Aside from the Resurrection, the story of Jesus feeding the 5,000 is the only miracle recorded in all four Gospels. (Matthew 14, Mark 6, Luke 9, John 6).
After these things Jesus went over the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tiberias. John 6:1.
After what things? The disciples just returned from an evangelistic campaign. Jesus had sent them out two by two with authority to heal the sick, cast out demons and preach the Good News. The ministry of Christ was at the pinnacle of popularity, with so many coming and going they didn’t even have time to eat (Mark 6:30-32, Luke 9:10-17).
So, they jumped in the boat for a little get away.
Now, the Sea of Galilee, also called the Sea of Tiberias, isn’t a big sea like the Mediterranean Sea, or Gulf of Mexico. It’s a freshwater lake only about fourteen miles north to south, and seven miles wide, east to west.
Then a great multitude followed Him, because they saw His signs which He performed on those who were diseased. John 6:2.
They not only followed, many saw where He was headed and ran ahead to meet Him. Jesus groupies. (Mark 6:33).
Awesome, a great multitude.
Well, hold that thought.
Our prayer when posting Church signs by the road goes something like this: “Signs shine like free pancake signs to a bus load of football players.” They may draw more of a crowd if we really were giving away free pancakes.
Jesus did. He had the stuff.
Because they saw the signs He performed. They were looking for a performer, to satisfy their sweet tooth, their thrill seeking curiosity, not a Savior. Not a Lord. Not Someone to tell them, “Deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Me.” Luke 9:23.
And Jesus went up on the mountain, and there He sat with His disciples. John 6:3.
This is probably the main thing that triggered the trip across the sea, to this place off the beaten path; so, they could sit and rest.
You see, besides all the hustle and bustle and crowds, this was after hearing of the death of His cousin, friend, forerunner, John the Baptist. Jesus heard about that and said, "Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.” Matthew 14:12-13, Mark 6:31.
But the groupies…
Now the Passover, a feast of the Jews, was near. John 6:4.
To give us a bearing on the timeline, the Lord inserts a glance at the calendar.
This is the second Passover mentioned, thus, we’re somewhere in the middle of Jesus' three-and-a-half-year ministry.
Then Jesus lifted up His eyes, and seeing a great multitude coming toward Him, He said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread, that these may eat?” John 6:5.
Philip was from the area, so he was a good person to ask about where to buy food—a lot of food.
However, the other three gospels tell us that the disciples told Jesus, it was getting late, time to call it a day, send them away, so they can fend for themselves for food and lodging. Matthew 14:15, Mark 6:35-36, Luke 9:12.
However, Jesus was moved with compassion, seeing them as sheep without a shepherd. Mark 6:33-34.
The Good Shepherd, sees sheep and thinks, “How can I feed them?”
The wolf sees them and thinks, “How can they feed me?”
Whose eyes do you see through? The wolf or the Shepherd?
But this He said to test him, for He Himself knew what He would do. John 6:6.
Tests have questions.
Tests are given for the sake of promotion.
Learn to say, “This is just a test.” A test I’m going to pass. Because I know the Answer.
No matter the question. The Answer is, Jesus.
Remember the Answer, because there will be a test at the end.
Now take it a step further.
If Jesus is the answer (and He is), how does He function physically on the earth today?
Through His people.
So, the next time the question “Why doesn’t somebody do something?” bubbles up within you—perhaps, the Answer is, the Jesus in you wants to do something about it.
Christ in you, the hope of glory. Colossians 1:27
Philip answered Him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may have a little.” John 6:7.
Jesus had asked, where can we buy food to feed this crowd?
Philip says, what? Are you kidding? It’ll take over half a year’s wages to feed them.
Jesus didn’t ask how much, He asked, where.
But Philip’s a calculator. You know the type. Just give me the facts, I’ll find the solution. Those left brained folks; good with math and mechanics and strategizing and calculations. He didn’t hear the question because he was already figuring out the solution.
It’s a God given gift to be wired like that. But that strength can also be a weakness when the Answer requires calculating the God factor.
When God asks a question, or gives an assignment, many times, (not always), there’s no logical answer, and the assignment is impossible.
So, if you have a brain like Philip’s, just settle in your heart, with God, 2 + 2 doesn’t always equal 4. Or, in this case, 5 (loaves) + 2 (fish) doesn’t equal 7, but this time, it’s way over 5,000.
How should Philip have answered? Where do we find food to feed them?
One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to Him, 9 “There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two small fish, but what are they among so many?” John 6:8-9.
The answer didn’t come from any of the local food markets, there was no Walmart Super Center, or grocery store to feed this crowd.
The answer wasn’t found in the multitude of men, or women…but in one small lad.
Isn’t that just like our Lord?
Andrew brought him. Andrew wasn’t even asked. Jesus asked Philip. But Andrew took action. It’s amazing what can be accomplished when you don’t care about who gets the credit.
Andrew, you know Simon Peter’s brother. He’s the guy on the sidelines. Never in the limelight but always in the play. He makes a difference behind the scene by helping others get on the stage. He introduced Peter to Jesus. Later, he introduces a group of Greeks to Jesus (chapter 12). He didn’t write a book, he lived it.
Andrew’s the guy who’d find a penny, and someone who needed it…or a little lad, and a little lunch.
The word for lad in the original text implies a small child. Not a teenage boy, but a small boy, perhaps under ten years old.
He had a small lunch. Five barley loaves and two small fish. Presumably salted and dried as a condiment—picture sardine size fish.
The fish were small. The boy was small. The boy was poor. How do we know? The bread was barley. It was an inferior bread. Called a food fit for beasts.
But none of that matters when the God factor is added. He takes what you give Him, and makes it something wonderful, greater than you could ever imagine.
Then Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand. John 6:10.
Now, this will be a time for Philip and the left brained, mathematical, methodical types to spring into action. Separate, sort and seat the multitude in sections of fifties and hundreds. Mark 6:40.
They had comfortable seats thanks to the much green grass, which tells us this took place in the spring of the year.
There were five thousand men, not including women and children. Some Bible scholars claim there may have been as many as fifteen-twenty thousand hungry mouths.
And Jesus took the loaves, and when He had given thanks He distributed them to the disciples, and the disciples to those sitting down; and likewise of the fish, as much as they wanted. John 6:11.
Jesus took the loaves and the fish and gave thanks. Imagine, Jesus, the Creator of all things, giving thanks, for something you give Him.
The word thanks is eucharisteó (yoo-khar-is-teh'-o). From the words “good” and “grace.” Thankful for God’s goodness and grace.
Whatever you give to God will be blessed by His Goodness and Grace.
Jesus distributed the little boy’s lunch to his disciples, and the disciples to the people.
Sitting down in groups might not have made sense a minute ago, but now it makes distributing the food a whole lot easier.
Obedience brings understanding.
Did you notice the pattern of God’s divine order here? Jesus gave to His disciples and His disciples gave to the people. The disciples served the people.
God’s Divine order is to flow through His Church, to the world. Remember, His Church is the people (ekklésia), not the steeple.
However, His people must not forsake gathering together, and having “Church.” His last will and testament, His Revelation, was given to John to give to the Churches.
So when they were filled, He said to His disciples, “Gather up the fragments that remain, so that nothing is lost.” Therefore they gathered them up, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves which were left over by those who had eaten. John 6:12-13.
A poor little boy simply gave what he had, and the Lord used it to feed multiplied thousands, and give hope to multiplied billions from that day to this, to you and I here and now, and all who’ve heard the story over the years
They ate until they were full. With twelve baskets left over.
There is no lack with God.
Gather the fragments so nothing is lost. Everything given to Him is valuable. Nothing wasted.
Mom always used to tell me what her mom told her, “You can’t never out give God.” The grammar might be messed up, but the gospel Truth is solid as a Rock.
Now, what I’m about to say is different than what I’ve heard from most preachers. They say there were twelve baskets left over, so each disciple got a doggie bag-sket.
However, I think it all went to pay back the poor boy and his family—with interest and a great big tip. It was his seed after all, so he deserved it.
The family took the leftovers and turned their lives around. They started a business you may have heard of.
You guessed it.
And the rest is HIStory.
God uses the weak things, the ones the world considers unworthy, He uses a Babe in a manger, the despised and rejected barley bread from a poor boy, and He can and will and longs to use you too. 1 Corinthians 1:27.
So, to answer the question Jesus asked, where do we find food to feed them?
Do you remember the Answer to the test?
Lord willing next week we’ll hear Him say:
“I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger John 6:35.
And then later, at the end of this book, we’ll hear Jesus give Peter the answer three times.
Do you love Me? Feed My sheep. John 21:15-17