When The Pressure Is On

Bible Book: John  6 : 1-14
Subject: Pressure; Testing; Faith; Focus

Is there anybody here under pressure? Do you ever feel like you live in a pressure cooker? Did you know that it takes longer to cook food at high altitudes, because at high altitudes the air pressure is much lower than in the lower plains? Because of that the boiling point of water is lower, and therefore it takes much longer to cook food.

But in a pressure cooker high pressures are built up within the vessel, which raises the boiling point of water, and food can be cooked within minutes.

In fact, the principle of pressure cooking is really fascinating. Because a pressure cooker is airtight, pressure builds up inside the pressure cooker as the liquid inside comes to a boil. The steam that is trapped inside causes the internal temperature to rise beyond what it would be capable of doing under normal room pressure. Food then cooks at a higher temperature, and because it's under pressure it cooks even faster.

At sea level (where the normal atmospheric pressure is 14.7 pounds per square inch) the boiling point of water is 212°F, the highest temperature which can be reached by water at that elevation. But that boiling point is raised 38º F to 250º F, under the 15 additional pounds of pressure that can be obtained in a pressure cooker.

But I learned something else fascinating about a pressure cooker, and that is pressure cooking can help you maintain a healthier lifestyle. First of all, it uses only 1/3 the energy of normal cooking methods, and because very little water is used in pressure cooking, and because the pressure cooker is a "closed system," few vitamins and minerals are lost to the cooking water, or dissipated into the air. Vegetables are not exposed to oxygen, and therefore they retain their vitamins, minerals, and color.

In fact, the cooking times for most foods in the pressure cooker are approximately 1/3 the times for those same foods cooked in traditional manners and is even faster than a microwave.

The reason that fascinates me is because oftentimes life really is just like a pressure cooker. If we respond to pressure in the right way, it can make us better, and it can make us stronger. Now even the disciples knew what it was to be under pressure.

In the passage we are going to study this morning, the disciples were with Jesus facing a crowd of 5,000 men; that doesn't even include the women and the children, and they were hungry. Jesus goes to Philip and asks him a question: "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?'" (v.5) At that point do you think Philip felt any pressure? Do you think Jesus put him in a pressure cooker? You better believe it. Now interestingly Jesus knew what He was going to do, but Philip did not have a clue what to do.

It reminds me of a little boy that was standing on his tiptoes trying to reach a doorbell, and an old man came hobbling by and saw the young man's plight; walked up to the house and said, "Here, son, let me ring the doorbell for you." He rung it, looked at the little boy and said, "Now what do we do?" The little boy said, "Run, that's what I'm going to do."

Well, life can be a pressure cooker, and there are times when you're under tremendous pressure and you don't know really what to do. You need to learn that that pressure can be turned into a positive force in your life if you will respond in the right way. Jesus performed a miracle on a hillside by the Sea of Galilee to teach us what to do when the pressure is on.

I. Pressure Tests our Faith in Jesus

Every miracle that Jesus performed was a mighty miracle, but there are several things about this miracle that make it extremely unique. First of all, it is the only miracle mentioned in all four gospels. Secondly, it is the only account where Jesus ever asked the advice of another person before He performed the miracle. Third, it is the only time that Jesus ever performed a miracle before such a huge crowd.

Now Jesus had traveled all the way across the Sea of Galilee to get some rest and relief. A mighty multitude had followed Him and had settled in for the evening; the sun was setting; evening was coming; stomachs were growling; because it was suppertime.

"After these things Jesus went over the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tiberias.

Then a great multitude followed Him, because they saw His signs which He performed on those who were diseased.

And Jesus went up on a mountain, and there He sat with His disciples. Now the Passover, a feast of the Jews, was near. (vv.1-4)

There were actually two things that were missing that day.

A. The First Problem was the Crowd Lacked Food

1. Jesus Knew Their Problem Before They Did

There was a huge crowd gathered on that grassy knoll facing that shiny simmering sea. John tells us in verse 10 that the men alone numbered 5,000. Matthew tells us that there were also women and children. Bible scholars conservatively estimate that at a minimum the crowd numbered somewhere between 15,000 and 20,000 people.

Now the amazing thing about this situation is this: Jesus knew their need before they did. Nobody complained about being hungry, but Jesus knew they were hungry.

2. Jesus Knew How He Was Going To Meet Their Need

The second thing that is incredible is that Jesus knew how He was going to meet their need before they even knew they had one. My Dad had that kind of a gift. I can remember several times growing up my Dad would say to me, "Son, you need a whipping." Well, I didn't realize I needed a whipping, and Dad already knew how he was going to meet that need before I realized I had that need.

B. The Second Problem was the Disciples Lacked Faith

But there was a bigger problem than this, and that is the disciples lacked faith.

"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?"

But this He said to test him, for He Himself knew what He would do." (vv. 5-6)

Now immediately we are given a clue as to the meaning of this miracle. This was a test, and the first person to take the exam was Philip.

Jesus asked Philip a rhetorical question. You see, He wasn't really asking Philip where to buy food, because He already knew what he was going to do. He was simply testing Philip, and Philip flunked the test royally.

"Philip answered Him, 'Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may have a little.'" (v.7) Now Philip had answered a question that Jesus had not even asked.

Jesus did not ask the question, "How much?" He asked the question, "Where do we go?" Philip gets out his calculator and begins to figure out how much food would be needed, and how much money it would cost to feed this large crowd.

A denarii was a silver coin commonly used in the time of Jesus, usually equivalent to a full day’s work in the vineyard. Philip calculated it would take 200 days wages of an average working man to feed this crowd in today's money; that would be roughly equivalent to $20,000.

Philip looked at his person and then he looked in his purse, and he quickly figured out several   things: First, there was no place to buy that much food; second, even if there was a place to buy it he didn't have the money to pay for it; third, even if there was a place and he had the money, there wasn't enough time to get it; fourth, even if there was enough time everybody would only get a little bit of food. So Philip looked at the size of the multitude and the sum of the money, shrugged his shoulders and said, "Impossible!"

Philip was what I call a "statistical pessimist." He had a slide rule for a mind, and if he could get it to fit in that slide rule fine, if not, forget it. There are always people who are willing to take the time to figure out how something cannot be done or why things are so bad.

In the Los Angeles Times years ago, Barry Siegel wrote an article entitled, "World may end with a splash." In this article he shows how ridiculous negative thinking can be. Alarmists, worrying about such matters as nuclear holocaust and pesticide poisoning may be overlooking much more dire Catastrophes. Consider what some scientists predict: If everyone keeps stacking National Geographic magazines in garages and attics, instead of throwing them away, the magazine's weight will sink the continent 100 ft. sometime soon and we all will be inundated by the oceans.

If the number of microscope specimen slides submitted to one St. Louis hospital laboratory continues to increase at its current rate, that metropolis will be buried under three feet of glass by the year 2024.

If beach goers keep returning home with as much sand clinging to them as they do now, 80% of the country's coastline will disappear in ten years.

[It has been reported] that pickles cause cancer, communism, airline tragedies, automobile accidents and crime waves. About 99.9% of cancer victims had eaten pickles sometime in their lives so have 100% of all soldiers, 96.8% of communist sympathizers, and 99.7% of those involved in car and air accidents. Moreover, those born in 1839 who ate pickles have suffered 100% mortality rate, and rats force-fed 20 pounds of pickles a day for a month, ended up with bulging abdomens and loss of appetite.1

Now we laugh at that, but I want to tell you there is a lot of verbal pollution going on in our churches and in our homes of people who are just negative. I agree with a person who said:

We have no more right to put our discordant states of mind into the lives of those around us and rob them of their sunshine and brightness, than we have to enter their houses and steal their silverware.2

Well Andrew did a little better. While Philip was running his fingers over his calculator, Andrew went off looking for food. Here's what he finds:

"One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, said to Him,

'There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two small fish, but what are they among so many?'"(vv.8-9)

Well, Andrew wasn't too proud of what he had found.

He finds a little boy with a lunch of five loaves of barley and two small fish. He looked at the size of the multitude, and then he looked at the source of the meal. Where Philip said, "impossible" Andrew said, "illogical." Both of these men had made one fatal flaw. They had both calculated without Christ. We do the same thing all the time. Unfortunately, whenever the pressure is on, the Lord Jesus becomes our last resort rather than our first resource.

I am convinced that Jesus was a lot more concerned about the lack of faith than He was the lack of food. Because a lack of food never stops God, but a lack of faith can stop Him dead in His tracks. What broke his heart was He had given them every reason to have faith, and no reason to have doubt. You think about what those disciples had already seen up to this point. They had seen Jesus turn water into wine; heal the nobleman's son; heal a paralytic man; and yet they still needed the faith of a mountain to move a mustard seed. They still didn't get it.

A lot of us still don't get it. Even though we can all look back on our life and see how God has provided for us time after time after time after time. When the pressure is on the worry meter goes up, and we just don't seem to get it. I heard about a Sunday School teacher who was trying to illustrate to her boys and girls the dangers of drinking alcohol.

So she filled up two glasses, one with water and one with alcohol. Then she pulled out some earthworms she had dug up and dropped some of them into the water. Well, the worms just swam around that water; had a great time. Then she dropped some earthworms into that glass of alcohol and those earthworms curled up and died. She said, "Now boys and girls, what does this teach us?" One little boy spoke up and said, "I know what it teaches. If you have worms drink a lot of alcohol."

Well, I want you to get something today. If you're facing a situation that you think is impossible, remember Luke 18:27, "The things which are impossible with men are possible with God." If you're facing a problem and you think the solution is illogical, then just remember Isaiah 55:9, "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts." The ridiculous with you is the reasonable with God.

II. Pressure Turns our Focus to Jesus

Now even though all four gospels include this miracle, only John records the little boy who gave his lunch. That little boy is, next to Jesus, the biggest hero of this story.

You see, that little boy had brought barely enough to feed himself. Now you say, "Wait a minute. He had five loaves and two fishes; that would feed a lot of people." When you think about a loaf of bread, you think about the kind of loaf you see at a grocery store.

These were actually wafers that were flat, hard, and brittle; about the size of a small pancake because barley was the bread of poor people. The word for fish refers to a little pickled fish much like a sardine. This was not a big salmon or a great sea bass. This was just a small little minnow.

But the important thing to see is this little boy was willing to share what little that he had. There's a great principle to learn here. Anything that you transfer to Jesus can be transformed by Jesus. What that little boy had was valuable because it was available.

Something else about this little boy really strikes me. Here were twelve full grown disciples who had seen Jesus do miracle after miracle after miracle; here on the other hand was one little boy who had never met Jesus in his life, and yet where the disciples doubted, the little boy believed.

There is one area in which every one of us ought to remain just like a little child, and that is in the area of faith. Do you know what is wrong with a lot of us Christians? When it comes to faith we have gotten too big for our britches.

I heard about a little boy who got into a heated argument with his sister about who was going to get the last brownie, and his mother overheard this discussion and came in to try to resolve the fuss.

Her two children, both extremely upset, both of them wanted that last brownie. So sensing the opportunity to teach a deeper spiritual truth, the mother looked at her children and asked that very relevant question..."What would Jesus do?" Well that little boy immediately answered, "That's easy. Jesus would just break that brownie and make 5,000 more!"

That really does illustrate the kind of faith this little boy had, and the reason he had such strong faith was because he had the right focus. Where the disciples saw a lack, he saw the Lord; where they saw a multitude, he saw a miracle; where they saw a crowd, he saw Christ. That is the kind of childlike faith that motivated that boy to give that lunch without equivocation, reservation, and hesitation.

So notice what happens:

"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.

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.

So when they were filled, He said to His disciples, 'Gather up the fragments that remain, so that nothing is lost.'

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." (vv.10-13)

Jesus had a great sense of humor. Do you think it was coincidental that there were twelve baskets left over-one for every disciple? That little boy had given Jesus a schoolroom lunch you could have folded into a napkin, and he got to take home twelve baskets full of food.

That little boy learned two lessons I guarantee you he never forgot all of his life. Number one: Never doubt what God can do. He is in the miracle business.

Number two: Never deny God whatever God asks you to give Him. He is in the multiplication business.

As one little poem put it:

“If just a cup of water

Is all that is in your hand,

Then just a cup of water

Is all that I demand.”

So far we have had a wonderful story of a hungry crowd, hopeless disciples, a helpful boy, and a hearty feast. But there is more to that story yet than meets the eye.

III. Pressure Teaches us Facts about Jesus

Jesus did not perform this miracle to show that if he wanted to, He could go into the bakery   business. No, there is a lesson to the loaves that runs much deeper than feeding 20,000 people and having 12 baskets of leftovers. Now if you want to know the real meaning of the story, notice verse 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.'" (v.14)

Do you know what the purpose of this miracle was? It was to illustrate that the bread that Jesus blessed at the feeding of the 5,000 was a picture of Jesus Christ Himself. That's why He goes on to tell these disciples down in v.35, "I am the bread of life."

You see, this miracle is not about material bread baked by an earthly mother to meet physical needs. It is more about spiritual bread baked by a Heavenly Father to meet spiritual needs. The whole point of this miracle was not to feed the stomachs of these people, but to force them to turn to the One that could feed their souls.

Jesus did not perform this miracle just to satisfy physical hunger, and to slake physical thirst. He did it to make the people spiritually hungry and spiritually thirsty and to show them that He was the bread of life, and the living water that they needed.

Friend, this was more than just a Passover picnic. Notice what He said to the crowd later on:

"And when they found Him on the other side of the sea, they said to Him, 'Rabbi, when did You come here?' Jesus answered them and said, 'Most assuredly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled.' Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him." (vv. 25-27)

You see, they didn't understand that Jesus did not come primarily to keep their stomachs from growling, but to keep their souls from perishing. You notice it says in v.12, "they were filled." They were satisfied. They didn't want anything else to eat; their stomachs were full. They didn't want anything else to drink; they were totally satisfied. But they would not have been filled without Jesus.

Now remember nobody could eat another bite, yet there were still twelve baskets left over. Why? Because Jesus is not only all that you need, He is more than you need. There is not a problem you have Jesus cannot solve. There is not a hunger you have Jesus cannot satisfy. There is not a thirst you have that Jesus cannot meet. There is not a hurt you have that Jesus cannot heal. There is not a question you have that Jesus cannot answer. That's why when the pressure is on, if you know the Lord Jesus you can already know He'll help you meet the situation that that pressure demands.

Years ago I traveled by bus from Israel through the Sinai desert going to Egypt. I realized that I was going through the same desert through which Moses led the people of Israel. I began to think about that story and I found out some interesting facts.

Go back to that time when Moses was charged with the responsibility of leading the people of Israel out of Egypt. They had to be fed, and in order to feed them Moses would have had to have 1,500 tons of food each day. Now do you know that to bring that much food each day two freight trains each a mile long would be required! Remember they were out in the desert so they would have to have firewood to use in cooking the food. This would take 4,000 tons of wood and a few more freight trains each a mile long.

Then think they were 40 years in the wilderness. They would have to have water. If they only had enough to drink and wash a few dishes it would take 11 million gallons every day, and a freight train with tank cars 1,800 miles long just to bring the water!

Then another thing! They had to get across the Red Sea at night. Now if they went on a narrow path, double file, the line would be 800 miles long and would require 35 days and nights to get through. So there had to be a space in the Red Sea three miles wide so that they could walk 5,000 abreast to get over in one night. But then there is another problem. Every time they camped at the end of the day, a campground 2/3 the size of the State of Rhode Island was required, or a total of 750 square miles long.

Now I want to ask you a question. Do you think Moses figured all of this out before he left Egypt? I think not. But I'll tell you what Moses did do. He believed in God. He trusted the Lord to meet his needs, and God took care of every one of those needs. Do you think God has any problem taking care of your needs? I can assure you He does not.

So the next time the pressure is on, just remember it is testing your faith in Jesus; it is meant to turn your focus to Jesus; and it will once again tell you a fact about Jesus which is - He will supply all of your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.

1 "World May End With A Spash," Los Angeles Times, 9 October, 1982. 2 Julian Seton, Quote/Unquote, 67.