The Soul-Sustainer by Pastor Abidan Shah

THE SOUL SUSTAINER by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

The Soul Sustainer

Introduction: Nicole and I look forward to summer when kids get out of school and we don’t have to get up as early or stay on a rigid schedule. But, somewhere around mid-summer we actually look forward for school to start. The reason: Our Grocery Bill! Nicole buys the groceries on Monday and by Wednesday the fridge and the pantry are empty! That’s just trying to feed 6 people! Now imagine trying to feed 5000 men plus women and children. Do the math – if half those men were married, that’s 2500 women and if each of those couples had 3 kids (By the way, that’s a conservative number for families back then), that’s 7500 kids. Altogether that’s 5000 + 2500 + 7500 = 15000 people. Jesus not only fed them but had 12 baskets left over! As great as that miracle was, Jesus did not come just to provide physical sustenance for the body. He came to provide spiritual sustenance for the soul, which is far more important. He is the great SOUL SUSTAINER.

John 6    2 Then a great multitude followed Him, because they saw His signs which He performed on those who were diseased. 3 And Jesus went up on the mountain, and there He sat with His disciples. 4 Now the Passover, a feast of the Jews, was near. 5 Then Jesus lifted up His eyes, and seeing a great multitude coming toward Him, He said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread, that these may eat?” 6 But this He said to test him, for He Himself knew what He would do. 7 Philip answered Him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may have a little.” 8 One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to Him, 9 “There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two small fish, but what are they among so many?” 10 Then Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand. 11 And Jesus took the loaves, and when He had given thanks He distributed them to the disciples, and the disciples to those sitting down; and likewise of the fish, as much as they wanted. 12 So when they were filled, He said to His disciples, “Gather up the fragments that remain, so that nothing is lost.” 13 Therefore they gathered them up, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves which were left over by those who had eaten. 14 Then those men, when they had seen the sign that Jesus did, said, “This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world.” 15 Therefore when Jesus perceived that they were about to come and take Him by force to make Him king, He departed again to the mountain by Himself alone.

Question: Your physical life comes from your physical appetite. Your spiritual life comes from your spiritual appetite. If your physical appetite is poor, your physical life will suffer. If your spiritual appetite is poor, your spiritual life will suffer. How is your spiritual life? What are you feeding your soul? Are you feeding upon Christ and his words? Are you saved? Have you ever been made spiritually alive?

Context: Let’s read again verse 2 “Then a great multitude followed Him, because they saw His signs which He performed on those who were diseased.” If you remember, few sermons back I explained to you that when John the apostle used the word “signs,” he had more than “miracles” in mind. He was referring to those incidents that proved that Jesus was/is God and he was the one who was to come. In other words, signs were more than miracles by Jesus to help people (the other gospels); they were proofs of who he was/is and why he came. The miracle of Jesus feeding the 5000 men plus women and children was more than just about physical hunger and physical appetite. It was about spiritual hunger and spiritual appetite.

Listen to verse 3 And Jesus went up on the mountain, and there He sat with His disciples. 4 Now the Passover, a feast of the Jews, was near. If you read those verses too quickly, you’ll miss the sign behind the feeding miracle – the feast of the Passover. The Feast of the Passover (Pesach) along with the Feast of the Unleavened Bread (Masot) were joint festivals that commemorated the freedom of the Hebrews from their slavery in Egypt. Exodus 12 tells us that God commanded them that on the night of their escape the head of each Israelite home had to slaughter a lamb and smear its blood around the doorpost and the lintel of the house. This was to keep the destroyer from taking the life of the firstborn. Also, each family was to eat the roasted lamb with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. Something more – Exodus 12:11 “And thus you shall eat it: with a belt on your waist, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. So you shall eat it in haste…” In other words, this was no leisurely meal. They had to stand and eat as if they were late for a journey. For e.g. Ever been late for somewhere important and you had to eat before you left? No time for salt and ketchup. By the way, God also told them that this was not a one-time deal. They had to keep this feast for generations to come.

With that in mind, let’s return to John 6  5 Then Jesus lifted up His eyes, and seeing a great multitude coming toward Him, He said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread, that these may eat?” 6 But this He said to test him, for He Himself knew what He would do. 7 Philip answered Him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may have a little.” At first glance it appears that Jesus was just messing with Philip but that’s not true. Go back to John 1   43 The following day Jesus wanted to go to Galilee, and He found Philip and said to him, “Follow Me.” 45 Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” If Philip really understood Moses and the prophets, he would not have replied as he did. He would’ve fallen on his face before Jesus and said, “You are God. Nothing is impossible for you.”

Principle: When God tests us, he gives us the review sheet first.

What happened next? Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother finds a young kid with 5 barley loaves and 2 small fish and brings him to Jesus. What was the main course of the Passover Meal? Roasted Lamb. No lamb at this meal, just fish. Or is the lamb there already? Twice in the first chapter of John the lamb of God is identified for us. John 1:29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! John 1:36 And looking at Jesus as He walked, he said, “Behold the Lamb of God!” Now, listen carefully to Jesus instructions – 10 Then Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” The Greek word there is “anapesin” which actually translates “recline.” How were they supposed to eat the Passover meal? Standing up as if they were running for their lives. Not any longer. Why? Jesus is the Lamb of God. Life was in the lamb. You don’t run from your food. What is really happening here? Keep in mind that this is a sign. Just like the water into wine miracle where the new wine was better than the old proved that Jesus was superior to all the previous purifications rules and rituals. Now, Jesus is also superior to the Passover.

John adds a very interesting detail in verse 10 “Now there was much grass in the place.” Picture a vast multitude of people reclining on green grass. What does that remind you of? Psalm 23 1 “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2 He makes me to lie down in green pastures.” The Lamb is also the Shepherd. Now listen to how the miracle happens. 11 “And Jesus took the loaves, and when He had given thanks He distributed them to the disciples, and the disciples to those sitting down; and likewise of the fish, as much as they wanted.” No bright light. No great sound. The food just keeps on coming. When they were full, Jesus told his disciples to gather up the fragments and 12 baskets were left over. Why was it so important to gather the fragments? Keep in mind that this was a multilayered sign. On one hand, it was proof that Jesus had superseded the Passover but, on the other hand, it was proof that Jesus had also superseded Moses. To understand this, drop down to John 6   32 Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, Moses did not give you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and are dead. 50 This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread which came down from heaven. Remember, they were not supposed to gather any more manna than they needed for the day. What would happen if they did? It bred worms and stank. Listen again to Jesus in verse 51 “I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world.” You can never have too much of Jesus! Gather as much as you want of him. There’ll always be more!

What was there response? 14 Then those men, when they had seen the sign that Jesus did, said, “This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world.” 15 Therefore when Jesus perceived that they were about to come and take Him by force to make Him king, He departed again to the mountain by Himself alone. They missed the sign just like people still do. Few truths from this miracle:

  • All of us have been created with a spiritual appetite. Blaise Pascal (physicist, philosopher and a born again believer from the seventeenth century who got saved reading John 17) in his book Pensées called it the “infinite abyss.”
  • Only Jesus and his Word can satisfy this spiritual appetite.
  • Don’t revert to spiritual junk food. You become what you eat.
  • The longer you go without spiritual nourishment, the less hungry you become.
  • The more you feed upon Jesus and his Word, the hungrier you become.
  • People are dying of hunger. If you are a disciple, you have to pass the bread.
  • Don’t forget that Christ is also the Lamb of God. What’s the difference? Bread was a peasant’s food. But, don’t ever think that Christ is cheap. He’s also the priceless lamb!

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