Do It Yourself?

Scripture: John 6:1-15

Title: DIY (Do It Yourself)?


  • Introduction
  • DIY is innovation – not isolation
  • Conclusion


Over the past several weeks we have been looking at various aspects of Kiwi culture in light of the gospel.

  • We have considered the tendency New Zealanders have to ‘go hard’ and we have touched on our inclination for justice, generosity and freedom.
  • Today we take a look at another facet of Kiwi culture – our DIY (or Do It Yourself) attitude
  • DIY has to do with Kiwi ingenuity and ‘No. 8 wire’ thinking
  • There was an advert on TV not so long ago which shows how DIY is in our DNA – we would like to play you this clip now…

One of the things I like about that ad is the way DIY is portrayed as something we do with others…

  • ‘We can knock it over in half a day – get a couple of mates around’
  • DIY done in community with others is DIY at its best

Please turn with me to John chapter 6 – page 125 toward the back of your pew Bibles

  • In this passage we catch a glimpse of DIY Jesus’ style
  • Jesus uses what is at hand
  • He involves his mates (the disciples) in the work
  • And he doesn’t waste anything
  • From John 6, verse 1 we read…

After this, Jesus went across Lake Galilee (or, Lake Tiberias, as it is also called). A large crowd followed him, because they had seen his miracles of healing those who were ill. Jesus went up a hill and sat down with his disciples. The time for the Passover Festival was near. Jesus looked round and saw that a large crowd was coming to him, so he asked Philip, “Where can we buy enough food to feed all these people?” (He said this to test Philip; actually he already knew what he would do.)Philip answered, “For everyone to have even a little, it would take more than two hundred silver coins to buy enough bread.” Another of his disciples, Andrew, who was Simon Peter’s brother, said, “There is a boy here who has five loaves of barley bread and two fish. But they will certainly not be enough for all these people.” 10 “Make the people sit down,” Jesus told them. (There was a lot of grass there.) So all the people sat down; there were about five thousand men. 11 Jesus took the bread, gave thanks to God, and distributed it to the people who were sitting there. He did the same with the fish, and they all had as much as they wanted. 12 When they were all full, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces left over; let us not waste any.” 13 So they gathered them all up and filled twelve baskets with the pieces left over from the five barley loaves which the people had eaten. 14 Seeing this miracle that Jesus had performed, the people there said, “Surely this is the Prophet who was to come into the world!” 15 Jesus knew that they were about to come and seize him in order to make him king by force; so he went off again to the hills by himself.

May the Spirit of Jesus illuminate this reading and our culture

DIY is innovation, not isolation:

Arthur Golden wrote a book called ‘Memoirs of a Geisha’

  • There are some wonderful lines in it – like this one… 

I can see you have a great deal of water in your personality. Water never waits. It changes shape and flows around things, and finds the secret paths no one else has thought about — the tiny hole through the roof or the bottom of the box. […when trapped, water makes a new path…] There’s no doubt it’s the most versatile of the five elements…”


‘Memoirs of a Geisha’ is about a Japanese girl, but I can’t help thinking; us Kiwis have a great deal of water in our (collective) personality too

  • We have a way of finding the secret paths no one else has thought of
  • When trapped by circumstance or lack of means we make a new path

There have been many New Zealanders who have made a new path, leading the way in innovation, often doing it themselves in their shed

Richard Pearse – was one of them

  • Born in 1877 Richard Pearse was a New Zealand farmer and inventor who performed pioneering experiments in aviation.
  • It is claimed Pearse flew and landed a powered heavier-than-air machine on the 31st March 1903, about nine months before the Wright brothers flew their aircraft.
  • The documentary evidence to support this remains open to interpretation
  • Pearse himself never made such claims, and was not a publicity-seeker, which led some to offer 1904 as the date of his first flight. [1]

There have been other kiwi innovators also, like Bill Hamilton who invented the jet boat and John Britton who designed and built a motorbike in his garage

  • One of the more famous DIYer’s was Burt Munro from Southland

They made film about Burt called The Fastest Indian

  • At the age of 68 Burt Munro broke the under 1000cc world speed record at the Bonneville Salt Flats in the USA
  • He did this on a 47 year old Indian Scout motorcycle which he had modified in his shed
  • Because Munro was a man of modest means, he would often make parts and tools himself instead of having them professionally built.
  • For example, he would cast parts in old tins, make his own barrels, pistons, flywheels and so on.
  • His micrometer (a precision instrument) was made out of a spoke [2]
  • This was real DIY, kiwi ingenuity, No. 8 wire stuff

Unfortunately Burt Munro and his wife divorced (after World War 2), and he subsequently gave up work to reside in a lock-up garage

  • So as well as being the picture of innovation, sadly he was also the picture of isolation

On the one hand, our DIY ethic is a positive thing, when it has to do with using our initiative and getting stuck in to find a new path

  • As a carpenter I expect Jesus identifies with Kiwi ingenuity & innovation

On the other hand, there is a shadow-side to Doing It Yourself

  • We New Zealanders have a tendency toward isolation and doing things without involving God or our mates

Jesus’ approach to DIY encourages innovation, without the isolation

John 6 begins by telling us that Jesus went across the lake of Galilee.

  • Looking at the other gospel accounts of this event we learn that ‘across the lake’ situated Jesus in a lonely place – in the wilderness
  • The wilderness is a DIY environment – there is no Bunnings or Mitre 10 or Supermarket in the wild

When people heard where Jesus had gone they followed him and the reason they followed him was because they had seen him heal the sick

  • They were attracted to Jesus by his miraculous power

Verse 4 of John 6 tells us, the time for the Passover Festival was near

  • The Passover Festival is that time each year when the people of Israel remember how God delivered them from slavery in Egypt
  • Jewish pilgrims from all over the place would make their way to Jerusalem to celebrate
  • However, in the time of Jesus, the people of Israel were not free
  • They were subject to Roman occupation and so the Passover was tinged with irony

Jesus looked round and saw that a large crowd was coming to him, so he asked Philip [one of his disciples], “Where can we buy enough food to feed all these people?”  (He said this to test Philip; actually Jesus already knew what he would do.)

This tells us that Jesus had a plan but like any good leader he wanted to involve his followers in the plan

  • DIY Jesus’ style is DIY in community with others

Not sure exactly why Jesus asked Philip specifically on this occasion

  • Perhaps Philip was the one standing closest to him at the time?
  • Or maybe Jesus asked Philip because Philip was a local to that area and so would know where to get supplies?

What we know about Philip from John’s gospel is that when Jesus called him as a disciple, the first thing Philip did was to find his mate Nathanael and say…

  • “We have found the one whom Moses wrote about in the book of the Law and whom the prophets also wrote about. He is Jesus son of Joseph…” [3]
  • So it appears that (like Jesus) Philip had a natural tendency to get his mates involved

Philip answered Jesus, “For everyone to have even a little, it would take more than 200 silver coins to buy enough bread.”

  • On the face of it this shows the need is greater than the budget
  • But it also reveals the absence of a DIY attitude
  • Paying someone else to do it is the opposite of doing it yourself

Another one of Jesus’ disciples, Andrew… said, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But they will certainly not be enough for all these people.” 

This is an interesting step in the right direction – it reveals DIY thinking

  • Andrew is looking to see what is at hand – something close by he can use
  • (I am reminded here of David who used what was at hand – picking up 5 smooth stones for his sling shot on his way to face Goliath)
  • It also shows Andrew is inclined to engage with the locals – people not part of their group (so he is outward looking)

Barley bread was the food of the poor and the fish was probably small and pickled (like sardines)

  • It appears this boy was not well connected – he did not come from a wealthy family and his lunch was pretty ordinary
  • But Jesus does not despise the boy’s offering – as humble as it is
  • DIYers can use just about anything

Some time ago I told you of a retired missionary who came to speak to us while we were at Carey Baptist College

  • He was called to a place where there was lots of unemployment and lots of bamboo
  • In thinking about how to help the local people, this Kiwi missionary used a DIY approach
  • He didn’t try to buy a solution in from overseas
  • He looked around for resources he could find close at hand
  • What did the people living in that area have in abundance?
  • Bamboo and time

Bamboo wasn’t all that useful as a building material because it didn’t last – it went rotten

  • But it could become useful if it was tanalised
  • They could make the tanalising solution easy enough but how would they get it into the bamboo without importing some expensive equipment?
  • With a bit of Kiwi ingenuity they devised a way of pumping the tanalising solution into the bamboo using bicycle pumps

Soon the locals were employed harvesting, tanalising and selling bamboo as a building product

  • People were then able to feed their families and have a meaningful occupation for their time

Back to John 6…

  • Having heard the disciples’ thinking Jesus then gets his mates involved practically by asking them to have the people sit down
  • There is a little note (in verse 10) which says…
  • (there was a lot of grass in that place) 
  • This reminds us that John’s gospel is an eye witness account
  • It also verifies the fact that the Passover Festival was near, because the land in that area of Palestine was only grassy during the Passover season


The mention of the grass also reminds us of the 23rd Psalm where David describes the Lord as his shepherd who lets me rest in fields of green grass

  • Jesus is the Lord, the good shepherd, who restores people with rest and nourishment

When all the people were seated Jesus took the bread, gave thanks to God and distributed it to the people sitting there

  • Then he did the same with the fish and everyone had as much as they wanted

Other gospel accounts of this miracle say that Jesus gave the bread and fish to his disciples to give to the people, which would make sense because there were about 5000 men present, not to mention women and children – so involving the disciples would get the job done quicker

The point is, DIY is innovation, not isolation

  • Jesus does not perform this miracle on his own
  • In doing it himself Jesus involves God and his disciples
  • He involves God (the Father) in the multiplication of the bread & fish
  • And he involves his disciples in the distribution of the food

When they were all full, Jesus said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces left over; let us not waste any.” 13 So they gathered them all up and filled twelve baskets with the pieces left over from the five barley loaves which the people had eaten.

In God’s economy there is abundance – more than enough for everyone

  • But even with this abundance Jesus doesn’t waste anything
  • Not wasting things is part of the DIY ethic

There is an organisation in Wellington called Kiwi Community Assistance

  • They seem to have this waste not want not DIY policy
  • They collect food and clothes and other bits and pieces that people need and distribute them to the poor in NZ
  • One of their things is ‘food rescue’ where they ask supermarkets and fruit shops and butcheries and bakeries and so on to give them their left over food items – things they won’t be selling but which are still edible (not past their use by date) – what a great idea
  • DIY as it is supposed to be – innovation, without the isolation
  • Using what is at hand (in community with others) & not wasting anything

Verses 14 & 15 of John 6 read…


14 Seeing this miracle that Jesus had performed, the people there said, “Surely this is the Prophet who was to come into the world!” 15 Jesus knew that they were about to come and seize him in order to make him king by force; so he went off again to the hills by himself.

There are some who find it hard to accept that Jesus miraculously multiplied the bread & fish

  • They offer other explanations like; the people were inspired to share their food with others when they saw Jesus sharing the boy’s lunch
  • This explanation doesn’t fit the context
  • I don’t think the crowd would have been inspired to seize Jesus and make him king by force just because he got them to share their lunch
  • It had to be a miraculous multiplication for them to be so moved

Remember, Israel was occupied by the Romans, so the people were not free in their own land

  • Seeing how Jesus provided bread & fish in the wilderness during the Passover season the Jewish crowds couldn’t help but think of manna & quail in the wilderness after the Exodus from Egypt
  • They were reminded of Deuteronomy 18 where Moses said to the people,
  • The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers. You must listen to him… 
  • In the minds of the people, Jesus’ power to provide bread in the wilderness was a sure sign he was the new Moses come to set them free from the Romans

Unfortunately the people only had it half right

  • They were right to think Jesus was the prophet (like Moses) come to set them free – only they forgot to listen to Jesus, as Moses had instructed
  • And because they didn’t listen properly they misunderstood what Jesus had come to do
  • Jesus did not come to set them free from the Romans
  • Jesus came to set them free from sin & death

Verse 15 makes it clear the crowd was about to try some political DIY by forcing Jesus to be their King

  • But their DIY was not all that innovative – they weren’t trying something new, they were simply repeating the mistakes of the past
  • What’s more their DIY was attempted in isolation from God’s plan
  • They weren’t interested so much in doing God’s will
  • They just wanted to exploit Jesus for their own ends
  • (Not unlike Satan who tempted Jesus in the wilderness)
  • But Jesus won’t be exploited – he is free, even as God is free


As much as we New Zealanders pride ourselves on DIY, it’s actually a myth

  • No human being can do it entirely on their own
  • We need other people and we need God

By miraculously feeding the multitudes in the wilderness Jesus demonstrates that he is more than just a prophet – he is, in fact, the Son of God

Later on, in John 6, Jesus says of himself…

  • “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never be hungry; he who believes in me will never be thirsty…”
  • In other words, we need Jesus to sustain us – to give our lives meaning
  • Apart from Jesus, DIY is isolation and futility
  • But with Jesus, DIY is innovation – using what is at hand in creative ways without wasting anything



[3] John 1:43-45