Teaching Sermons For Pastors and Laymen

12 October 2005

When Jesus Did the Impossible

   John 6:1-6:14


In the Sixth Chapter of his gospel, John records a unique incident in the ministry of our Savior.


This event not only confirms the deity of Christ, but also gives us a thrilling insight into the power of Jesus to do the impossible.


This miracle is the only one recorded in all four gospels.


It is a miracle that is performed not only in the presence of His disciples, but it involves the personal participation of thousands of other people as well.


If we examine the miracle, we can only conclude that it is an absolute miracle.


It does not involve the transforming of a natural occurrence.


It is not based upon the setting aside of some terrible condition.


In this miracle Jesus does what only a Creator God can do.


He in essence brings into existence huge quantities of food that did not exist previously.


That is impossible in anyone’s book.


Let us look what is involved in God doing the impossible.

Perhaps it would be good for each of us to pause here for a moment and look deeply into our own hearts and ask ourselves just what is the most impossible challenge we face in our Christian life today.


As we seriously consider the matter, would it be possible to place the value of that impossibility up against God’s power, and find a real and lasting solution that is pleasing to God?


If we are not facing such challenges at this moment, we only need to wait awhile and we surely shall.


If we are climbing a little mole hill in our Christian walk today, we can be sure we will probably be struggling up the steep incline of an impossible mountain tomorrow.


Just how can we deal with such impossible challenges?


Could Jesus still do that which is impossible for us today?



As the story begins we find a little band of tired and weary followers gathered around Jesus on a mountain side.


Why have they come aside for some rest and relaxation with their Savior at this particular moment?


Looking back through the gospel accounts of earlier events we find that they had been called out and sent forth into all the villages of the surrounding areas.


Their mission was to reach into every little corner and crevice with the message of redemption.

They were commissioned to preach the message of repentance and of the arrival of the King and His gospel of the kingdom.


They are footsore.


They have been through terribly tense and trying times.


Anyone who has gone from place to place and house to house with the good news could confirm they had been involved in the most physically exhausting and emotionally draining experience one might imagine.

Now a loving and compassionate Master calls them aside to spend some quality time alone with Him.


As He sets His face toward Calvary, they need rest and recuperation for the coming days of challenge ahead.


They have been in an intensive "people" ministry.


They need to be away from the press of crowds.


They desperately need healing and help for the emotional and psychological bruising that is always a part and parcel of such ministry.


Only the Savior can give them what they need at this hour.

But then Jesus looks up and sees this enormous crowd of people coming toward them.


If we compare all the gospel accounts of this event, we can only conclude that there were at least eight to ten thousand people swarming up that mountain side.


Imagine the energy they were emitting and the noise they were making!


Just what everyone needs when they are trying to rest and recuperate!




Since Jesus and His followers are always in the needs meeting business, imagine the challenge the sight of this approaching crowd brought to this small band on the mountainside.

It’s not very long before a critical need becomes all too apparent.


The crowd is hungry and there is no ready source of food.


Seems there’s nothing within miles of this lonely and barren place.


No fast food outlets.


No supermarkets.


Not even a convenience store.


If there are farmers or householders around with a sufficient supply, the disciples don’t know about it.


It truly is an impossible situation!

His followers see the impossibility of the situation immediately.


Their response could be characterized as an exercise in holy hand wringing.


"Woe are we! What are we going to do now!"


Is this not all too often the predictable response of those of us who are His followers today as well?


Are we prone to limit the Holy One of Israel by saying, "There’s no way out of this predicament.


There’s no possible answer to this dilemma."

It is obvious here that everything is turning out just as our Savior planned.


He will give His fledgling followers a fateful exam.


Their response will be critical; not only for this occasion, but for their own future ministries.


From the beginning, He has taught them that He is God in the flesh.


He is the Master of every situation.


They saw it first evidenced in a miracle of a similar kind at the wedding feast in Cana.

This is His perfect opportunity to again turn theory into positive reality by solving this impossible situation with a miracle beyond anyone’s wildest imagination.


His disciples will now face an acid test.


Their response will provide a key for their future.


It is often not the stress or test we face that is important, but our response to it is what really counts for time and eternity.

The words of the test are quite simple, ". . .He saith unto Phillip, Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat?  And this he said to prove him: for he himself knew what he would do."


It is good to especially note here as well that just as Jesus says, the God of the impossible always knows what He is going to do.


If He knows the end from the beginning, is in charge of all that comes in between and controls the ultimate outcome, why doesn’t He just spare us the stress and strain, relieve us of all the pressure, snatch us right on through and get it all over with quickly?

It’s clear that coping with the impossible is a process designed for our benefit.


Someone has said that the Christian is like a tea bag; hot water brings out the best in him.


Someone else has said he is like a steam engine; he performs best when under pressure.


Perhaps Peter, who had quite some experience in the matter, said it best when he said: "That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:" (I Peter 1:7)

The Savior chooses a special person to take the exam first.


Why did He choose Phillip?


Perhaps it was because Phillip seemed to be one of those, "Seeing is believing," sort of people.


He seemed to have a microchip sort of brain.


He comes across as a statistical whiz, always adding and multiplying all the odds and seeing if he could figure it all out logically.


Even after this great miracle, he would later on say to the Lord, "Just let us see God and we won’t have any more questions."


Evidently forgetting he had seen God again and again in Jesus and through the many miracles performed by the Son of God.


Yes, he seems to have forgotten that the impossible only becomes possible when we totally rely upon God.



When all this is considered, it is fair to say he chose Phillip in order to test and deepen his faith.


When faced with the impossible, would Phillip focus on the complexity of the problem or upon the power of the God of the impossible?


Would he recognize his own pathetic puniness and powerlessness to do the impossible?

His initial answer comes soon enough when Phillip replies.


We are told that "Phillip answered him, Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may take a little."


You can just hear the calculations whirring around in his head.


He comes up with an answer that is, according to all laws of science, mathematics and statistical probability, impossible.


Isn’t it strange that Phillip did not necessarily give the wrong answer but he answered the wrong question?


Jesus asked, "Where do we go?"


He answered the question, "How much?"


How often do we do the same?


When faced with the impossible we can’t see the forest for the trees.

If Phillip had really understood and prayerfully considered the question and his answer to it could the correct answer have been a form of the same answer Simon Peter gave a bit later?


"Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life." (John 6:68)


Evidently Peter passed his particular test with flying colors.

It was clearly a humanly impossible situation.


According to calculations I have read, Phillip was saying the daily wages of two hundred men would not buy enough to give each person bread to eat.


That would be at least 20,000 dollars in our culture today.

Here Phillip recognizes his own inability, but he fails to recognize God’s always sufficient ability.


A simple admission of the impossibility of the situation and a statement that Jesus could deal with it would have sufficed.


I’m sure a passing score could have been given if Phillip had just said something like this:"I don’t know. It’s impossible. But I know I can trust you to solve this impossible situation."

The apostle Paul, recognizing his own puniness and powerlessness, would later say about God’s ability to solve the impossible situation, "Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us," (Eph. 3:20)



The test continues.


Andrew comes upon the scene.


He approaches the Lord with this proposition, "One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, saith unto him, There is a lad here, which hath five barley loaves, and two small fishes: . . "


This seems to place Andrew and Phillip at opposite ends of the optimist-pessimist scale.


Someone has said that a pessimist sees an obstacle in every opportunity and an optimist sees an opportunity in every obstacle.

At first Andrew does not focus upon the size of the problem and the scale of the situation.


He seems to think that perhaps Jesus can solve this problem.


Otherwise why would he have gone to the trouble of looking all through the crowd to locate a little boy with a lunch that the Savior could use to feed the thousands?

He should have stopped while he was ahead.


But he goes on to say, " . . .but what are they among so many?"


He is also answering a question he hasn’t been asked and giving information that is irrelevant to the situation if God is the God of the impossible.

But don’t we do the same at times?


Instead of accentuating the positive and eliminating the negative, don’t we often say in effect, "Ninety-five percent of the people out there aren’t interested in the gospel at all, who are we among so many?"


Don’t some say, "I am so busy.  I don’t have a lot of time. How can I be faithful to all the services and go out and share with others? "




"With my busy schedule, how can I spend time in the Word of God and in prayer?"




"I have such a tight budget, how can I tithe and give generously to the work of the Lord?"

On a personal level, don’t many say, "But no one really knows the difficulties of my relationships."




"How can I ever make a spiritual impact in the ungodly work place where I work everyday?"




"I’m about the only one I know who seems to be trying to live a godly and separated life - how can I keep on swimming upstream alone against the tide?"

In essence such are saying, "What are these among so many?"


They are discounting that the impossible can become possible with the right response to the God of the impossible.

It’s significant that our Lord did not even respond to Andrew’s small thinking.


He did not validate his paltry estimate of the possibilities of the situation.


Sure, the little lad didn’t have a lot to give.


But he gave all he had.


That’s all Andrew could find.


That’s all God asks of us.


That’s all God needs, to do the impossible in our lives as well.



He has the people sit down.


He goes about the miracle in the simplest and most relaxed fashion imaginable.


He doesn’t need any help.


Contrary to what many may think, the purpose of the miracle is not to feed a lot of hungry people.


They would not have starved without the miracle.


After this one meal, most of them left and went on their way to find their own food.


Although the miracle does confirm His claim to deity, it is primarily for the benefit of His followers, not the multitudes.


So He uses His disciples as ushers.


He wants them to be involved in the impossible as well.

The same holds true in the greatest miracle of our day; the salvation of a lost soul.


He has chosen us as His spiritual fishermen, witnesses, ambassadors and living love letters.




Because He wants us to be involved.



He wants to bless us with the greatest of all blessings.


We are privileged to be participants in the humanly impossible phenomenon of the regeneration and eternal salvation of a lost soul!

Just look at Jesus performing this great miracle.


I understand the word for fish implies a minnow or sardine sized fish.


Brittle barley loaves were ordinarily the shape and size of pancakes.


Jesus takes these insignificant bits of fish and bread in His hands and does the impossible.


As the multitudes sit along the side of the mount, His disciples pass among them and feed dozens, then hundreds and then thousands!


Is Phillip’s concern about the amount needed to give a minimum mouthful justified?




"When they were filled,” the most ravenous appetite was satisfied.


They had all they wanted.


I’m sure those who wished had seconds and then thirds and fourths if they wanted it.


Twelve large baskets were left over.


THE GOD OF THE IMPOSSIBLE does things in a large way.

Haven’t we been well fed at the Lord’s spiritual banqueting table?


Has our spiritual appetite not been amply satisfied by the very Bread of Life?


Has our spiritual thirst not been completely quenched by the cool water of eternal life?


When I think of this I often think of the story of the four lepers in the gate of Samaria who, after having been miraculously saved from starvation by God’s powerful hand, uttered these immortal words, "Then they said to one another, “We are not doing right. This day is a day of good news, and we remain silent”  (II Kings 7:9).


Our part in the miracle is to share the Bread and Water to a spiritually starved world around us.



When we face the impossible we must let go and let God.


We must relax our grip and place our impossibility into the hands of the strong One.


Our Savior said we should take no thought of the impossible things we may face tomorrow.


We should refuse to worry about it or even encourage others to be overly concerned.

We tend to trust our own feeble and frail frame.


We have the propensity to hold onto our problems; fearing God cannot really solve them.


We often have difficulty releasing our hold upon the one thing that is the most impossible for us to deal with alone.


We all too often seem to adopt the DIY philosophy of life.


As long as we will not release ourselves and our impossibilities into His Omnipotent care, we are doomed to stagger about and struggle along under a load of worry and care.

All this calls for absolute faith and trust in Jesus.


Do you recall the story of the concerned father who brought his son to Jesus for healing?


The boy had been having seizures and fits all his life.


They were so bad he would fall into the water and nearly drown and then into a fire and be badly burned.


What did our Savior say in response to the father’s desperate plea for a solution to an impossible situation?


"Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things [are] possible to him that believeth." (Mark 9:23)


The key was to believe and see the impossible coming to pass through the eye of faith.


The impossible becomes possible when we release ourselves and our impossibilities to the great God of the impossible.


We must trust His greatness.

Just what greatness did Joshua’s eye of faith envision when he, in the face of impossible odds and possible ridicule and resistance, fearlessly and faithfully marched the children of Israel around the walls of Jericho and shouted for the walls to come tumbling down?

Just what greatness did Nehemiah imagine when he, surrounded by fearsome and formidable enemies, rode around the walls of the fallen city of Jerusalem and saw in his spiritual mind’s eye the walls standing strong and solid again to the glory of God?

Can Jesus do the impossible today?


Is our God able today?


Do we have any rivers that are "uncrossable"?


Do we have any mountains that are unclimable?


Do we have any walls that are unbreachable?


Do we have any walls that are unbuildable?


Do we have any fiery furnaces whose flames are unquenchable ?


Do we face any lions whose mouths are unstoppable?


Do we have any problems that seem unsolvable?


Do we have any foes that are unconquerable?


Do we have any friends who seem unreachable?


Do we have any hurts that seem unbearable?


Surely the great God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob can come to our aid today, if only we believe Him.

During the Civil War in America, a Christian mother in the Deep South faced a real dilemma.


The war had gone on for years.


Her husband had been lost in battle, one older son was a prisoner of war and the other was a mere teenager fighting in Lee’s army.


She had four small children at home.


Her eleven year old son was the oldest.

Their meager supply of food had been exhausted weeks before.


They were merely surviving on a few small turnips and roasted acorns.


Starvation was already showing in the gaunt faces of the children.

But they still had one smooth bore musket, a small amount of powder and a few mini-balls.




Day after day her young son had shouldered the ancient weapon and trudged his weary way through the snows in the surrounding fields and woods; hoping to find some game to bring home to his hungry mother and sisters.


But scavengers of war had long ago searched the countryside for every moving animal that might provide a meal or morsel.

Each night the mother would read to her little brood from the Bible and pray and, although it seemed impossible, ask God to give them some food.


As she tucked each one into bed, she would reassure them of her faith in God to provide them the food they needed.

But as day followed hungry day, it seemed they would surely starve.


Then one evening after she had kissed her smallest child good night, she went to the kitchen and quietly opened the door to look out upon the beauty of a full moon.


There standing like a statue in the corner of the garden stood the largest and most beautiful buck deer she had ever seen.

Her hands began to tremble as she gently and quietly awoke her son.


Leading him to the open door, she silently pointed to the beautiful sight and handed him the loaded musket. With deadly aim, he brought down the deer God had provided.

That evening and every evening that followed, the little family praised God for doing the impossible.


Many of their descendents, who were given this true story as their heritage, have also praised God down through the years for doing the impossible in their lives as well.


Join me in placing the impossible in His hands. 


Tell me, is anything a “big deal” to God.


I don’t think so.


He created all things by speaking them into existence, and nothing is impossible for our miracle working God.

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