One consequence of Jesus’ miraculous signs in the Gospel of John is intense opposition, as we see in John 5. Another consequence is the sudden flood of new followers ready to see what exciting and miraculous thing Jesus will do next, as we see in John 6. The intrigue surrounding Jesus is so great that something like 5,000 people are willing to follow Jesus halfway up a mountain just to not miss out on anything that might happen (John 6:1-3).
And Jesus doesn’t disappoint.
Once the crowd proves they’re not going anywhere, Jesus asks the apostle Philip, “Where are we to buy bread for all these people to eat?” This is just a test, John reminds us; Jesus is always ten steps ahead of everyone else. Philip’s answer is cynical and sarcastic. “Six months’ income couldn’t buy enough bread for this many people!” You and I would likely give a similar answer. The imagination required to truly grasp what Jesus is about to do is not easy to come by. Now another apostle, Andrew, comes forward even though he wasn’t summoned like Philip was. While Jesus has been quizzing Philip, Andrew has been moving through the crowd doing some investigating. He finds a boy with five loaves of bread and two fish and brings him to Jesus. “But what is this among so many people?” Andrew woefully asks.
Something amazing is happening in Andrew. His words express doubt, but his actions express great faith. Like another person in the Gospels who cries out to Jesus from an internal place of contradiction, “I believe! Help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24), Andrew is filled with both belief and unbelief, residing as next door neighbors in a single human heart. He doubts with his words and believes with his feet. It is enough for Jesus, more than enough. As 5,000 sit down on the grass, Jesus distributes the little bit of bread and little bit of fish to feed every person a hearty meal. Every single one.
Unfortunately, the crowd’s primary reaction to this is not a new, bolstered faith, but a misplaced desire to force Jesus to become Israel’s king. Jesus’ idea of what it means for him to be king will never match the world’s idea of it. So Jesus slips away farther up the mountain, not giving anyone the chance to take him and march him up to Jerusalem.
Then once night falls his disciples head down to the lake shore to hop in their boat and cross over to Capernaum. A storm hits and they’re only able to make it a few miles when they see someone standing on the water. Where once was frustration at the storm turns into terror at the apparent apparition walking on the water toward them. But they quickly realize it’s Jesus when he says, “It is I; do not be afraid.” They gladly welcome him into the boat and just like that their journey through hard rain and wind comes to a quick conclusion. (Funny how a journey with Jesus goes vastly better than a journey without him.)
At every turn here Jesus is disrupting our assumptions and expectations. We might expect Jesus to disrupt things like wickedness and arrogance. But he’s disrupting our disbelief and hunger and fear, too. Jesus bursts into our lives to deliver provision and faith and joy in abundance. Jesus is not somewhat capable of meeting our needs; he is abundantly capable. Jesus is not somewhat deserving of our faith in him; he is abundantly deserving. And Jesus will not settle for casting our only some of our fear; he’s casting out all of it. Like Andrew, we receive this good news with some confidence and some hesitation. And like Andrew, we’ll stick around long enough to let Jesus blow us away.