The Feeding Of The Five Thousand
John 6:1-14 MKJV After these things Jesus went over the Sea of Galilee, the Sea of Tiberias. (2) And a great multitude followed Him, because they saw His miracles, which He did on the sick ones. (3) And Jesus went up into a mountain and sat there with His disciples. (4) And the Passover was near, a feast of the Jews. (5) Then Jesus lifted up His eyes and saw a great crowd come to Him. He said to Philip, Where shall we buy loaves so that these may eat? (6) And He said this to test him, for He Himself knew what He would do. (7) Philip answered Him, Loaves for two hundred denarii are not enough for them, that every one may take 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 small fish, but what are these among so many? (10) And Jesus said, Make the men recline. And there was much grass in the place. So the men reclined, about five thousand in number. (11) And Jesus took the loaves, and when He had given thanks, He distributed to the disciples, and the disciples to those who had reclined; and likewise of the fish, as much as they wanted. (12) And when they were filled, He said to His disciples, gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing is lost. (13) Therefore they gathered and filled twelve hand baskets with fragments of the five barley loaves that were left over to those who had eaten. (14) Then seeing the miracle that Jesus did, those men said, this is truly the Prophet, the One coming into the world.
This miracle is in all four gospels in almost identical form, except Luke adds the seating arrangements - by fifties (Luke 9:14). It marks a turning point in the ministry of Jesus after which He seems to become much more Messianic and a political threat. It is after this that the Galileans want to take Him and make Him King by force (incidentally reinforcing the fact He was of the royal bloodline.)
A similar thing happens to priests and missionaries who move from a preaching ministry to also meeting human needs in a holistic fashion, suddenly life becomes political.
Let’s look at the miracle in some depth. It is a miracle that meets the obvious physical needs of his hearers, the popular peasants of Galilee, with their staple food – bread and fish. It is an economic miracle of supply.
I once had a similar miracle with a large yam I was given when I was a missionary in Papua New Guinea. I had been moved to a very expensive urban area and my support was insufficient so a church elder gave me a large purple-black yam which I put on the kitchen bench and cut off a chunk each, day, boiled it and ate. It was delicious. After a while I noticed the yam was not getting any smaller, until the last week I was in PNG when it seemed to shrink and vanish. The yam lasted about four months.
My wife tells similar stories about cooking for large Christian university student functions in Manila, and how no matter how little they started with, there was always more than enough by the end.
God’s blessing enables a small amount to go a long way and I am continually surprised at how much can be done with little or no cash, but just with the blessing of God (e.g. parting the Red Sea, healing lepers etc.) Many a large church has started in a garage with little funds. If you start with just what you have, then somehow it ends up being enough.
Money is still needed, wages and the electricity bill still have to be paid, but money is not the over-riding factor – the blessing of God is. Some of my most effective Internet ministry was done in 1996-1998, out of a dusty 8ft by 6ft breezeblock office in the Australian tropics with an old computer and a 33K modem. Eternity Online magazine peaked with one million readers plus per month. These days’ administration and paperwork and writing grant applications seem to take up way too much time.
Jesus has a creative powerful solution to even very large-scale problems – like 5000 hungry people. The scale is not a problem to Him. God made everything we know out of a “handful of nothing”; He can also make bread for five thousand out of a few barley loaves.
I tend to stress out over large-scale problems instead of handing my five loaves and two small fish to Jesus. We need to stop, and “be still” and ask Jesus for the creative solution that He has in mind.
Just a note, the miracle did not happen because of the disciple’s faith, but because of their obedience. The power was with Jesus, not with man. They just got to see that power at work in a spectacular way because they obeyed.