Faithlife Sermons

What Happened to the Leftovers

Sermon  •  Submitted
1 rating
Sermon Tone Analysis
View more →

What Happened to the Leftovers

Jon 6:1-15

10th Sunday after Pentecost

Today’s Gospel lesson is the famous story of Jesus feeding five thousand men plus women and children who came to hear him teach. It is one of the only miracles recorded in all four Gospels and therefore has significance in its teaching to us about Jesus and His work of salvation. This miracle works on many levels to offer teaching to us.

Many commentators have pointed to a connection with the Lord’s Supper here in John. Only a few miracles before is the miracle of water changed into wine at the wedding and now we have bread as part of this miracle. I believe that these, at least in some way, foreshadow the greater miracle of Jesus being “broken and shed his blood” for us which we partake of in the Lord’s Supper.

There is also a “testing” or teaching moment here for the disciples. First for Philip. The text even indicates that Jesus was testing Philip. In the other Gospel accounts of the feeding of five thousands the disciples come to Jesus with the question of how are they going to feed so many. But in John Jesus asks the question of Philip. And Philip responds just as anyone would have looking at the impossibility of the situation. “Philip answered him, ‘Two hundred denarii would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.’” (John 6:7, ESV)[1] On an earthly level there would not be enough resources to provide even a “snack” to all these people. But with God nothing is impossible (Luke 1:37) and that is where Jesus is leading the people.

Andrew then steps into the picture with maybe a little more understanding that Jesus was going to do something miraculous. He comes forward with an offering of food and says, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many?” (John 6:9, ESV)[2] Maybe the crowd was getting restless and they were trying to find a solution and Andrew is offering some help. But even in Andrew’s reply we still see an earthly minded response, “How can this little bit help?”

Then Jesus takes the small loaves and fish from the boy and offers a blessing. These were the loaves of a common person (barley) and John records they are small, as if to point to the great miracle that is about to happen. Jesus instructs the disciples to give the bread and fish to the people and everyone ate. And John makes it clear that this wasn’t just a taste for everyone, or even just a “snack” but it was a meal that filled the people. John says it twice; they were given “as much as they wanted” and that they had “enough to eat.” Jesus provides here in abundance, so much so that there are leftover – twelve baskets full!

Jesus was providing for the people out of his grace and mercy and supplying them richly. And in this miracle we see that God provides for our daily needs just as we pray in the Lord’s Prayer, “give us this day our daily bread.” Luther says in the small catechism, “What is meant by daily bread? Daily bread includes everything that has to do with the support and needs of the body, such as food, drink, clothing, shoes, house, home, land, animals, money, goods, a devout husband or wife, devout children, devout workers, devout and faithful rulers, good government,

good weather, peace, health, self-control, good reputation, good friends, faithful neighbors, and the like.”[3] But this miracle also point to the spiritual abundance that God provides to us. Just a few verses later in this chapter of John Jesus points to the fact that he is the “Bread of Life” and in Him we have the rich abundance of His love and mercy for us. He takes the small barley loaves of our lives and turns them into the meal that fully satisfies and fills us – physically and spiritually.

But what do we do with the leftovers? Yes we have leftovers not only in material things but in spiritual things as well. God provides an overflow to us in what he daily provides for us physically and spiritually. That is the question that is addressed in the negative here. The people, seeing the greatness of Jesus and the miracle he performed for them wanted to make Him king. In essence they wanted to keep Jesus for themselves.

What do you do with your leftovers? If you are like most Americans we take leftovers and put them in a container and place it in the fridge for you to enjoy later. And if you are like me, you usually don’t get back to those leftovers and you end up throwing them away because they have gone rotten. Today food is so plentiful that we really don’t think much about how we use it. But for much of the world and for much of history food was a precious commodity. In many cultures if a family had leftovers from a meal, which wasn’t often, they would give the leftovers to people who were poor and didn’t have much food to eat. Since food wasn’t as plentiful or easy to get it was important to share it so as many people could be fed.

Maybe that is what Jesus had in mind here, to take the baskets of food to those in need? We don’t know but what we can see in the text was that it was important to Jesus that nothing be wasted. In the Old Testament a similar situation arose. When the Israelites were wandering in the desert God provided manna from heaven to feed them. But is was more than just food it was a way to teach the people that they were to depend on God to provide. The manna God provided was not to be saved overnight. If someone did save it it would spoil and not be useable the next day. God provided all that they need for that day but each day was a new day to rely on God’s gracious providence.

When Jesus faced the Devil in the wilderness a similar idea came up. Jesus was hungry from His fasting and the Devil said, “Turn these stones into bread.” What the Devil was saying was, “Jesus, don’t worry about the world, just feed your immediate hunger.” Or with the other temptations the Devil was saying to take the easy way out and have the people of Israel, and you and me, depend on God only as a “Bread King” or one who only fulfills my desires and not what I really need.

In this miracle Jesus is not only saying God provides for all our needs but He is also showing how we are to respond to God’s gracious giving – give it away ourselves. What do we do with the “leftover”? We give it away to the world. That is the example that Jesus gave to us. Paul tells us in Philippians 2 that Jesus did not consider equality with God (self focused) something to be grasped, but that He humbled Himself, became obedient (led the perfect life for us under submission to the Father) and suffered and died for us so that we could have rescue and release from our sin. Jesus gave more than leftovers to us – He gave his all. And now He asks us to do the same. And there is a miracle that happens in our life when we share, even those things that feel like leftovers, God multiplies our giving. We think we have only “five small loaves and two fish” that can’t even supply our own needs. But, in faith, when we give the love of Jesus to others, God richly multiplies our “little” resources and each person we give to is satisfied with the Living Bread of heaven – Jesus. When we keep it to ourselves it dwindles and even spoils, but when we share it a miracle takes place and God multiplies His love and grace an 100 fold.

What do you do with the leftovers? Give them away and watch the power of God work a miracle in others lives as He has worked in you. You have freely received – now freely give! Amen.


[1] The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (electronic ed.). Wheaton: Good News Publishers.

[2] The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (electronic ed.). Wheaton: Good News Publishers.

[3]Luther, M. (1997, c1986). Luther's small catechism with explanation. Contains the basic principles of the Lutheran religion with some explanation.; Translation of: Kleine Katechismus - English. (electronic ed.). St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House.

Related Media
Related Sermons