In Much Grass & In the Fellowship of Community

Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ as written and recorded by the apostle John. More specifically, today’s passage is found in verses sixteen through thirty-three of the sixth chapter. When you come to this particular portion of scripture you will find the apostle John transitioning from writing and speaking of Jesus feeding five thousand men—not including women and children—with just five loaves of barley bread and two small fish. What we find in this section of the sixth chapter is the apostle John transitioning from writing concerning an invitation to fellowship and commune with Jesus and His disciples, as well as with each other to Jesus Himself withdrawing to a quiet and separate place removed from the crowds, and even removed from His disciples. In order to truly understand that which is found in this passage of scripture it is necessary that we understand the words which are found in the other gospel accounts of the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ. In order to truly appreciate that which takes place in this passage of scripture we must turn our attention back to the previous three gospels and to the words which their individual authors used to describe such events within the ministry of Jesus the Christ. What I find to be absolutely and incredibly my unique and intriguing about this passage of scripture is what we read concerning Jesus originally withdrawing Himself from the crowds and going up to a mountain with His disciples. The sixth chapter begins and opens with a great multitude of people following Jesus the Christ because they witnessed and beheld the miracles which He did among those which were diseased. The apostle John—immediately afternoon writing concerning the great multitude following Jesus—describes how Jesus took the disciples away from the multitudes and away from the crowds in order that they might experience and enjoy fellowship and communion with each other. What I still find so incredibly powerful about the gospels is that within the four gospels we find the earliest account of Christian fellowship and community, as that which existed between Jesus and His disciples was a wonderful and powerful Carole and account of fellowship and community with each other. The disciples did more than just abandon and forsake everything in this world in order to walk with and follow Jesus, for the disciples also agreed to live in fellowship and communion—both with each other, as well as with Jesus the Christ. In all reality I would dare say and suggest that true community and fellowship involved that process and that willingness to walk with those who have been called by the Master and Teacher to follow Him.

As you continue reading the words which are written and recorded within the sixth chapter of this New Testament gospel you will find that in the process of Jesus taking His disciples apart from the crowds, they were followed by a great multitude of people which approached Jesus as He and His disciples were upon the mountain. It’s quite intriguing to read and consider the fact that within the same passage of scripture we find the reality of human hunger and need, for the New Testament authors write and describe how it would be on this particular occasion when Jesus would produce the miracle of the feeding of five thousand men, which didn’t include women and children. The way the apostle John writes and presents it is along the lines of Jesus asking what He could and should do in order that He might feed the multitude which was before Him. The truly remarkable thing to consider about this passage is the words and language which the apostle John uses to describe how Jesus testes Philip with His question, for He knew exactly what He was going to do. Please don’t miss and please don’t lose sight of this, for it brings us face to face with the awesome and incredible reality that when it came to that which Jesus was going to do with this large crowd of people which was before Him, He knew exactly what He was going to do. I have to admit that I absolutely love the way that the apostle John presents this particular vent and occurrence within the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ, forge writes concerning Jesus the Christ, and how Jesus knew exactly what He was going to do. Despite the fact that He asked one of His disciples concerning what could be done to feed this great crowd which was before Him, Jesus knew all along what He was going to do in order that the crowd before Him might be fed and have their full. What I find to be so wonderful and powerful about this passage of scripture is that when Jesus blessed, broke and passed out the fragments of the loaves of bread and the fish, the crowd and multitude which was before Him not only ate and were fed, but they ate until they were satisfied and full. We dare not and must not miss this absolutely wonderful truth, for not only did Jesus give these people to eat, but they also ate until they were full and satisfied.

I truly and absolutely love the words which I find written and recorded within this passage of scripture, for not only do we find written within it a powerful picture of Jesus inviting a great crowd of people to sit down and find rest for their physical bodies and souls, but we also find Jesus inviting the crowds of people which were before Him to engage themselves in fellowship and communion with each other. There is not a doubt in my mind that what we find within this passage of scripture is not merely about provision in the place of physical hunger, but it is about an invitation which Jesus gave to the multitude which was before Him. If we are truly going to understand that which is found within this passage of scripture it is absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize that the invitation Jesus gave to the great multitude of people which was before Him was an invitation to find rest for their tired and weary physical bodies. What’s more, is that I am convinced that the invitation that was given in this passage of scripture was one given to the great crowd of people in order that they might find rest for their souls in the presence of each other, as well as the presence of others. How absolutely wonderful and incredible it is to think about and consider the fact that the invitation Jesus gave to the crowd which was before Him was not merely an invitation to ons rest, but it was also an invitation to find rest in the company and presence of Jesus the Christ, as well as in the presence of others. This is truly remarkable and captivating when you think about it, for it brings us face to face with the awesome reality that more often than not the rest we seek for our physical bodies and souls is not necessarily found in solitude, but is found in the company and fellowship of others. What’s more, is that I would dare say that there are times when the rest we seek for our hearts, our souls and our minds is not merely find within ourselves alone, but is found in the company and community of others, as well as in the presence of Jesus the Christ Himself. It is absolutely necessary and imperative that we come face to face with this awesome and wonderful reality, for it allows us to understand that more often than not that which we are seeking in terms of rest for our souls and hearts is found not merely and solely in solitude, but in the company and fellowship of others whom we perhaps would not even think to include in our daily lives. I do not believe for one moment that everyone within the crowd and multitude which say before Jesus knew each other. I firmly believe that the invitation Jesus gave to the great multitude which was before Him was an invitation to sit down in the grass in groups of fifty—not only that they might be fed, but also in order that they might have fellowship.

FINDING FOOD AND FELLOWSHIP IN THR COMPANY AND PRESENCE OF JESUS AND THE DISCIPLES! What I so love and appreciate about this particular event within the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ is that within it we find Jesus instructing the disciples to have the crowds of people sit down in the grass in groups of fifty. Now while on the surface it might seem like this is insignificant, I would dare say that there is a great truth contained within the reality of Jesus having this great multitude of people—not only sit down in the grass, but also sit down in groups of fifty. I believe there is a truly wonderful and powerful truth that is hidden and concealed within Jesus having the multitude sit down in the grass in groups of fifty, for if forced people into an environment that was perhaps out of their comfort zones. It’s almost as if Jesus has the multitude of people sit down in the grass in groups of fifty in order that He might create different communities of men and women who would not only partake of food with each other, but who would also partake of fellowship with each other. When I think about and consider the awesome reality that is found within this particular point during the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ, I can’t help but find a great significance in the fact that Jesus has the crowd and multitude of people sit down in the grass—and not only sit down in the grass, but also sit down in groups of fifty. IN THE COMPANY OF FIFTY! The more I sit here this morning and the more I think about that which was written by the apostle John—as well as the other New Testament authors—the more I can’t help but come face to face with the awesome and incredible reality of Jesus having the crowds and multitudes of people sit down in the grass, and sit down in the company of fifty people per group. I do not believe that it was any coincidence that Jesus the Christ had the disciples instruct the crowds of people to sit down in the grass, and even to arrange them in groups of fifty. If we truly believe what the Scripture states is true, and if we truly take it at face value, then when it reads that Jesus knew what He was going to do, that also meant He knew what He was going to do as it pertained to having the crowds sit down in groups of fifty. I do not believe for one moment that Jesus only knew what He was going to do in terms of feeding the five thousand which were before Him, but Jesus knew what He was going to do as it pertained to, and as it touched the entire miracle. The miracle of the feeding of the five thousand was about more than just blessing, breaking and distributing the bread and the fish, but it was also about fellowship and community, and in having the crowds of people sit down in the grass in groups of fifty . This reality of having the crowds sit down in groups of fifty is not found in the account which the apostle John wrote, however, it is found in the midst of the other accounts which were written concerning the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand. Consider if you will the words which are written in the various other gospel accounts which record this same event beginning with the New Testament gospel of Matthew:

“When Jesus heard of it, He departed thence by ship into a desert place apart: and when the people had heard thereof, they followed Him on foot out of the cities. And Jesus went forth, and saw a great multitude, and was moved with compassion toward them, and He healed their sick. And when it was evening, his disciples came to Him, saying, This is a desert place, and the time is now past; send the multitude away, that they may go into the villages, and buy themselves victuals. But Jesus said unto them, They need not depart; give ye them to eat. And they said unto Him, We have here but five loaves, and two fishes. He said, Bring them hither to me. And He commanded the multitude to sit down on the grass, and took the five loaves, and the two fishes, and looking up to heaven, He blessed, and brake, and gave the loaves to His disciples, and the disciples to the multitude. And they did eat, and were filled: and they took up of the fragments that remained twelve baskets full. And they that had eaten were about five thousand men, beside women and children” (Matthew 14:13-21).

“And they departed into a desert place by ship privately. And the people saw them departing, and many knew Him, and ran afoot thither out of all cities, and outwent them, and came together unto Him. And Jesus, when He came out, saw much people, and was moved with compassion toward them, because they were as sheep not having a shepherd: and He began to teach them many things. And when the day was now far spent, His disciples came unto Him, and said, This is a desert place, and now the time is far passed: send them away, that they may go into the country round about, and into the villages, and buy themselves bread: for they have nothing to eat. He answered and said unto them, Give ye them to eat. And they say unto Him, Shall we go and buy two hundred penny worth of bread, and give them to eat? He saith unto them, How many loaves have ye? Go and see. And when they knew, they say, Five, and two fishes. And He commanded them to make all sit down by companies upon the green grass. And they sat down in ranks, by hundreds, and by fifties. And when they sat down by companies upon the green grass. And when He had taken the five loaves and the two fishes, He looked up to heaven, and blessed, and brake the loaves, and gave them to His disciples to set before them; and the two fishes divided He among them all. And they did all eat, and were filled. And they took up twelve baskets full of the fragments, and of the fishes. And they that did eat of the loaves were about five thousand men” (Mark 6:32-44).

“And the apostles, when they were returned, told Him all that they had done. And He took them, and went aside privately into a desert place belonging to the city called Bethsaida. And the people, when they knew it, followed Him: and He received them, and speak unto them of the kingdom of God, and healed them that had need of healing. And when the day began to wear away, then came the twelve, and said unto Him, Send the multitude away, that they may go into the towns and country round about, and lodge, and get victuals: for we are here in a desert place. But He said unto them, Give ye them to eat. And they said, We have no more but five loaves and two fishes: except we should go and buy meat for all this people. For they were about five thousand men. And He said to His disciples, Make them sit down by fifties in a company. And they did so, and made them all sit down. Then He took the five loaves and the two fishes, and looking up to heaven, He blessed them, and brake, and gave to the disciples to set before the multitude. And they did eat, and were all filled: and there was taken up of fragments that remained to them twelve baskets” (Luke 9:10-17).

Within the account which John Mark wrote concerning this event, as well as within the account which the beloved physician Luke wrote we find it written and mentioned concerning Jesus having the crowds sit down in the midst of the grass before Him. What we find in the New Testament gospel of Matthew is Jesus instructing the disciples to have the disciples arrange the multitude in the midst of the grass in groups of fifty and in groups of one hundred by ranks. When you read the account which the beloved physician Luke wrote you will find him writing and recording how Jesus instructed the disciples to have the multitude sit down in the grass—and not only sit down in the grass, but also sit down in groups of fifties. IN COMPANIES OF FIFTY! IN COMPANIES OF FIFTIES AND HUNDREDS! I have to admit that I absolutely love reading the accounts of Jesus feeding the five thousand souls which were before Him on this particular occasion, for not only did He invite the multitude to sit down before Him in the midst of the grass, but He also had the crowds sit down in certain groups and companies of fifty and one hundred. This is quite unique and quite remarkable when you think about and consider it—particularly and especially when you consider this particular miracle in light of Jesus not only inviting men and women into a place of provision, but also into a place of community and fellowship. There is not a doubt in my mind that when we find and read of Jesus instructing the disciples to have the multitude sit down in the grass in specific groups, it was in all reality an arrangement of the multitude into smaller groups in order that they might be fed and in order that they might have fellowship one with another. If you do the math solely with five thousand as your starting number, and you divide five thousand souls into groups of fifty you will find one hundred different groups—each containing fifty souls within that group. Of course we know from the account which John Mark wrote that there were also companies of one hundred as well. Of course we don’t know how many groups of one hundred they might have been, so let’s simply work with the company of fifty within the New Testament gospel of Luke. If the five thousand souls which were before Jesus were seated in the grass, and arranged into groups of fifty, then there would have been one hundred different groups of individuals who would not only be fed from the loaves of bread and the fish, but would also experience fellowship and community one with another. Five thousand souls being broken down into individual groups of fifty would in fact suggest that there was a minimum of one hundred different groups, a minimum of one hundred different companies, and one hundred different communities which were present before Jesus and in the company of His disciples. Pause for a moment and consider this reality, for essentially what Jesus was doing was not only inviting the crowd of people to sit down in the grass and find rest for their souls and rest for their physical bodies, but He was also creating community and fellowship among the crowd.

As I sit here this morning I can’t help but be absolutely gripped and captivated with and by the reality of Jesus having the crowds of people sit down in the grass—and not only sit down in the grass, but also sit down in groups and companies of fifty. Pause for a moment and think about and consider what this sight might have looked like as Jesus and His disciples were arranging the great multitude of people which were before them in groups of fifty. On the surface it might not seem like this is even something worth mentioning, and yet I am completely and utterly convinced that there is something to be said about these companies of fifty which were arranged on this particular day in the company and presence of Jesus and His disciples. I believe there is something truly remarkable to think about and consider as it pertains to the arranging of this multitude in groups of fifty, for it was as if Jesus was creating individuals communities, and individual pockets of fellowship and community before Him in the grass. The apostle John wrote concerning this place that there was much grass in that place, and even though it was a desert place, there was still much grass for the people to sit down. In other words—not only was there enough grass for the multitude to sit down before and in the presence of Jesus, but there was enough grass in that place for the crowds of people to sit down in individual groups of fifty. This reality of the multitude being seated in the grass and seated in groups of fifty is actually quite astounding and quite remarkable when you think about and consider it, for it brings us face to face with the reality that what Jesus was seeking to do was not merely feed the crowds of people which were before Him, but also creating and fostering fellowship and community within the crowd and multitude which was before Him. There is not a doubt in my mind that the invitation which Jesus gave to the crowds of people on this particular day to sit down before and around Him in the grass, and to sit down in the grass was an invitation to fellowship and community, and invitation to partake in fellowship with others whom this present would perhaps not even think to interact with. I am firmly convinced that when this event occurred within the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ, it didn’t occur in silence as men and women simply ate of the loaves of bread and of the fish which Jesus blessed, brake and distributed to the disciples to in turn give to the multitude. I firmly believe that when Jesus created fellowship and community in this particular time during His life and ministry, He was inviting men and women to interact with each other, and perhaps even to interact with others whom they normally wouldn’t interact with. In all reality, I can’t help but think about and consider the concept of Jesus having the crowds of people sit down in groups of fifty and that which we find in the second chapter of the New Testament book of Acts. If you turn and direct your attention to that which is found in the New Testament book of Acts you will find the following words which were written concerning the day of Pentecost, and what the outpouring of the Spirit helped create on that very day within the city of Jerusalem:

“Then they that gladly received His word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. And all that believed were together, and had all things in common; and sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. And they continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved” (Acts 2:41-47).

This reality is again expressed in the fourth chapter of the same New Testament book of the Acts—first in the opening verses of the chapter, as well as in the final verses of the chapter. In the opening verses of the fourth chapter you will find the following words which were written concerning the early church during the days of the apostles. Beginning with the first verse you will find the following words which describe that which took place after a great healing took place at the Temple as Peter and John were walking up into the Temple. Consider if you will the following words which were written at the beginning of the fourth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts: “And as they spake unto the people, the priests, and the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees, came upon them, being grieved that they taught the people, and preached through Jesus the resurrection from the dead. And they laid hands on them, and put them in hold unto the next day: for it was not eventide. Howbeit many of them which heard the word believed; and the number of the men was about five thousand” (Acts 4:1-4). In the opening few verses of the fourth chapter we find the beloved physician Luke writing concerning the early church that many within the city of Jerusalem believed, and that the total number of those which believed was five thousand. Please don’t miss the significance of this number, for this was the same number which was mentioned in each of the four gospels, as each of the four gospel authors were sure to write about the feeding of the five thousand using five loaves of bread and two fish. What’s more, is that when you come to the final verses of the fourth chapter you will find a similar reality written there in that passage as you found toward the end of the second chapter. Beginning with the thirty-second verse of the fourth chapter you will find the following words which were written by the beloved physician Luke concerning the early church—even after persecution of and opposition against the apostles began to break out as a result of the Jewish rulers and leaders being offended with and by their teaching and preaching. Consider if you will the following words which were written and recorded by the beloved physician Luke beginning with the thirty-second verse of the fourth chapter:

“And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common. And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all. Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of land or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, and laid them down at the apostles’ feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need. And Joses, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas, (which is, being interpreted, The son of consolation,) a Levite, and of the country of Cyprus, having land, sold it, and brought the money, and laid it at the apostles’ feet” (Acts 4:32-36).

Upon reading the words which the beloved physician Luke wrote in the second and fourth chapters of the New Testament book of the Acts of the apostles, as well as that which we find written and recorded within the four New Testament gospel accounts of the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ, I can’t help but see a great significance in the fact that not only did Jesus have the great crowd sit down in the midst of the grass, but Jesus also had the crowd sit down in the grass in groups and companies of fifty. It was in the midst of those groups and companies of fifties that Jesus blessed and broke bread and had the disciples distribute among the various groups in order that they might be fed and satisfied. I am completely and utterly convinced that what we find and what we read in the accounts of Jesus feeding the five thousand is in fact a picture and type of what we find written and recorded within the New Testament book of the Acts of the apostles. I believe that what we find in the midst of the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand is not merely fellowship and community between Jesus and the disciples, but also an invitation of Jesus for the great multitude to have fellowship and community with them. In all reality, I am convinced that this is one of the great miracles of the Day of Pentecost, for on the day of Pentecost we find it written and recorded that three thousand souls were added to the number which were already present in the upper room, which totaled one hundred and twenty people. On the Day of Pentecost there was a wonderful invitation that was given to men and women to partake in fellowship with Jesus the Christ through the Spirit, as well as fellowship with the apostles and the saints of God. What’s more, is that what we read and what we find written in the New Testament book of Acts concerning those present during that time breaking bread from house to house is very much reminiscent of that which we found and read in the four gospel accounts of the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ concerning the feeding of the five thousand. In all reality, I would dare say and suggest that what Jesus did on the day when He fed five thousand souls from just five loaves of bread and two fish was present us with a truly remarkable picture of what would take place with the early church as the early church would devote themselves to breaking bread from house to house in community and fellowship. What we find in the account of the feeding of the five thousand souls is an astonishing picture of community and fellowship taking place in a desert place as men and women were not only invited into fellowship with Jesus and the disciples, but they were also invited into fellowship with each other. The early church was not merely a picture of fellowship within the Temple among the early church, but the early church was in all reality a movement of fellowship and community between the members of the church as they met with each other in each other’s houses and broke bread one with another.

There is not a doubt in my mind that the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand men and women was not merely a miracle of provision as Jesus was able to feed such a great number of people from such a small quantity of provision, but it was also a presentation of the reality and manifestation of the early church which would be established only a short time from then. The miracle of the feeding of the five thousand was about more than simply feeding men and women with and from loaves of bread and fish, but was about an invitation to fellowship and community, as Jesus invited men and women to partake in fellowship with He and the disciples, as well as fellowship one with another. FOOD AND FELLOWSHIP IN THE COMPANY OF OTHERS! FOOD AND FELLOWSHIP IN THE COMPANY OF FIFTY! What I believe took place on the day in which Jesus blessed and broke five loaves of bread and two fish was an invitation to be engaged in a small community and small group of men and women with whom you wouldn’t otherwise have had any dealings with. I would dare say and would dare suggest that were it not for Jesus separating the multitude and group of people into small groups of fifty most—if not all—of those which were present on this day would not have had any interaction with those within their group. The simple fact that Jesus instructed the disciples to sit the multitude down in the grass in groups of fifty suggested Jesus’ intention to invite the multitude into fellowship and communion with each other, and to engage themselves with others whom they perhaps wouldn’t otherwise have interaction with. In all reality, I would dare say that Jesus was a master at fostering community and camaraderie between men and women, and the account of His feeding the five thousand was a powerful picture of this very reality. The fact that Jesus had the multitude sit down in groups of fifty in the grass is such an incredible picture of men and women being invited into a place o fellowship and community, and being invited to engage in dialogue and speech with those whom they wouldn’t otherwise have had any interaction and/or dealings with. Oh that we would read the words which are found within this passage of Scripture and that we would come face to face with the truly wonderful and remarkable picture of community and fellowship that is present within it, as Jesus invited men and women to have fellowship with He and His disciples, as well as fellowship with each other.

We dare not, we cannot and must not miss and lose sight of this truly remarkable reality, for to do so would be to miss out on something truly remarkable which took place on this particular day. There is not a doubt in my mind that what we find in this passage of Scripture is a truly remarkable and powerful picture of that which we would find in the early church as men and women would devote themselves to the breaking of bread—the very act which Jesus Christ Himself did on this particular occasion—from house to house, and essentially from community to community and from company to company. I would dare say that what we find in the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand is a pattern, a shadow and a type of that which we would find in the days of the early church as men and women devoted themselves to the breaking of bread from house to house—perhaps even once more in groups of fifty within the individual communities found within the early church. Oh how absolutely wonderful and remarkable it is to think about and consider the awesome and wonderful reality of Jesus inviting men and women into the place of community and fellowship, and how truly wonderful and powerful it is to consider what might very well be considered and perceived as a model and pattern of community and fellowship in the early church as men and women gathered together from house to house and gave themselves to the breaking of bread. Oh that we would allow our hearts and souls to come face to face with the truly astonishing reality of fellowship and community, and that we would give ourselves to the breaking of bread in the company of the disciples and saints of the living God, and those who have given their lives to walking with and following the Lord Jesus Christ. Oh that we would—even in the place of tiredness, weariness, hunger, and the like—give ourselves to fellowship and community, and that we would accept the invitation to engage ourselves in fellowship and community with those before and around us in order that we might truly find and experience the fellowship of Christ in the breaking of bread. DISCERNING THE FELLOWSHIP OF CHRIST IN THE BREAKING OF BREAD! DISCERNING THE FELLOWSHIP OF CHRIST IN THE BREAKING OF BREAD AND THE COMPANY OF OTHERS!

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