Feed My Sheep.

13 Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. 14 When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick. 15 Now when it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a desolate place, and the day is now over; send the crowds away to go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” 16 But Jesus said, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” 17 They said to him, “We have only five loaves here and two fish.” 18 And he said, “Bring them here to me.” 19 Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass, and taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing. Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. 20 And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over. 21 And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children. – Matthew 14:13-21 ESV

Even in the face of mounting opposition and rejection by His own people, Jesus did not lose heart or abandon His mission. He remained faithful to the task given to Him by His heavenly Father. And He continued to restore the sick and teach all those who would listen, displaying the compassion He felt for the masses who flocked to Him for healing and hope. In Mark’s account of this same story, he records Jesus describing the crowd as “sheep without a shepherd” (Mark 6:34 ESV). They were lost, confused, and hungry for the truth. And Luke records that Jesus “spoke to them of the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:11 ESV). Whether they realized it or not, here was the Great Shepherd of Israel, standing right in front of them. They were in the presence of the Messiah, the one for whom they had long waited and hoped for. But they would fail to recognize Him and so, they would refuse to accept His offer of the kingdom. Jesus had told the disciples that the stubborn refusal of the people was in direct fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecy found in Isaiah 6:9-10.

When you hear what I say,
    you will not understand.
When you see what I do,
    you will not comprehend.
For the hearts of these people are hardened,
    and their ears cannot hear,
and they have closed their eyes—
    so their eyes cannot see,
and their ears cannot hear,
    and their hearts cannot understand,
and they cannot turn to me
    and let me heal them.  – Matthew 13:14-15 NLT

But Jesus continued to perform miracles and proclaim the message of the kingdom of heaven. Why? Because He was preparing His twelve disciples. In fact, the events in this passage, recorded by all four of the Gospel authors, were done for the benefit of those whom Jesus had called.

Lifting up his eyes, then, and seeing that a large crowd was coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?” He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he would do. – John 6:5-6 ESV

This whole scene was intended as an object lesson for the disciples. Jesus would use it to test their faith and to expose their inadequacy. The disciples saw the crowd as an obstacle to be avoided, while Jesus viewed the situation as an opportunity to teach a valuable lesson on God’s provision.

The disciples, weary from a day full of ministering to the needs of the people, begged Jesus to send the crowds to one of the nearby towns to eat dinner.

“This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away so they can go to the villages and buy food for themselves.” – Matthew 14:15 NLT

But Jesus had something else in mind, demanding that the disciples feed the people. This command was met with incredulity by the disciples. Philip responded, “Even if we worked for months, we wouldn’t have enough money to feed them!” (John 6:7 NLT). Andrew, assessing the situation and the available resources at hand, told Jesus, “There’s a young boy here with five barley loaves and two fish. But what good is that with this huge crowd?” (John 6:8 NLT).

From the perspective of the disciples, the crowd was too large and the resources were too small. There was no way they could fulfill the demand Jesus had made of them. It was impossible.

These men, who had seen Jesus restore sight to the blind, cast out demons, and even raise the dead back to life, were unable to envision a solution to the problem facing them. In their humanity, they were left looking for earthly solutions and found themselves to be lacking the resources necessary to meet the need. Andrew’s discovery of the young boy’s meager meal of five loaves and two fish was totally inadequate, or so he thought. There were more than 5,000 men present in the crowd, and that doesn’t take into account the women and children who were there.

But Jesus was nonplused by the size of the crowd, the lack of financial resources or the inadequacy of the food on hand. He simply instructed the people to sit down and then took the five loaves and two fishes, blessed them, then had the disciples distribute them among the people. Don’t fail to notice that it was the disciples who were tasked with the distribution of the loaves and fishes. They took what Jesus gave them and shared it with the people. And Matthew records, “they all ate and were satisfied” (Matthew 14:20 ESV). The needs of the people were met – in full. No one was left hungry. No one did without. Not only that, when the disciples picked up what remained uneaten, there were exactly 12 baskets full of leftovers. Each disciple held a tangible proof of God’s power and provision. While they had doubted, Jesus had trusted, turning to His heavenly Father to provide – food for the people and faith for the disciples.

Jesus was preparing His disciples for their future ministry, the one that would begin after His death, resurrection and ascension. In fact, John records that on one the occasions when Jesus appeared to His disciples in His resurrected body, He ate breakfast with them by the Sea of Galilee. And the meal Jesus prepared for them was a familiar one.

When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire in place, with fish laid out on it, and bread. – John 21:9 ESV

The disciples had been fishing all night, but had caught nothing. But Jesus, appearing to them on the seashore, had instructed them to cast their nets on the other side of the boat. Failing to recognize that the individual speaking to them was Jesus, the disciples did what they were told and John records, “So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish” (John 21:6 ESV).

This time, Jesus served the disciples.

Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and so with the fish. – John 21:13 ESV

After eating, Jesus asked Peter a series of three questions, each time repeating, “Do you love me?” And the third time Peter responded,“Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” And Jesus simply stated, “Feed my sheep.”

After Jesus returned to heaven, the food the disciples would end up distributing to the sheep would be spiritual in nature. They would take what Jesus had given them, eternal life, and share it with all those who would believe. They were to feed the sheep who lacked a shepherd. They were to take the bread of life, broken for them, and distribute it among the spiritually hungry, making available to the people the gracious provision God had made available through His power.

47 “I tell you the truth, anyone who believes has eternal life. 48 Yes, I am the bread of life! 49 Your ancestors ate manna in the wilderness, but they all died. 50 Anyone who eats the bread from heaven, however, will never die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live forever; and this bread, which I will offer so the world may live, is my flesh.” – John 6:47-51 NLT

The miracle the disciples witnessed that day by the Sea of Galilee was a foreshadowing of what was to come. The people walked away with full stomachs. But the day was coming when those who accepted the message of the disciples would receive permanent relief from their spiritual hunger and thirst.

Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. – John 6:35 NLT

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson
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Hunger For Salvation.

When Jacob learned that there was grain for sale in Egypt, he said to his sons, “Why do you look at one another?” And he said, “Behold, I have heard that there is grain for sale in Egypt. Go down and buy grain for us there, that we may live and not die.” So ten of Joseph’s brothers went down to buy grain in Egypt. But Jacob did not send Benjamin, Joseph’s brother, with his brothers, for he feared that harm might happen to him. Thus the sons of Israel came to buy among the others who came, for the famine was in the land of Canaan. – Genesis 42:1-5 ESV

Ever since Joseph was betrayal by his brothers and sold into slavery, the story has focused its attention on the land of Egypt and Joseph’s experiences there. Now that he is the second highest ranking ruler in Egypt and the God-ordained famine has arrived, Moses shifts our attention back to Canaan and Joseph’s estranged family. By now, they have long forgotten Joseph. They have moved on with their lives. His father assumed he was dead because that was the story his remaining sons told him. The brothers had probably gone out of their ways to eliminate all memories of Joseph, in an effort to assuage their guilty consciences. For all intents and purposes, he was dead to them.

But now Moses, inspired by the Holy Spirit, begins to tell the story of how Joseph and his family became reunited. This is where divine intent comes face to face with human will. It is also where the sovereign plan of God reveals its power over anything and everything, including the decisions of men and the realm of nature. The widespread famine for which Joseph has been preparing for seven years has extended its reach all the way into the land of Canaan, where Joseph’s father and brothers reside. They find themselves without food for the families or flocks. When news of Egypt’s surplus reaches Canaan, Jacob sends his sons on a mission to purchase much-needed grain. Their hopes for salvation lie in the land of Pharaoh. But little did Jacob know that their salvation was going to be provided by his very own, long-dead son, Joseph. While Jacob had been busy raising his remaining sons and watching his family grow, God had been busy preparing Joseph for his role as the savior of the chosen people of Israel (Jacob).

There is much about the story of Joseph that should remind us of the life of Jesus. Joseph was the favored son of his father. Jesus was described by God as “my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17 ESV). Joseph was hated and rejected by his own brothers. Jesus “came to his own people, and even they rejected him” (John 1:11 NLT). Joseph was sold by his brothers for 20 shekels of silver. Jesus was betrayed by Judas for 30 pieces of silver (Matthew 26:15). The hatred of Joseph’s brothers was motivated by jealousy. Mark records that that Pilate, the Roman governor, “realized by now that the leading priests had arrested Jesus out of envy” (Mark 16:1 NLT). Joseph’s brothers intended to rid themselves of their brother by selling him into slavery. The Jewish religious leaders intended to rid themselves of Jesus by demanding His crucifixion. Joseph was handed over to Midianites. Jesus was handed over to Romans.

Later on in this story, Joseph will reveal to his brothers:

But don’t be upset, and don’t be angry with yourselves for selling me to this place. It was God who sent me here ahead of you to preserve your lives. … God has sent me ahead of you to keep you and your families alive and to preserve many survivors. So it was God who sent me here, not you! And he is the one who made me an adviser to Pharaoh—the manager of his entire palace and the governor of all Egypt. – Genesis 45:5, 7-8 NLT

In his sermon on the day of Pentecost, Peter declared to the Jews in his audience:

But God knew what would happen, and his prearranged plan was carried out when Jesus was betrayed. With the help of lawless Gentiles, you nailed him to a cross and killed him. But God released him from the horrors of death and raised him back to life, for death could not keep him in its grip. – Acts 2:23-24 NLT

Joseph’s betrayal by his brothers was God-ordained. The seven years of plenty and the seven years of famine were the prearranged work of God. Joseph’s rise to power was part of the plan of God. His strategy for creating a surplus of grain was given to him by God. While Jacob and his sons were busy moving on with their lives, God was busy moving Joseph into a position of power and prominence so that he could provide salvation for the children of Israel. The life of Joseph, like that of Jesus, is an example of God’s sovereign, providential care for His own. Joseph was sent to Egypt by God in order to save the people of Israel from death by starvation. Jesus was sent into the world in order to save the people of Israel from death by spiritual hunger and starvation. And it will be interesting to note that when Joseph’s brother attempt to pay for the grain Joseph provides, he returns their money to them. They will attempt to pay for their salvation. And the Israelites to whom Jesus came to provide salvation for free, will reject His offer of justification by faith, instead demanding that salvation must be paid for through human effort and religious rule-keeping.

Joseph’s brothers would come to Egypt driven by hunger and the desire for food. Jesus said in His sermon on the mount, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” (Matthew 5:6 ESV). Later on, Jesus would make the audacious claims:

I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. – John 6:35 NLT

I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live forever; and this bread, which I will offer so the world may live, is my flesh. – John 6:51 NLT

The sons of Jacob (Israel) were driven by hunger. They were forced to humble themselves and seek help in an unlikely and undesirable place, the land of Egypt. Those who would find salvation in Christ must also be driven by hunger – spiritual hunger. They must admit their need, humble themselves and come to the only source where true salvation can be found: In Christ alone through faith alone. Just as in the story of Joseph, the spiritually hungry must come with their need, confront and confess their sins, and submit themselves to the Savior whom God has provided. Joseph’s “death” actually resulted in his brothers’ salvation. And Jesus’ death is what makes it possible for sinners to receive salvation today.

The Mind of Christ.

The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ. – 1 Corinthians 2:14-16 ESV

Those who have placed their faith in Christ, accepting Him as their Savior from sin, have been given the Holy Spirit. His presence within us gives the capacity to think and act as Jesus did. We can live holy lives. We can discern the will of God and live according to it. We can hear the inner promptings of the Spirit of God and respond to them. But the natural or lost individual cannot. He or she lacks the Holy Spirit in their lives, so they are incapable of discerning spiritual truth. In fact, they come across as little more than foolishness to them. The message of the gospel seems silly and absurd. The idea of the resurrection is far-fetched and borders of fantasy. The concept of eternal punishment for sin is something they have a hard time grasping and accepting. All because they are non-spiritual. They lack the Spirit.

Paul tells us that “the spiritual person judges all things.” The Greek word he uses for “judges” is anakrinō and it means “to discern, evaluate, examine.” Those who have the Holy Spirit within them are able to discern or understand what He is doing in and around them. They have a spiritual perspective. The lost or non-spiritual individual does not have that capacity. When they look at a Christ-follower who is living in the power of the Holy Spirit, they cannot discern or understand his actions. They can’t comprehend the life of faith. It makes no sense to them. The paraphrase of this verse found in The Message puts it well. “Spiritually alive, we have access to everything God’s Spirit is doing, and can’t be judged by unspiritual critics.” In fact, they can and do judge us, but they cannot understand us. They think our actions are illogical. They see faith as a weakness or a crutch. They label Christians as unintelligent and the idea of a Savior for mankind as wishful thinking. They place all their hopes in this life. The physical, tangible world becomes their sole reality.

But we have the mind of Christ. Paul, quoting from Isaiah 40:13, writes, “Who can know the Lord’s thoughts? Who knows enough to teach him?” It is a rhetorical question and the answer is “no one.” And yet, while we cannot teach God anything and we cannot fully know the mind of God, we have been given the ability to comprehend and know His will. The apostle John writes, “No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known” (John 1:18 NIV). Jesus revealed God to man when He took on human flesh. But men refused to accept Him. They were incapable of recognizing who He was. Now the Holy Spirit reveals God to those in whom His dwells. His presence within us allows us to know God, to discern spiritual truths, and to think and act as Jesus did.

When we live under the influence of the Holy Spirit, we will be misunderstood. Our actions and attitudes will make no sense to those who are unsaved. Our joy in the midst of sorrow will seem strange to them. Our humility will come across as weakness. Our selflessness will appear as little more than lack of initiative. Jesus said that the world would hate us just as it hated Him. In spite of all the good that Jesus did, the world ended up despising Him because they could not understand Him. They were stuck with a natural, earthly perspective. They could not see Jesus for who He really was. In fact, a perfect illustration of this is found in the gospel of John. Jesus had fed thousands of people by miraculously multiplying five loaves of bread and two small fish. The people were blown away by what Jesus did. Because their physical needs were met in such an incredible way, they were ready to make Jesus their king. But John writes, “Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself” (John 6:15 ESV). The next day, these same people came to Jesus expecting to be fed again. But Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you” (John 6:26-27 ESV). Jesus began to teach them about the “bread of life.” He claimed to be the bread that came out of heaven to give life to the world, but they simply wanted physical bread. They wanted their physical appetites fed. But Jesus said, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out” (John 14:35-37 ESV). As hard as it may be for some to accept, Jesus indicates that without the Father’s help, it is impossible for men to accept Jesus for who He is. They are blinded by their own sin. The Jews who heard Jesus speak that day only saw Him as the son of Mary and Joseph. They could not understand what He meant when He said He was the bread that came down from heaven. So Jesus explained to them, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him” (John 6:44 ESV). It is the Spirit of God that makes possible our salvation. He must open our eyes and provide us with the capacity to see Jesus as Savior. But He is also the one who makes it possible for us to experience sanctification. He gives us the capacity to live in obedience to God’s will, providing us with the mind of Christ and a discernment to understand spiritual things. We have the mind of Christ in the form of the Spirit of Christ. So we can live like Christ.

Day 58 – John 6:22-7:1

Eternal Life.

John 6:22-7:1

“I tell you the truth, anyone who believes has eternal life.” – John 6:47 NLT

This passage is all about bread. But it obviously deals with two types of bread. One literal and the other metaphorical or symbolic. The people are looking for Jesus, and John makes it clear that their interest is in having Jesus provide them with yet another free meal. They show up at the place where He had “blessed the bread and the people had eaten” (John 6:23 NLT), but Jesus is not there. So they jump back in their boats and head to Capernaum, where they finally find Jesus. But Jesus sees right through their motives. “I tell you the truth, you want to be with me because I fed you, not because you understood the miraculous signs. Don’t be so concerned about perishable things like food. Spend your energy seeking the eternal life that the Son of Man can give you” (John 6:26-27 NLT).

Right away, Jesus reveals the stark contrast that is going to take place in this exchange between the people and Himself. Their interest in Jesus is purely physical and temporal. Yes, He is obviously a miracle worker of some kind and they actually want to learn how to do what He does. They say, “We want to perform God’s words, too. What should we do?” (John 6:28 NLT). Their minds are on food and how nice it would be to be able to multiply their meager stores the way that Jesus did that afternoon on the hillside. By now, they must have heard that Jesus had given power and authority to the twelve disciples to cast out demons and perform miracles, so they seem to be asking Him to do the same for them. But again, Jesus knows their hearts and clearly sees that their motivation is selfish and they are missing the point. He tells them, “This is the only word God wants from you: Believe in the one he has sent” (John 6:29 NLT).

Immediately, the crowd demands that Jesus perform a sign to help them believe. And they even give Him a suggestion: “Our ancestors ate manna while they journeyed through the wilderness!” (John 6:31 NLT). They are so obvious, it’s almost embarrassing. All they want is food. To them, Jesus is little more than a 1st-Century vending machine, conveniently dispensing free food. But Jesus takes the opportunity to clear up their misconceptions about Him and about what their real needs are. Their problem is not a lack of bread, but a lack of belief. They do not understand who He is and what He has come to offer them. So Jesus makes it painfully clear. At least a dozen times in this next little sermonette, Jesus mentions eternal life. He tells them that He has come to offer them eternal life, and that anyone who believes can have it. If all He gives them is bread, they will die, just like their ancestors did in the wilderness. But there is a different source of sustenance that He wants to give them – Himself. He refers to Himself as the Bread of Life. “I am the bread that came down from heaven” (John 6:41 NLT). “Yes, I am the bread of life!” (John 6: 48 NLT). “I am the living bread that came down from heaven” (John 6:51 NLT). “I am the true bread that came down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will not die as your ancestors did (even though they ate the manna) but will live forever” (John 6:58 NLT.

He is offering them eternal life! He is telling them the way in which they can live forever. These people believed in an after life. They spent their entire lives trying to please God by keeping the Law and obeying His commands so that they might inherit eternal life. Now Jesus was telling them that eternal life could be theirs, if only they would believe He was who He claimed to be. But they struggled with this concept. They said, “Isn’t this Jesus, the son of Joseph? We know his father and mother. How can he say, ‘I came down from heaven?'” (John 6:42 NLT). They couldn’t bring themselves to believe in Him. They wanted Him to perform miracles for them. That they could believe in, because they had seen it with their own eyes. But when it came to believing in Him as the Son of God, that was another matter. As a result, many of them said, “This is very hard to understand. How can anyone accept it?” (John 6:60 NLT).

Jesus knows they are struggling. So He says, “Does this offend you? Then what will you think if you see the Son of God ascend to heaven again? The Spirit alone gives eternal life. Human effort accomplishes nothing. And the very words I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But some of you do not believe me” (John 6:61-63 NLT). Jesus is asking them, “Does what I just said cause you to stumble?” He realizes that what He has just taught them is difficult for them to hear and even harder to understand. The imagery of eating His flesh and drinking His blood is graphic and disconcerting. But He tells them that things are going to get even harder to understand in the days ahead. There is still the cross to come. And before Jesus can ascend back into heaven, He will have to be lifted up on the cross as a payment for the sins of all mankind. That is going to be hard for every one of His disciples to comprehend, especially when it happens. But even in death, the Spirit will give life to Jesus, restoring Him completely and allowing Him to conquer the hold that sin and death had had on mankind since the fall. Jesus’ death and resurrection would make possible eternal life. Paul reminds us, “The Spirit of Gd, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you” (Romans 8:11 NLT). New life. Full life. Eternal life. That is what Jesus came to bring. “For it is my Father’s will that all who see his Son and believe in him should have eternal life. I will raise them up at the last day” (John 6:40 NLT). Ultimately, this is all about eternal life. What we experience here is nothing compared with what is to come. This is no longer our home. We are strangers and aliens here. We are sojourners, simply passing through on our way to somewhere else. We have His presence and complete access to His power while here, but we must never lose sight of the fact that Jesus came to bring eternal life, not just a slightly improved version of our earthly lives. Jesus told the crowd that day exactly what we need to hear, “But don’t be so concerned about perishable things like food. Spend your energy seeking the eternal life that the Son of Man can give you” (John 6:27 NLT).

Father, it is so easy to get consumed with perishable things. They are all around us. It seems as if we can’t live without them. And we end up working so hard to obtain them. But they cannot bring us the one thing we all need: Eternal life. Thank You for sending Your Son to make eternal life available to all who will believe. Never let us lose sight of the unbelievable nature of the gift we have been given. Amen.

Ken Miller

Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Day 54 – John 6:1-14

A Lesson In Limitlessness.

John 6:1-14

“Jesus soon saw a huge crowd of people coming to look for him. Turning to Philip, he asked, ‘Where can we buy bread to feed all these people?’” – John 6:5 NLT

John gives us a unique insight into this familiar story. Matthew, Mark and Luke all record that as the day grew late, the disciples came to Jesus and asked Him to send the crowds away. It was getting close to dinner time and they would have to find someplace to eat. John gives us the added insight that “it was nearly time for the Jewish Passover celebration” (Luke 6:4 NLT). Which means that there were more people in this vicinity as Jews were making the long trek to Jerusalem for Passover. So that explains why the disciples mentioned the crowds having to find somewhere to buy food rather than simply return to their own homes. Many of these people would have been pilgrims, just passing through on their way to Jerusalem for Passover. Inns were few and far between. There would have been few places to eat or sleep. This only intensifies the need of the moment.

At some point, Jesus turns to Philip and asks, “Where can we buy bread to feed all these people?” (John 6:5 NLT). We’re not told why Jesus singled out Philip, but it was probably because he was from the town of Capernaum, which was about nine miles from where they were standing. He would have known all the towns and villages in the area. Interestingly enough, Philip’s response didn’t bring up the fact that there weren’t enough places around there to buy food. Instead, he pointed out that their real problem was a lack of resources. They didn’t have enough money to buy the food to feed that many people. So he simply responded, “Even if we worked for months, we wouldn’t have enough money to feed them!” (Luke 6:7 NLT). We don’t know why the other Gospel writers didn’t record this exchange. It may have been that Jesus did it in private and only John was there to overhear it. John had a unique relationship with Jesus and always seemed to be at His side. So he could have been there when Jesus had this conversation with Philip. But we’re told that Jesus was simply testing Philip, to see what he would say and do, given the circumstances. Jesus already knew what He was going to do. Remember, the disciples had just returned from their short-term mission trip where they had experienced first-hand the power and authority given to them by Jesus. They had cast out demons and healed all kinds of diseases. Now they found themselves facing a new kind of problem, a different kind of need. How would they respond? What would they do?

Philips response is totally normal and natural, but it reveals a limited perspective. He was judging their capacity to solve the problem based on human and physical limits. There were too many people and not enough money. Case closed. The need outweighed their resources. Even when they found a young boy with five barley loaves and two small fish, Andrew said, “What good is that with this huge crowd?” (Luke 6:9 NLT). They had limited resources. But Jesus was about to show them new way of looking at things. He was going to change their perspective by taking what little they had and doing much with it. The real lesson was going to be that nothing can limit God. Jesus had everyone sit down. We don’t know the exact number of people, but chances are, if there were 5,000 men alone, there were probably at least an additional 5,000 women and children present. So at minimum, there were 10,000 plus people in the crowd that day. Jesus took the fives loaves and the two fish, gave thanks to God, then began breaking them apart, giving them to the disciples to distribute among the people. “And they all ate as much as they wanted” (Luke 6:11 NLT). John tells us that Jesus did not stop until everyone was completely full and satisfied. This was not a case of careful rationing of what they had. It was a miraculous multiplying of what appeared to be not enough. Jesus used the limitless power of God to produce a limitless supply of food. Nobody went without. And nothing was wasted. Jesus had the disciples pick up what was not eaten and there were twelve baskets filled with the leftover scraps the people didn’t eat. No money was used to solve this problem. There was no pooling of resources in order to produce a solution. Surely the disciples could have come up with a plan to take up an offering and then use that money to go and buy food for the people. And if they had succeeded, they would have taken credit for having solved the problem on their own. But Jesus wasn’t really interested in how or what they could do. He was trying to get them to understand that God solves human problems by heavenly means. I have to believe that there was subtle message from Jesus to the disciples in all of this. He was breaking bread and handing it to the disciples, who then passed it out among the people. The day was coming when Jesus, the Bread of Life, would be broken on a Roman cross, and the disciples would be tasked with passing on the message of His death and resurrection to people in need all around the world. And the day right after this event happened, Jesus would say, “The true bread of God is the one who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world” (John 6:33 NLT). The people responded by asking Jesus to give them some of this bread. To which He replied, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty” (John 6:35 NLT). Jesus would go on to tell them, “Yes, I am the bread of life! Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, but they all died. Anyone who eats the bread from heaven, however, will never die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live forever; and this bread, which I will offer so the world may live, is my flesh” (John 6:48-51 NLT).

The real message on the hillside that day wasn’t just about Jesus being able to miraculously feed thousands of people with next to nothing at His disposal. It was about something far greater and more important. The people who ate the food that day would have been hungry again in just a few hours. Their satisfaction would only have lasted a little while. They were amazed at Jesus had done and wanted to crown Him king right then and there. But they had yet to eat of the Bread of Life. They were still spiritually needy and condemned by their own sin. But not long from this moment, the disciples would be handing out a new form of sustenance and salvation that would have the potential to change the lives of these people forever. Jesus would give His life so that others may live. He would be broken so that others might be healed. He would suffer so that others would not have to. That’s the real message behind the miracle. We can’t save ourselves. Our resources are limited. But God has a plan to meet our need, and His name is Jesus.

Father, thank You Jesus. Thank You for providing a solution to my problem. My sin was great, but Your solution was greater. You provided a way to satisfy my spiritual hunger and give me life when I was faced with certain death. Never let me lose sight of the real message of this story. It isn’t about bread and fishes, but about the Bread of Life – Jesus Christ – the only answer to the spiritual hunger of the world. Amen.

Ken Miller

Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org