Prepared by John E. Marshall
John 6:1-3 (Holman) After this, Jesus crossed the Sea of Galilee (or Tiberias). And a huge crowd was following Him because they saw the signs that he was performing on the sick. So Jesus went up a mountain and sat down there with His disciples.
Our passage deals with one of Christ=s most famous miracles, feeding the 5000, the only miracle, other than the resurrection, recorded in all four Gospels. Jesus used the occasion to help the faith of his disciples, who were bound by small thinking and weak faith. Jesus wanted them to move higher on the ladder of faith. Our faith can be helped by examining four main characters in this drama.
John 6:4-7 Now the Passover, a Jewish festival, was near. Therefore, when Jesus looked up and noticed a huge crowd coming toward Him, He asked Philip, AWhere will we buy bread so these people can eat?@ He asked this to test him, for He Himself knew what He was going to do. Philip answered, ATwo hundred denarii worth of bread wouldn=t be enough for each of them to have a little.@
We look first at Philip. Luke tells us this feeding of the 5000 occurred near Bethsaida, Philip=s hometown. It was natural for Jesus to direct His question toward Philip. He would have known the local area well.
Philip had opportunity to express strong faith, but flunked. He showed not excitement, but impatience with Jesus= apparently unreasonable question.
Philip saw the impossible with 20/20 vision. Bound by the physical, he counted pennies rather than omnipotence. Without faith, he was left with despair.
We often do the same, silencing people of large faith Christ may want to use. Robert Schuller is right, never say no when the impossible is suggested, don=t squelch it. Instead, lay it before God. He will let us know what to do or not do.
We tend to measure God=s power by visible, ordinary means. We sometimes trust God no further than we can see Him, but should never let our vision be limited by time, space, or money.
Probabilities that can be tabulated are not always the best bases on which to rest our calculations. The audacity of a faith that expects great things, though there be nothing visible on which to build, is wiser and more prudent than the creeping common sense that adheres to facts which are not the key factors.
John 6:8-9 One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter=s brother, said to Him, AThere=s a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish B but what are they for so many?@
Second, we look at Andrew. He responded better than Philip did. Rather than dwell on the impossible, Andrew brought to Jesus a lad with five loaves and two fishes. Andrew could also see the impossible, but did at least try to help. He doubted, but was not crippled by cynicism and despair.
Andrew, not realizing how important his deed was, unwittingly provided material for a miracle. We never know what might happen to people we bring to Jesus.
For a generation, Brother Charlie Dietiker brought in his grocery store van very poor children to South Side Baptist Church in Cape Girardeau MO. One became church secretary, two became my junior Sunday School teachers, one my intermediate teacher, one the church=s Minister of Music, several served as Deacons. Bring people to Jesus. Astounding possibilities dwell in every person.
A German schoolteacher daily entered his class, removed his hat, and bowed respectfully to the students. His explanation was, AYou never know what one of these boys may some day become.@ He was correct. One was Martin Luther. We need to be bring people to Jesus.
John 6:10-11 Then Jesus said, AHave the people sit down.@ There was plenty of grass in that place, so they sat down. The men numbered about 5,000. Then Jesus took the loaves , and after giving thanks He distributed them to those who were seated B so also with the fish, as much as they wanted.
Third, we look at Jesus. He made the difference. He took loaves and fishes worth little, and quickly confounded all powers of calculation.
Jesus used inadequate resources. The lad=s lunch was insufficient not only in quantity, but also in quality. Barley bread was used by the poor; the fish were probably no bigger than sardines.
In verse 8, Andrew asked, AWhat are they for so many?@ When we bring what we have to Jesus, we find out. We too often contemplate resources in and of themselves without considering any touch of Divine power on them. To us, five loaves are merely five loaves.
We sometimes do the same in measuring a person. We consider natural powers, education, looks, charisma, etc., yet leave little room for the one factor that can multiply a whole set of gifts B the power of a life yielded to Christ. Let=s not leave Jesus out of our calculations.
Philip had not closely listened to Jesus= question in verse 5, AWhere will we buy bread?@ Philip missed the first person plural. It makes the quandary much simpler, for if Jesus helps, there won=t be much difficulty.
Before performing the miracle, Jesus led the disciples through two tests. First, They had to be obedient. AHave the people sit down@ was a perplexing command. Some may have scoffed, but the disciples did as commanded. On the road to successful Christian living, there is no detour around obedience.
Second, they had to be broken in spirit. The question of verse five was offered to reveal the disciples= inability and weak faith. Christ had to empty them before He could fill them.
Jesus begins to make our poor resources adequate by first driving home into our heart a consciousness of their insufficiency. We begin by seeing what we have is nothing compared to the immensity of the task Christ requires from us.
We must be emptied of self before we can be filled with God. The vacuum principle is valid in the spiritual as well as the physical realm. Our emptiness draws Christ=s fulness. God=s strength flows when we know our strength is total weakness. Adrian Rogers, when called to preach, fell to the ground, dug a hole in the dirt, stuck his nose in it, and prayed, ALord, I can=t get any lower. Please use me.@
When brokenness arrives, Power equal to our desire will flow into our lives. Jesus can make the necessary difference in our life.
Fourth, we look at the lad. Without fanfare he gave what he had to Jesus. Little is always much in the hands of Christ. If we will give our life to Jesus, He will use it to feed and bless multitudes.
Avoid the APhilip@ syndrome, being so obsessed with what we don=t have that we can=t see what we do have. Philip was willing to begin if he had a good start, but greatness in the Kingdom begins not in a blaze of glory, but in taking up a cross daily. We give what we have to help others wherever we are.
We are called to use what ability we have to supply what needs we meet. As we open our eyes and hearts, we find plenty of people to serve. We are not at our best if we say, ASomething must be done, but I do not know who is to do it.@
John Wesley=s counsel is still appropriate. ADo all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, to all the persons you can, in all the places you can, as long as ever you can.@
We find life by losing it. Giving, not getting, is the way to thrive. Nothing of everlasting value was ever lost by liberality.
In a group of committed workers I once asked them to tell of their most memorable Sunday School teachers. Without exception, the characteristic that brought praise was not ability, but rather love. My favorite Sunday School teacher, Ollie Zimmerman, could not read or write, but loved and respected us boys. He called every one of us ABrother.@
Don=t despise small things. God doesn=t require extraordinary ability, just willingness and love. We have what it takes. To feel useless is to tell God He made a mistake when He made us.