Sermons 2009

Pentecost 8B (Proper 12B), John 6:1-21, 26 July 2009

Home | Proper 17B, 30 August 2009, Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23 | Proper 16B, 23 August 2009, John 6:56-69 | Pentecost 10 (Proper 14B) 9 August 2009, John 6:35, 41-51 | Pentecost 8B (Proper 12B), John 6:1-21, 26 July 2009 | Pentecost 7B (Proper 11B), 19 July 2009, Mark 6:30-34, 53-56 | Pentecost 6B (Proper 10B), 12 July 2009, Mark 6:14-29 | Pentecost 5B (Proper 9B) 5 July 2009, Mark 6:1-13 | Pentecost 4B (Proper 8B), 28 June 2009 | Pentecost 3B (Proper 7B), 21 June 2009 | Pentecost 2B (Proper 6B), 14 June 2009 | About Pentecost, Pentecost B, 31 May 2009, | On the Trinity, Trinity B, 7 June 2009 | Jesus and Prayer, Easter 7B, 24 May 2009, John 17:6-19 | How can we love? Easter 6B, 17May 2009, John 15:9-17 | 2 Sermons: Vineyard and a Baptism, Easter 5B, 10 May 2009, John 15:1-8 | Who's in? Who's out? Easter 4B, 3 May 2009, John 10:11-18 | Sacramental Meals, Easter 3B, 16 April 2009, Luke 24:36b-48 | Resurrection, continued, Doubts, and a Baptism, Easter 2 B, 19 April 2009, John 20:19-31 | He is not here, Easter B, 12 April 2009, Mark 16:1-8 | The Seven Sayings from the Cross, Palm Sunday B 2009 | We wish to see Jesus, Lent 5B, 29 March 1009, John 12:22-33 | For God so loved the world, Lent 4B, 22 March 2009, John 3:14-21 | Out with the money changers! Lent 3B, 15 March 2009, John 2: 13-22 | On taking up the Cross, Lent 2B, 8 March 2009, Mark 8:31-38 | News or the real Good News?, Lent 1B, 1 March 2008, Mark 1: 9-15 | Listen to Him! Epiphany Last B Transfiguration, 22 February 2009, Mark 9:2-9 | What do you mean, demons? Epiphany 4B, 1 February 2009, Mark 1:21-28 | Immediately and discipleship, Epiphany 3B 2009, 25 January 2009, Mark 1:14-20 | Right in front of your eyes, Epiphany 2B, 18 January 2009, John 1:43-51 | In the beginning, water and the Spirit, Epiphany 1B, 11 January 2009, Genesis 1:1-5; Mark 1:4-11 | In God we trust, Christmas 2B, 4 January 2009, Jeremiah 31:7-14; Matthew 2:1-12

Proper 12 B 2009                                                  John 6: 1-21


 “They saw Jesus walking on the sea and comng near the boat, and they were terrified….”           


Today’s Gospel reading contains two miracles, both of which take place near or on the Sea of Galilee.  The first is the miracle of the feeding of the 5,000.  The second is commonly known as Jesus walking on the water.  It would seem that the two miracle stories have little to do with each other except for being in the miracle category and involving Jesus in some way. And that’s probably correct on the most superficial level.  But a deeper dive into the still deep waters of Scripture tell us something different.


In a sense, it is easy to provide a facile explanation for the feeding of the 5,000.  And people, scholarly and otherwise have done so for almost 2,000 years.  The argument goes something like this.  The Hebrew people of Jesus’ time were pretty practical folks, especially those who lived along the rich waters of the Sea of Galilee, teaming with fish.  In fact a major export commodity of the region was that of the small fish that abounded in the waters, pickled in brine and/or dried, and carried by traveler’s in their bags to eat as they journeyed along their way, wherever that might be.  So, of course, those who followed Jesus were likely to have ample supplies of that fish with them, plenty to share with those who had nothing.


And barley loaves:  barley was the coarsest of the bread grains available in the area.  Large quantities of barley were grown, primarily to feed cattle, beasts of burden such as donkeys and oxen, and even sheep.  Barley was cheap and plentiful; barley flour was what the very poorest could afford.  And it was the very poorest people who most looked to Jesus for hope.  So, of course, there would be plenty of poor people in the crowd with plenty of bread to share.  After all, the generosity of the poor to others is well known.  (1)


If the young lad was typical, with his five loaves of barley bread and two fish, then there was plenty of food to be found in the crowd to be shared.


That is, of course, if one is incapable of suspending disbelief and looking at the scene with open eyes and mind.


Walking on the water is not so easy to explain away.  There is that famous story of the recent Israeli entrepreneur in the Holy Land.  He placed stepping stones just under the surface of the Sea of Galilee at just the right distance so that people could walk out into the water on them and have their photograph taken, walking on the water.


But some serious scholars have made a stab at explaining this miracle story.  The argument goes like this.  At the traditional place where this miracle of walking on the water is said to have occurred, the Sea of Galilee is only four miles wide.  And since the disciples had already rowed three or four miles, if one takes the latter distance, they had almost completed the journey.  They must have seen Jesus walking along the edge of the water and, given the heaving of the sea from the strong wind that was blowing, thought he was walking on the water when he was only alongside the sea at the edge of the banks.  (2)


I myself find all this very interesting.  But I prefer to suspend disbelief and accept the miracles as having actually happened. For then, and only then, can we set aside the trappings of skepticism and come to grips with what these two stories actually mean and what they have to tell us today.


In the two stories in this reading, Jesus is the one through whom God rescues and saves, on the one hand, and fully provides for the people’s needs, on the other. All that God’s people need comes from the hand of Christ; he embodies the saving and sustaining presence of God. …the one who supplies what gives and sustains life. (3)

Albert Schweitzer said it best just over a hundred years ago:   "He comes to us as One unknown, without a name, as of old, by the lake-side, He came to those men who knew Him not.

He speaks to us the same word: 'Follow thou me!' and sets us to the tasks which He has to fulfill for our time.  He commands.  

And to those who obey Him, whether they be wise or simple, He will reveal Himself in the toils, the conflicts, the sufferings which they shall pass through in His fellowship, and as an ineffable mystery, they shall learn in their own experience Who He is." (4)





1.  William Barclay, The Gospel of John, I, pp 202-203.

2.  Barclay, op. cit., p. 208.

3.  Jerry L Sumney, Exegesis, Lectionary Homiletics for John 6:1-21,

4.  Albert Schweitzer, The Quest for the Historical Jesus, 1906.