The feeding of the five thousand is so amazing that it is recorded in all four Gospels in the Bible.
Just to refresh your minds as to what happened here. A great crowd had been following Jesus listening to him and watching him perform miracles. They were just amazed at what they were seeing. It was getting late on and the people were hungry and needed some food.
"One of the disciples—it was Andrew, brother to Simon Peter—said, “There’s a little boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But that’s a drop in the bucket for a crowd like this.”
Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” There was a nice carpet of green grass in this place. They sat down, about five thousand of them. Then Jesus took the bread and, having given thanks, gave it to those who were seated. He did the same with the fish. All ate as much as they wanted." (The Message John 6 8-11)
As a child I remember a teacher spending ages describing to us how this was done. She said that everyone felt guilty and shared their food with each other. Well that sort of works except for the next few verses where we read
"When the people had eaten their fill, he said to his disciples, “Gather the leftovers so nothing is wasted.” They went to work and filled twelve large baskets with leftovers from the five barley loaves.
The people realized that God was at work among them in what Jesus had just done" (The Message John 6 12-15)
Now I know that when I go on a hike I only carry the minimum amount of food and drink with me as it is heavy. I certainly don't carry an extra meal, so the teachers idea does not really hold water, as where does all the extra food come from. The passage does not say that the people just had a snack, but that they ate their fill.
The second thing that squashes the teachers statement is the numbers of people involved. It is hard enough to hush up something if just a few people had seen it, but noway could this be hushed up. The text says that there were around 5000 men present, so this does not account for all the woman and children- we are probably talking of around 20,000 people.
The third thing that squashes the teachers statement is the fact that it is recorded in all four Gospels. Basically saying this happened, and it was an amazing miracle. I can just imagine the TV news crews if it happened today. They would be interviewing everyone for their take on the story..
You can read more on this amazing chapter of John in our home group notes on the chapter 6 of Johns Gospel
This is a blog article referring to John's Gospel chapter 5 -
At the time of writing this it is in the news that Pope Benedict XVI has named seven new saints, one of which is Kateri Tekakwitha. Now I have never heard of Kateri Tekakwitha before but the web tells me that she lived in the 17th Century, and impressed missionaries with her deep spirituality. It is claimed that she was involved in the miraculous healing of a Native American child, being ravaged by a flesh eating bacterium.
I don't have any problems with the miracle, but I do believe that it was God who performed the healing, working through Kateri Tekakwitha, much in the same way He has worked through humans all down through the years.
If we go back 2000 years or so there was a pool in Jerusalem, which had the reputation that people were healed if they were in the water when it stirred. It is recorded that lots of disabled people used to lie around the pool waiting for the waters to stir.
One such invalid was waiting by the pool when Jesus came along. The invalid did not know who Jesus was and asked Him if he would help him get into the water. Jesus then asks him if he wants to get well?
The invalid gives an excuse as to why he can't get into the pool, and Jesus then just tells him to “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk” The invalid did this and was cured.....Amazing.
All through the ages it is recorded that people have been miraculously healed but the key is not the miraculous healing but as Jesus says here
“It’s urgent that you listen carefully to this: Anyone here who believes what I am saying right now and aligns himself with the Father, who has in fact put me in charge, has at this very moment the real, lasting life and is no longer condemned to be an outsider. This person has taken a giant step from the world of the dead to the world of the living.” John 5:24 (The message)
You can read more about this amazing chapter of John's Gospel – chapter 5 in our home group notes on the chapter.
Recently I had an accident. I sneezed and dropped the large tin of white gloss paint that I was holding. It landed on its corner and sploshed white paint all over the place – the floor and wall, and over me. I then spent the next hour cleaning up the mess.
People often recount nightmarish type dreams where they have been too embarrassed to move, as maybe they have spilled food or drink all down themselves, upsetting their fine clothes, and thinking that onlookers may laugh at them. Of course sometimes this is not a dream and people just want to avoid others due to gossip, or shame that they may be feeling. And this is not something that just applies to our society. It has gone on throughout time.
The water cooler discussions have replaced the discussions at the well side. Everyone needs water and everyone used to gather together at the well, to pass on news and gossip, that is unless you were the social outcast of the time.
We read about such an outcast in Johns Gospel chapter 4 the account of the Samaritan woman.
She is getting water from the well in the noonday sun. The hottest part of the day, when everyone is normally in the shade. Jesus approaches her and asks her for a drink. She is taken aback and asks, “How come you, a Jew, are asking me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?” (Jews in those days wouldn’t be caught dead talking to Samaritans.) John 4 v9
Jesus replies “If you knew the generosity of God and who I am, you would be asking me for a drink, and I would give you fresh, living water.” John 4 v10
She then goes on to ask Jesus, where is he going to get this water from as he does not have a bucket. Jesus says to her, “Everyone who drinks this water will get thirsty again and again. Anyone who drinks the water I give will never thirst—not ever. The water I give will be an artesian spring within, gushing fountains of endless life.” John 4 v13-14
She then goes on to ask Jesus for this water, but Jesus says that she should go and get her husband, and then he will give it to her. She replies “I have no husband,”
“That’s nicely put: ‘I have no husband.’ You’ve had five husbands, and the man you’re living with now isn’t even your husband. You spoke the truth there, sure enough.” John 4 v17-18
So that is why she was at the well at noon time. Afraid of the well-side gossip and avoiding that she meets Jesus and He offers her the gift of the everlasting water of life.
It is then recorded that Jesus goes on to say in v23-24 “It’s who you are and the way you live that count before God. Your worship must engage your spirit in the pursuit of truth. That’s the kind of people the Father is out looking for: those who are simply and honestly themselves before him in their worship. God is sheer being itself—Spirit. Those who worship him must do it out of their very being, their spirits, their true selves, in adoration.”
You can read more about this amazing chapter of John's Gospel – chapter 4 in our home group notes on the chapter.
Cute Baby Lamb
It is said that there is one thing we cannot really influence or control and that is our birth. (Though I am sure there are some Paediatricians out there who will say that the baby does control the birth telling the mother when it is time) but generally it is thought that the baby does not have control on how it is born. The mother or other external influences do this, (drugs inducing the birth for instance or even a caesarian)
Roughly 2000 years ago one of the rulers of the Jews called Nicodemus had to ponder the question about birth. Nicodemus was talking to Jesus one evening about things, especially the miracles that Jesus had been performing, and suggested that Jesus was a great man from God. Jesus answered Nicodemus
Jesus said, “You’re absolutely right. Take it from me: Unless a person is born from above, it’s not possible to see what I’m pointing to—to God’s kingdom.” (The Message John 3 v3)
Nicodemus's reply was to ask how can one be born again when they are fully grown, It would not be possible to re-enter your mothers womb and be born again.
Jesus said, “You’re not listening. Let me say it again. Unless a person submits to this original creation—the ‘wind-hovering-over-the-water’ creation, the invisible moving the visible, a baptism into a new life—it’s not possible to enter God’s kingdom. When you look at a baby, it’s just that: a body you can look at and touch. But the person who takes shape within is formed by something you can’t see and touch—the Spirit—and becomes a living spirit. (The Message John 3 v5-6)
“So don’t be so surprised when I tell you that you have to be ‘born from above’—out of this world, so to speak. You know well enough how the wind blows this way and that. You hear it rustling through the trees, but you have no idea where it comes from or where it’s headed next. That’s the way it is with everyone ‘born from above’ by the wind of God, the Spirit of God.” (The Message John 3 v 7-8)
The question logically comes, "Why does a person need to be born again (born from above)?"
The simple answer is that we have all done wrong and so can't have a relationship with a perfect God. There is a gulf between us that needs to be spanned to allow the relationship to occur.
Paul in Ephesians 2 says It wasn’t so long ago that you were mired in that old stagnant life of sin. You let the world, which doesn’t know the first thing about living, tell you how to live. You filled your lungs with polluted unbelief, and then exhaled disobedience. We all did it, all of us doing what we felt like doing, when we felt like doing it, all of us in the same boat. It’s a wonder God didn’t lose his temper and do away with the whole lot of us. Instead, immense in mercy and with an incredible love, he embraced us. He took our sin-dead lives and made us alive in Christ. He did all this on his own, with no help from us! Then he picked us up and set us down in highest heaven in company with Jesus, our Messiah (The Message Ephesians 2 v 1-6)
Paul also goes on to say in Corinthians -
Because of this decision we don’t evaluate people by what they have or how they look. We looked at the Messiah that way once and got it all wrong, as you know. We certainly don’t look at him that way any more. Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! Look at it! All this comes from the God who settled the relationship between us and him, and then called us to settle our relationships with each other. God put the world square with himself through the Messiah, giving the world a fresh start by offering forgiveness of sins. God has given us the task of telling everyone what he is doing. We’re Christ’s representatives. God uses us to persuade men and women to drop their differences and enter into God’s work of making things right between them. We’re speaking for Christ himself now: Become friends with God; he’s already a friend with you. (The Message 2 Corinthians 5 16-20)
Now I know Nicodemus did not have Paul’s writings to help him understand but he did have the chance to actually question Jesus in person, and we hope that he must have realised that being born again (or from above) is not a human activity but a miracle inspired by God
You can read more about this amazing chapter of John's Gospel – chapter 3 in our home group notes on the chapter here.
Just remember Pauls invitation to become a friend with God still stands today
Everyone likes a party, especially a party at a wedding. The bride looks beautiful, the groom handsome, the music is playing, there is dancing, the refreshments are fantastic, the food and wine keeps flowing and everyone is having a good time.
So imagine the scene when suddenly the waiter comes along to top up his jug and there is no more wine. He mentions this to his companion and they look in all the wine storage jars. They are all empty. They have been too generous and the wine has now run out.
Mary happens to be near by and notices that something is wrong. She asks what it is . Calamity what can they do? She says I will ask Jesus and he will know what to do. Come follow me she tells the servants and do whatever Jesus tells you to do.
Mary, with several servants in tow, finds Jesus and tells Him, that the wine has run out. Everyone stops and looks at Jesus – what will he do? Does he have enough money on him to go and buy some more wine from the market.
No, he tells the servants to fill up some storage jars with water This is lots and lots of water somewhere between 120 to 180 gallons of water. Then he tells a curious servant to take some of the water from the jar off to the master of ceremonies to see what he thinks about it.
The servants look from one to another. He's lost his marbles, they will be laughed at by everyone. You do not serve water at a wedding banquet. But Mary has said do what he said, and they had already gone to all the effort of filling the jars with water so may as well do this.
The servant takes the water to the master of ceremonies and gives it to him to taste. He draws it to his lips smelling the lovely rich aroma of a fantastic wine, and sips it. A smile appears on his face. He calls over to the bridegroom – “Most people”, he says “serve the best wine first at a weeding and then the not so good when everyone is starting to get drunk, so they don't notice the poorer quality, but you have done it the other way round. This is the best wine I have tasted for a very long time.”
The servants looked to one another in amazement knowing full well where the wine had come from. It was all the more amazing that there was not just a little of this fine wine but well over 2500 glasses full of the stuff. This party was going to be one that they remember for a long time.
This is a paraphrase of the start of the Gospel of John chapter 2 recording Jesus's life on earth around 2000 years ago. Jesus changes the agenda around. More can be read on this chapter in our studies here
Now a days it is fairly rare to make a phone call to a business without being told that the call may be recorded for all sorts of reasons. Businesses react slightly differently when you tell them that you are recording them just to make sure that there is an accurate record of what has been said.
Prior to this the main way of proving what was said (or happened) was when it was said in front of witnesses or having pictures taken on the event. An image snapped with ones phone is common place, but before cameras were readily available it was an artist who sketched or painted what they saw. An example of this is documented here
Going back in time even more somebodies ring/seal was often the sign that they had the authority of that person. They used the ring to make decisions. This then led to people having their ring fingers cut off (with the ring still on the finger) as a witness to prove that they had been usurped. In more extreme cases the head was cut off and paraded around.
Going back in time even more in Deuteronomy 17:6 Jewish law requires two or more witnesses to an event before it can result in Judgement (in this case the capital crime). So when Elijah was travelling around and had 50 prophets following him they made pretty good witnesses.
In 2 King 2 v7 it describes how they watched Elijah and Elisha (his apprentice/understudy) go up to the River Jordan and Elijah touches it with his cloak and the waters divided so he and Elisha could cross the river on dry ground.
It does not record how large the river was at that time but I think it is fair to say that it was not a stream, but a river. Elijah and Elisha go on and Elisha witnesses Elijah being taken up to heaven in a whirlwind, during which he drops his cloak.
Elisha picks up Elijah's cloak and walks back to the river Jordan where the prophets are still waiting on the far side. I am sure they are wondering how is he going to get back across the river. But Elisha
picked up Elijah's cloak that had fallen from him, returned to the shore of the Jordan, and stood there. He took Elijah's cloak—all that was left of Elijah!—and hit the river with it, saying, "Now where is the God of Elijah? Where is he?"
When he struck the water, the river divided and Elisha walked through. - from verse 15 The guild of prophets from Jericho saw the whole thing from where they were standing. They said, "The spirit of Elijah lives in Elisha!" They welcomed and honored him. From the message version.
The prophets were the witness to the fact that Elisha now had been granted similar powers by God to that of Elijah.
You can read more about this period of Elijah's time on earth in our studies on him and the relevant sections of the Bible this time being main 2 King 2 here
Have you ever wished that you could call down a bolt of fire from the sky to sort out a problem. Being able to use lightning or bolts of fire is often a popular powerful weapon in computer games. Normally one must do certain tasks or achieve/collect certain things to get this skill but once acquired it is very useful.
But having the capacity to call on thunderbolts of fire is not just for computer games, as we read about Elijah in 2 Kings 1 being able to call on lightning and in this case it hits and kills a captain of the guard and fifty of his men by incinerating them. The captain had challenged Elijah and questioned if he was a “Holy Man”.
The captain had been sent by the king at that time Ahaziah to get Elijah to come to him as Elijah had prophesied that the king would not get better having fallen through some balcony railings on the rooftop of his house in Samaria. -
The king had sent some messengers off to consult Baal-Zebub the god of Ekron, but Elijah had met them on their way and given them a true prophesy from God
Elijah said 'You're not going to get out of that bed you're in—you're as good as dead already.'" Elijah delivered the message and was gone. 2 Kings 1 verse 4 (The Message). The King did not think much of this when the messengers came back and told him what Elijah had said.
I somehow think that was probably a bit of an understatement – I can just imagine him ranting and raving calling for Elijah as he wanted to confront him and wanted Elijah. Hence the captain and fifty solders were dispatched to go and get Elijah and bring him before the king.
Once Ahaziah heard that the captain had been killed he dispatched a second captain and fifty more men to nab Elijah. Elijah is just sitting there when the guard comes along. He says "O Holy Man! King's orders: Come down. And right now!"
Elijah answered, "If it's true that I'm a 'holy man,' lightning strike you and your fifty men!" Immediately a divine lightning bolt struck and incinerated the captain and his fifty. 2 Kings 1 11-12
News gets back to the king and I can just imagine how cross he is this time, and so he sends a third captain and fifty more men. This time the captain is a bit more respectful. I would think seeing the incinerated remains of over 100 men would help focus his mind.
Elijah goes with him to the king and I can imagine King Ahaziah asking Elijah what did you say would happen to me?
Elijah told him, "God's word: Because you sent messengers to consult Baal-Zebub the god of Ekron, as if there were no God in Israel to whom you could pray, you'll never get out of that bed alive—already you're as good as dead." and he died, exactly as God's word spoken by Elijah had said. 2 Kings 1 16-17 (The Message).
Most of us probably don't have anything to do with prophecy in our day to day lives other than looking at the weather and trying to guess when our British summer will start and it will start to warm up.
But the God of Elijah as recorded in the Old Testament in the Bible is the same God of the New Testament and is the same God of the 21st Century and He has given people the power of prophecy all through the ages including now.
The first two captains of the guards in our story did not recognise God working through Elijah, and sadly suffered as a result. We need to keep our eyes and ears open so we can recognise God at work in people today.
You can read more about what happened to Elijah at this time in our notes from our Bible Study on this passage here.
How often have you looked over at your neighbours garden and thought that it looked good and you would like something like that. Or even more so felt that your garden is too small and only if you could buy a bit of extra land, it would make the garden just so much better.
Well they say that nothing is new and the same thing happened thousands of years ago with King Ahab. He was looking out of his palace window, and thought that he needed to expand his palace grounds. There was a vineyard next door and this was just what he needed but it belonged to his neighbour Naboth.
The King approached Naboth and asked him if he would sell the land, but Naboth said no, because it was his ancestors land. Well the king felt he just needed this vineyard and went into a megga sulk. His wife Jezebel wanted to know what was wrong, when she found out she was not going to let a little thing like this thwart her. If Naboth would not sell then she would remove him from the picture in another way.
Jezebel arranged for a day of religious fasting and then got a couple of her cronies to start accusing Naboth of being false, and then to ensure that the punishment was stoning to death. The crowd were soon whipped up into a frenzy and sadly poor Naboth was killed by the crowds.
King Ahab now grabs Naboths land and adds the vineyard to the palace grounds. He is oh so happy, until Elijah comes along and confronts him...You can read the full version of what happens in 1 Kings 21 along with the rest of the story and you can read our notes from our Bible Study on this passage here.
With all the rain that we have had recently it seems hard to imagine a drought. Easier really to imagine a flood, but back in 9th Century BC, God had told Elijah to predict that there would be a drought, and there had been for three years.
The King at the time King Ahab, was getting desperate to feed his horses, which kept his army going, as all the grass had died. He had split the cavalry into two groups so that they may have a better chance of finding some food. One group was being led by the King and the other by his assistant Obadiah, who was a secret believer.
Elijah appears to Obadiah and tells him that God is going to have a show down with the King and all his false prophets. He is to get the King to meet him at the top of Mount Carmel and they will prepare for two sacrifices. One being run by the false prophets the other by Elijah
The king gets his 450 prophets of Baal and the queens 400 prophets of Asherah up to the top of the hill. Great crowds of people come along to watch.
The false prophets go first. There is a bull placed on the altar, and they start to chant calling upon their false gods to cause fire to come down and burn up the bull. Nothing much happens. After a few hours Elijah suggests to them that Baal must be asleep and they are not making enough noise, so they chant even more and start cutting themselves. Eventually they run out of steam, nothing has happened.
Elijah then says it is my turn now. He firstly rebuilds the altar, using 12 large stones, then places the bull on it. Then just to make sure that there is no trickery gets the crowd to pour lots of water all over it, so water is in the trough around the altar.
With not a cloud in the sky, and the offering soaking wet, Elijah then calls upon the true God to cause fire to come down from heaven and burn up the sacrifice. Fire comes down from heaven and burns up the offering and destroys the altar. The people are totally amazed. The drought then ends. This is just a brief summary of our second encounter with Elijah. You can read the full version of what happens in 1 kings 18 and you can read our notes on this passage here.
Elijah is an amazing character recorded in the Old Testament of the Bible. He lived during King Ahab's reign in the 9th Century. Elijah bursts onto the seen in 1 Kings 17 and confronts King Ahab telling him that there is going to be a drought until he says it will stop. King Ahab is recorded as “doing more evil in the eyes of the Lord than any of those before him.”in 1 Kings 16 v30 and had certainly led the country astray.
Having told King Ahab the bad news about the drought, Elijah flees for his life, as King Ahab and his wife Queen Jezebel had a tenancy to kill those they did not like especially any true prophets who were challenging their beliefs.
The drought begins to take hold. Elijah in his hiding is then miraculously fed by ravens, bringing him food, but after a time the brook that he is using for drinking water runs dry, so he needs to up sticks. God tells him to go to Zarephath which was around 100 miles away from where he was, so it was no walk in the park.
He there meets a widow, who he asks for food. She feeds him with her last meal, thinking that she will then die, but again a miracle happens and her food supply does not run out while Elijah is living with her.
Time moves on a bit and the widow's son sadly dies, but amazingly God brings him back to life, through Elijah.
This is just a brief summary of our first encounter with Elijah, more can be read in the notes from the study here
Dyslexic doodles on photography, food (growing, cooking & of course eating), faith and other fascinating things. This is a personal blog expressing my views.