this one little verse: After a blessing, Jesus distributes the food, and all had "as much as they wanted" (v.11).

How often do we stress the difference between "wants" and "needs"?  Jesus gives the people what they wanted! The amount of food goes beyond what they needed. In addition, we are never told that the people were hungry or in need of food. It was Jesus who decided that they should eat (v. 5).

What if we took that approach to more frequently Holy Communion? It's not about what we want or need. It's about what Jesus wants to personally give. His desire is to give us His mercy and grace.  So it goes with all of the gifts of God’s grace.

John is presenting to us God's abundant grace, which is found in Jesus Christ.  This grace is something, which is more than we need or could even want. Is it possible to get too much of God's grace? Why would anyone not want to receive God's grace more frequently?  God offers His mercy and grace in His means of grace. May we hunger after God’s Word.  May we daily “read, mark, learn and inwardly digest it”! Then, with grateful hearts may we receive these gifts with thanksgiving. 

Transition:  Jesus can use our little to accomplish much therefore we are to…

3.   Rejoice in what Christ can accomplish v. 12  "When they were filled He said unto His disciples, Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost"

John now attends to the "cleaning up" that follows -- again under Jesus' strict supervision. A more telling translation would read "Gather up the surplus left over, so that nothing may be lost" (v.12). These leftovers are not inconsequential "fragments" but a testimony to the true abundance of Jesus' provisions and God's providence.

The "gathering" commanded by Jesus and carried out by the disciples wasn't so much the left over scraps, but of the surplus food that the crowd couldn't eat.  The crowd had hoped for just a few morsels.  They were hoping for a snack, instead they ate and were filled.

Jesus' emphasis on the disciples' participation in this practice of gathering up the leftovers seems to drive home an important point. The disciples, loaded down with the 12 baskets of leftovers, physically experience the superabundance of Jesus' gift of bread. Likewise, Jesus' directive that "nothing may be lost" suggests that this surplus remains ("abides") for the crowd, even after Jesus will leave them. Not only does He feed them once. He will continue to sustain the people.

Clearly this message of an abiding presence, one which cannot be lost for those who remain faithful, is a critical lesson for the disciples.  Jesus is not content to merely feed the people and then send them on their way. He provides provisions along the way. He sustains His people. He equips them for what they need. Jesus is not content to merely feed us for one day. Daily He provides us with all that we need to support our body and life.

Conclusion: If the Savior who feeds the birds, and cloths the flowers of the field which are here today and gone tomorrow…if He does all this how much more will He feed and sustain you?  For you are of much more value then birds.  Jesus has demonstrated that He can provide for our needs. He multiplies and blesses with the meager resources that we offer. He will divide the loaves and fish for it is Jesus who sets the table. Can our meager efforts be used of the Savior? Yes, and again YES!

+ Soli Deo Gloria +

Stoffregen, Brian P.  "Exegetical Notes" <> 9, August, 2000

Notes of Proper 12-Year B <> 8, August, 2000