Sermon: The Reluctant King (John 6:1-21)
As among the Judean Jews in John 5, Jesus again faces increasing opposition in John 6 from the Galilean Jews. Nevertheless, the opposition of the Galilean Jews will look very different, since the Galilean Jews continue to eagerly seek out Jesus because of the signs that he can perform—up to this point at least. Jesus, for his part, displays remarkable kindness by feeding a crowd of five thousand sign-seekers who come to him in one of our Lord’s most remarkable miracles. Nevertheless, his kindness is not reciprocated, but it only fuels the fires of their greedy intentions to put their Creator to use according to their own designs.
While the sign-seekers benefit from the kindness of Jesus, it is suffering that marks the experience of the disciples. The details for this story that are unique in the Gospel of John give a slant on this story that contrasts the feasting of the unfaithful with the trials of the faithful, both when Jesus asks Philip how to feed the crowd in order “to test him” (John 6:6) and then when the disciples face a fierce storm on the Sea of Galilee (John 6:18). On the surface, the winners of this passage are the sign-seekers, while the disciples are the losers, facing a much more difficult set of circumstances. Nevertheless, John demonstrates through this passage that it is better to suffer with Jesus than to feast without him.