August 17, 2003: Do You Pass The Test?

Let us pray: Dear Savior, the minute we think we’ve got life by the tail and we’re in control of our little corner of the universe, blam! Some unforeseen problem hits us head-on. Suddenly our new-found bravado and confidence are shaken, if not totally destroyed. Suddenly we’re alone and vulnerable. Lord, at those times and at all times remind us that as Christians we’re never alone. So, today we ask You to keep our confidence strong in You—both when disaster threatens and when good times abound. Yes, no matter what the problem may we ever say: “I am trusting You, Lord Jesus!” Amen

TEXT: John 6: 1-15
Fellow Redeemed Sinners:

The best teachers I ever had were the ones who gave the hardest tests. I never had my dad for math class, which is probably a good thing, as it wasn’t my strongest subject in school. However, I did have Clem Stramel for geometry class. His tests came ever Friday. They weren’t easy, as you had to actually do the problems and show your work. So, basically they immediately showed whether you understood the concepts or not. Then on Monday he seated us according to how we ranked on the test. (Today that would probably earn a reprimand from outraged parents.) His point of all this was to also teach us: “Life isn’t fair, it’s hard, so get used to it!”

I’ve never believed in multiple choice tests or true and false quizzes. To me essay tests are for the uninformed. No, give me those old-fashioned fill-in-the-blank tests. They quickly reveal whether or not you’ve studied and how much information you’ve retained. You cannot cheat when it comes to fill-in-the-blank tests either. Either you know the answer or you don’t.

Today we’re going to take such a test under the Spirit’s guidance. And at the end of this sermon you need to answer this question:


Jesus had been busy in His ministry. He had gathered the disciples, done a few miracles, attracted crowds with His preaching, and generally was the talk of Northern Galilee. But He needed some time away from the masses ( people can be very tiring) so He and the disciples took a boat across the lake for some down time. However, the masses were so intrigued by Him, they watched where He went and walked all the way around the shoreline until they caught up with Christ.
“When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, ‘Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?’ He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.”

This is an amazing situation. Men, women, and children walked probably 20 odd miles to be with Christ. They didn’t have cars, trains, helicopters or boats to make their trip easier. At the end of their journey they would have to retrace their steps. It was hot. No shelter awaited them. No McDonald’s or Wendy’s were to be found. Bathrooms were behind the nearest hillside. And yet they came because Jesus was so different and unique that He inflamed their curiosity. Truly this is a far cry from today when going to church is fairly easy, isn’t it?

Then comes Christ’s testing of Philip and the other disciples. “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” Philip is put on the spot. He has to fill-in-the-blank. But, Philip draws a blank! There are over 5000 men plus women and children present. The disciples’ meager purse wouldn’t cover the cost even if Pepperidge Farm had a factory on site! “Eight months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!” was Philip’s reply.


This test wasn’t really about bread at all. It was all about faith. It was all about whether or not the disciples viewed Christ as the Messiah, God in the flesh, Who could and would do miracles beyond their comprehension. Note well that Philip doesn’t say: “I have no answer except I know you’ll take care of it.” And alas, that was the one and only correct answer. Instead, Philip tried to figure it out on his own and failed.

You and I are Philip more often than we’d care to admit. Over the past few years the economy went from great guns to ho-hum to yawn. Some of you struggled in your businesses. Others lost jobs. And was your first response to all this: “I know that Jesus will take care of me—it will be exciting to watch Him do it?” Or, was it to let fear paralyze you? Did you count all your blessings during those times, or did you complain? Did you “cast all your cares upon Him, knowing that He cares for you?” Or did you worry, worry, and worry some more? Well, you can fill in the blank….


Walking with Jesus means that you’re always under His tender care. Trusting in Him means that you cling to that great promise of God outlined by St. Paul in Romans when he writes: “Who shall separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord?”—And then proceeds to tell us that God’s loving care for us cannot be destroyed.

You know the rest of this familiar story. The disciples found a boy with 5 little barley loaves and two little fish. They shook their heads over this meager fare and said: “how far will they go among so many?” But then Jesus, our King, took over! He blest that food, had it distributed, all ate their fill, and in the end they gathered up more than they began with! A miracle! Yes! A miracle which shows that Jesus is God’s Son, and which also shows that Jesus truly does have wonderful things planned out for each of us—even when we cannot see the end result.

Subsequent events from the Gospels tell us that neither Philip nor the others totally “got” the point of this test. They backed away from their Christian confidence when Christ was killed on the cross and needed the resurrection to restore it. The crowd didn’t “get” it either. They tried to force Jesus to become their welfare king so they would never have to work again.—To which Jesus said: “No way!” as His actions showed.

My old math teacher, Clem Stramel, used tests for one purpose—to show us what we knew and also what we needed to know. True tests are always designed to lift you toward a higher goal, never to pull you down into self-pity. So, how are you doing when it comes to your tests of faith? Have you been passing them or failing them?

Jesus passed the test of pure and unfailing love for us. The cross proved that. Jesus always lifts us up when we confess to Him that we’ve given the wrong answer. Jesus is the Bread of eternal life Who feeds our souls with His confidence. So, the point is: when you cling to Him in total trust, you’ll never, ever go wrong. Amen.