In John 6, a great crowd of people has been following Jesus for several days, listening to His teaching and observing His miracles. He has tried to get away to rest, but the needs of the crowd have pressed in on Him...it is late in the day and they are hungry. Because of His compassion, Jesus ministers to them. The problem, of course, is how to meet the needs of such a great crowd of people...5000 men, as we know it, and likely women and children as well. The disciples take the easy, faithless way out, saying – Jesus, just send them away, let’s be rid of them. Still, Jesus knows that these people will faint along the way if someone does not feed them, as it is now becoming evening and it is not a time to travel...too dangerous.
Philip’s response to Jesus statement in v.5 "Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?" is a reasonable response to what seems to be an unrealistic expectation -- "go and buy food for them.” Philip must be a math major, for He counts the cost and decides that they would need the equivalent of 200 days wages…and even this would not provide bread enough to satisfy the hunger of all of those present. Too often, we think that if we can just throw enough money at a problem, that it will somehow resolve it, but this is not the case. Yet, Philip passes Jesus’ test...that it is not about money. Andrew has a solution, but he is not quite certain how it is going to work out. He has found a boy with a small lunch...two small fish and five barley loaves. Once again, we see that Andrew is bringing someone to Jesus. (See also...Peter, Greeks -- see John 1:40-42, 12:20-22).
The final solution comes from the Lord, and it is the true solution as amazing as it might be. He takes the boy’s lunch, blesses it, breaks it and hands it out to His disciples and they proceed to distribute it to the whole crowd. It must have been great to see the food just multiply as it continued to go out to the people. We must understand that although the disciples are distributing, the miracle takes place from the Father and through the hands of the Savior. Not only do the people eat until they are filled, but the disciples salvage twelve baskets full of left over fragments -- nothing goes to waste.
There are some key, practical lessons here. Whenever there is a need, we can give all that we have to Jesus…and let Him do the rest. Begin with what you have, but be sure you give it all to Him. This young lad certainly had an experience to go home and tell his folks about...”you will never believe what happened today.” The young man is to be commended for sharing his lunch with Jesus. It is improbable that his mother would have had any clue that she would be a blessing for 5000+ people when she sent him off with his lunch that day. The gift of the little lunch meant a lot to Jesus…and the blessings would reach out to many people. The people respond to this in a forthright way…they rightfully declare that what has happened is a miracle and decide that Jesus should be their new king! The people see Jesus as the answer to their physical needs, but He is like a giant pantry to them...and they are thinking, “Hey we can come and get food from Jesus anytime!” But, we are reminded by Jesus that the glory goes to God, and it is His purpose to get them focused on the spiritual purpose of the event that has just taken place.
There can be no doubt that bread is a basic ration for humans, at least in our culture. When we talk about what people need on their most fundamental level, it is bread and drink...water or juice. So, it is no secret that Jesus will refer to Himself as the Bread of life…that His message is the most basic and important of spiritual rations. It is also reflected in our Lord’s Supper that we share together...when Jesus says, “This is (representative) of my body, broken for you,” what is He speaking about? Bread.
In a time where we have so many things in abundance, it can be a temptation to take the blessings of God for granted. It is easier at this time of year, but I think that the challenge for us is to be thankful for who we are, for what we have and what we are able to do together on a regular basis. In humility, we need to respond to the Father, as Jesus responded to the Father, by just simply giving thanks. Like the young man, we also need to look for opportunities to give and to serve. Little did he know what great effect would be had from one simple act of giving. It is a wonderful ministry to be able to feed people...and we are thankful and blessed to be able to do this with our Meals-on-Wheels ministry called The Dinner Dash.
More importantly, we must trust Jesus for our spiritual sustenance. As we feed our bodies, physically, in order to sustain us, it is just as critical for us to eat spiritually in order to sustain our souls. Some Christians try to live on starvation rations, spiritually, and wonder why they do not have the spiritual energy to live an abundant spiritual existence, combat sin and stay out of the world system. This is not what the Lord intended for us. Rather, He has every desire for us to live life abundantly in and for Him (John 10:10).