“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear, ” (Mat 6:25).
The Fourth Gospel acquaints its readers with the seven miraculous signs that distinguish our Savior from all creation. Let’s mention them briefly in actual sequence. The initial sign, “Turning Water into Wine,” designates Jesus as the Creator who can change one substance into another by saying a word, (Gen 1). Next, the second sign, “Healing of an Official’s Son,” and the third, “Healing the Sick,” demonstrate Jesus’ supernatural ability to heal instantly desperate diseases. The fourth sign, “Feeding the 5,000,” distinguishes Jesus as the giver of life. It provides marvelous insight into the pre-incarnate period of God’s Son when he fed his people for forty years with bread from heaven. The fifth sign, “Walking on Water,” indicates Jesus as the Lord of the existing form of nature, (Mat 8:27). Like the second and third signs mentioned before, the sixth sign,“Healing a Man Born Blind” reveals Jesus’ supernatural faculty to restore the human body. And finally the seventh sign, “Raising Lazarus from the Dead,” is unquestionably awesome because it calls attention to Jesus’ lordship over the power of death. Therefore, the seven signs bear witness to the fact that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that, believing, you might have life through His name.
Yes, among Christians there is none who would doubt Jesus’ divinity, or his suffering on the cross for our transgressions. But we would like to call your attention to Jesus’ identity anyway. Who then is this that he commands and all the existing powers obey him? Who then is this, that he multiplied bread and fed the thousands, healed desperate diseases, changed water into wine, and raised the dead? We are sorry for posing these questions due to their obviousness, for even 5 year olds have heard that Jesus can do such things because he is the Son of God. However, in spite of this knowledge, an individual’s perception of Jesus may be different and inconstant.
Now let us explain this idea. You might have heard of some popular images of Jesus such as the “American Jesus,” “Catholic Jesus,” “Protestant Jesus,” “Feminine Jesus,” “Hindu Jesus,” and so on. These images came out as the result of people’s reflections on the “Historical Jesus.” Then, which one of these images is your hero? Don’t be confused even if yours is not on the list; probably it isn’t because you have your own! So, the question about individual perceptions of Jesus might not seem of little worth.
Now let me say one more thing about this. Once I asked a group of Christians what would be their response if I came to the classroom as the President of the US? As far as the idea was accepted enthusiastically, I offered to play “President and Loyal Citizens.” Then I left the room and in the blink of an eye came back knocking at the door. Everybody stood up laughing at me while I was playing a famous president. “Now I know that all of you are the patriots with a good sense of humor,” I said. “But what would be your response on my coming through this door as the Lord Jesus Christ. One woman said sincerely, “I would hug and kiss him.” In my turn I replied, “Yes, Jesus is our best friend, but in fact, he is also the King of kings, God Almighty! From the Book of Revelation we knew when the apostle John had beheld Jesus, he fell at his feet as though dead, (Rev 1:17). “As you can see,” I concluded, “the apostle’s reaction to the appearing of Jesus stands in sharp contrast with the contemporary view of Jesus Christ.” One more time it proves that we may be preoccupied with the wrong understanding of who Jesus is. “Who then is this, that he multiplies bread and fish… ?”
However, the striking reality is not about the Giver of life and his loving kindness, whose words and character cannot be changed, but it is about our changeable mind and our deceitful imaginations about him. Unlike God’s mind about us, our perceptions and beliefs about Him as usual swing depending on how safe we feel. That is to say, when everything is going well we are happy perceiving Jesus as a “defender of our happiness.” But on a certain day we may be disappointed in Him meeting not our expectations and as a result change our mind about Him.
Unfortunately, a limit of time is the only reason why we won’t expand this topic more broadly, but we still have time to bring in the discussion our Gospel reading from John ch. 6. The text says while Jesus and the twelve were resting on a hillside nearby the east shore of Lake Tiberias, a large number of people approached them. Taking pity on them Jesus said, Phillip, “Where will we buy bread so these people can eat?” This question must have sounded strange for the disciples, yet it was asked with a significant purpose. “We don’t have enough money to buy even a little food for each of them,” said Phillip. And Andrew added, “Ah! There is a boy here; he has five small loaves of barley bread and two fish, but what good are these for so many people?” Next we read that Jesus ordered the people to sit down on the grass. In total there were around five thousand men plus women and children getting ready to eat. When everybody sat down, Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed the bread to those who were seated. He did the same with the fish, as much as they wanted. When everyone was full, he asked his followers to collect the leftovers so nothing would go to waste. There was plenty of food for everyone, and even the twelve collected 12 baskets of leftovers!
For the participants the miraculous feeding provided the exclusive truth about Jesus; namely that he is the visible image of the mysterious God. The disciples saw God’s glory, and they believed in him again. The gospel narrates that the twelve believed in Jesus the first time when he had turned water into wine; they believed in Jesus again when he healed an official’s son; they believed in Jesus the third time when he made well a crippled man, and finally they became the recipients of God’s grace by eating the multiplied bread and fish. Now there was no question among them, “Who then is this, that he multiplied bread and fed the thousands, healed desperate diseases, changed water into wine?” Alas!, there was no question regarding divine Sonship of Jesus until both the disciples and the multitude met challenges.
With a focus on the twelve, the text says that when the evening was come Jesus sent them to Capernaum by the boat. But before long, the waves increased because of the wind. When the crew was about three miles from shore, they noted Jesus walking toward them on the water. “Who then is this that he is able to walk on the water?” they cried out with fear thinking of him as a ghost. They were terrified until Jesus went up with them into the boat and said, “It is I, Do not be afraid.” But what about the five thousand Galileans, Were they afraid too? Yes, they were! It was the fear of missing something very valuable. In the morning they didn’t find the sight of the benefactor who recently miraculously fed them, even the 12 baskets of leftovers disappeared. Finally, when people found Jesus and heard his teaching, they were mad with their delusion because Jesus offered them the “Bread of Life” which they couldn’t chew.
The two stories expose men’s weakness to trust Jesus to the end as they experience the pressure of present and powerful temptations. On the other hand, it seems a fearful thing to believe and trust the “Fictional Jesus” created by the sensitive mind. We are confident in such Jesus who meets our expectations or beliefs of him. We might expect him to act within the boundaries made by our rational mind. Meanwhile Jesus’ character is much more profound than we can think or imagine. Thus, when Jesus found out that some disciples reflected negatively on his teaching about himself, he asked them, “Does this cause you to be offended?” (v. 61). After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him, (v. 66). But this shouldn’t happen with us. The good news is that despite our shortcomings and even some kinds of apostasies we have not been forsaken by the Lord; yet the words of our Savior are trustful and worthy to be believed.
Jesus abides with us by his Spirit according to the solemn promise, even though we sometimes lose ground as the result of our sinfulness. The Lord continues to form our mind according to his teaching about himself patiently leading his people in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake as it was with the reformer M. Luther, for example. It says that when M. Luther had been an Augustinian monk, he embraced Jesus as the jailor and hangman of his soul. The “Judicial Jesus” invoked only terror of being judged by God and a realization that though he knows he should love Him, he actually hates Him. But because Luther didn’t harden his heart in rebellion upon hearing the voice of Truth as others did, ( Heb 3:15) his previous imagination of Jesus was changed into belief in Jesus as true Love and the Comforter. And this is the true picture of our Lord we need to understand and to be conformed to.
Today we mentioned the seven signs from John’s gospel. We believe that they continue to shape your understanding of Jesus’ character. By the way, the signs themselves were not Jesus’ purpose. Instead, the message behind the sign is always in view, so the signs are usually matched to Jesus’ teaching. He fed the more than 5,000 not just only to meet people’s needs, but to establish the right image of himself, — the true bread of life given for all people when he died on the cross. Brothers, the true image of Jesus has always been associated with the Cross, as you know. By this we recognize our Savior, and worship him in the name of the Father and + the Son and the Holy Ghost.