Lesson: 2 Kings 4:42-44
42 A man came from Baal-shalishah, bringing food from the first fruits to the man of God: twenty loaves of barley and fresh ears of grain in his sack. Elisha said, “Give it to the people and let them eat.” 43 But his servant said, “How can I set this before a hundred people?” So he repeated, “Give it to the people and let them eat, for thus says the LORD, ‘They shall eat and have some left.’” 44 He set it before them, they ate, and had some left, according to the word of the Lord.
The authors of the Book of Kings also wrote the books of Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges and Samuel, usually called the “Deuteronomic History,” a didactic history of Ancient Israel from the time in the Wilderness (c. 1250 BCE) to the Babylonian Captivity in 587 BCE.
These books were given their final form around 500 BCE – long after the events they described. The authors used the stories to demonstrate that it was the failures of the Kings of Israel and the Kings of Judea to worship YHWH properly and obey God’s commands that led to the conquest of Northern Israel in 722 BCE by the Assyrians and the conquest of Judea by the Babylonians in 597 BCE. (The conquests were not seen as the result of the Assyrians’ and Babylonians’ greater wealth and more powerful armies.)
Elijah and his successor, Elisha, were two of the great prophets (speakers for YHWH) in Jewish History. They opposed the (mostly) Baal-worshiping kings in Northern Israel for 90 years (from approximately 873 to 784 BCE), and their stories comprise about 40% of the Book of Kings.
Elijah and Elisha are both credited with numerous healings, restoring people to life, and other extraordinary events involving food, such as the one recounted in today’s reading.
Prior to today’ reading, there was a famine in the land. Elisha took a limited amount of food from a man from Baal-shalishah. He directed that the food be given to 100 people, and (miraculously) there was more food left over than to begin with. The Deuteronomist recounts (v. 43) that this was caused by the power of YHWH (translated as LORD in capital letters).
In today’s passage, even the name of the town (Baal-shalishah) shows that Baal worship was continuing in Israel in the 700’s BCE. Modern archeological evidence shows that significant Baal worship also continued in Southern Israel (Judea) – alongside worship of YHWH – until the beginning of the Babylonian Captivity in 586 BCE.
Epistle: Ephesians 3:14b-21
14b I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name. 16 I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, 17 and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. 18 I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
20 Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
Ephesus was a large and prosperous city in what is now western Turkey. In the Acts of the Apostles and 1 Corinthians, Paul is said to have visited there. In Ephesus, there were Jesus Followers who were Jews and Jesus Followers who were Gentiles, and they did not always agree on what it meant to be a Jesus Follower.
Because the letter contained many terms not used in Paul’s other letters and gave new meanings to some of Paul’s characteristic terms, most scholars believe that this letter was written by one of Paul’s disciples late in the First Century. The letter was intended to unify the Jesus Follower community in Ephesus. The first three chapters are theological teachings, and the last three chapters consist of ethical exhortations.
In today’s reading, the author continued his efforts to unify the Jewish Jesus Followers and the Gentile Jesus Followers in Ephesus. Here, he reminded them that they are all part of the “family” of the Father (v.15) and prayed that they will be “rooted and grounded in love” (v.17). The author emphasized that the love of Christ surpasses knowledge (v.19).
Today’s reading concluded (vv. 20-21) with a “doxology” – a statement of glory and praise of God who can perfect the church through the Spirit.
Gospel: John 6:1-21
1 Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, also called the Sea of Tiberias. 2 A large crowd kept following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick. 3 Jesus went up the mountain and sat down there with his disciples. 4 Now the Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near. 5 When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?” 6 He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do. 7 Philip answered him, “Six months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.” 8 One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, 9 “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?” 10 Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” Now there was a great deal of grass in the place; so they sat down, about five thousand in all. 11 Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted. 12 When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, “Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost.” 13 So they gathered them up, and from the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets. 14 When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, “This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world.”
15 When Jesus realized that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself.
16 When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea, 17 got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. 18 The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing. 19 When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were terrified. 20 But he said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.” 21 Then they wanted to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the land toward which they were going.
The Fourth Gospel is different in many ways from the Synoptic Gospels. The “signs” (miracles) and many of the stories in the Fourth Gospel are unique to it, such as the Wedding at Cana, Jesus’ conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well, and the Raising of Lazarus.
The chronology of events is also different in the Fourth Gospel. For example, the Temple Event (“cleansing of the Temple”) occurred early in Jesus’ Ministry in the Fourth Gospel, rather than late as in the Synoptic Gospels. In the Synoptic Gospels, the Last Supper was a Passover Seder, but in the Fourth Gospel, it occurred the day before the first day of Passover so that Jesus (who is described as “the Lamb of God”) died at the time lambs were being sacrificed at the Temple for the Passover Seder to be held that night.
The feeding of the multitude is the only miracle story found in all the Canonical Gospels. Multiplication of oil and grain were also miracles attributed to Elijah and Elisha.
The setting was the spring when the Passover occurs (v.4) and the reference “of the Jews” in this reading is one of the few times in the Fourth Gospel that it means the Jewish people generally rather than only the Temple Authorities. One of the roots of Passover (the Feast of the Unleavened Bread) coincided with the spring barley harvest. The loaves presented to Jesus were barley (v.9).
The collection of 12 baskets of leftovers is symbolic of the 12 tribes of Israel. The reaction of the crowd to make Jesus the king because he fed large numbers of persons is not surprising, but such an action would have been seen by Rome as treasonous. The Fourth Gospel is the only gospel that included the idea that the crowd wanted to make Jesus the king.
The story of Jesus’ walking on the water (vv.16-21) is also found in Matthew 14 and Mark 6. Calming the sea was a demonstration of Jesus’ divinity in that God makes order out of chaos (Genesis 1, Ps. 89:9). Jesus’ statement “It is I” (v.20) is also translatable as “I am” – the same words stated to Moses in the Burning Bush story in Exodus 3.