Lessons From the Feeding of the 5000
Joh 6:1 After these things Jesus went over the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tiberias.
2 Then a great multitude followed Him, because they saw His signs which He performed on those who were diseased. 3 And Jesus went up on the mountain, and there He sat with His disciples. 4 Now the Passover, a feast of the Jews, was near. 5 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?" 6 But this He said to test him, for He Himself knew what He would do.
7 Philip answered Him, "Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may have a little." 8 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?" 10 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. 11 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. 12 So when they were filled, He said to His disciples, "Gather up the fragments that remain, so that nothing is lost." 13 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. 14 Then those men, when they had seen the sign that Jesus did, said, "This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world." 15 Therefore when Jesus perceived that they were about to come and take Him by force to make Him king, He departed again to the mountain by Himself alone.
This entire chapter of the gospel of John could be called the “bread” chapter. We find “bread” mentioned a total of 17 times! It begins with bread in the physical sense, as necessary to strengthen and sustain physical life, and then moves to bread in the spiritual sense as embodied in the Son of Man....Jesus Christ, who is necessary to strengthen and sustain spiritual life.
In fact, Jesus says in v51 of this chapter:
Joh 6:51 "I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world."
It is this Bread, that we will offer to you later on in the worship service. And for those who partake of this bread with humble faith, or “trust” in Jesus and His Word, they will indeed be strengthened and sustained in their journey toward eternal life.
But, for now, let’s see what we can learn from this miraculous feeding of the 5,000.
Joh 6:1 After these things....after what things? As we look at the other accounts of the feeding of the 5,000, we can piece some things together, and we know that it has been a long, hard day. The disciples had just returned from their mini-mission, where they had been empowered by Jesus to do astounding things.
They had cast out demons and healed the sick, and if you would put yourself in their place, imagine your excitement! What do you think you would want to do upon returning to Jesus? Wouldn’t you want to share with Him? Wouldn’t you love to chatter with Him about all your exploits?
Of course, Jesus might not be in the mood....after all, He had just received word that John the Baptist had been beheaded. We are told that the crowds were pressing in on Him, desiring more of His touch. So Jesus hops in a boat by Himself, and heads across the Sea of Galilee to a deserted place. We read of it in Mt 14:12-14:
Mt 14:12 Then his (John the Baptist’s) disciples came and took away the body and buried it, and went and told Jesus. 13 When Jesus heard it, He departed from there by boat to a deserted place by Himself. But when the multitudes heard it, they followed Him on foot from the cities. 14 And when Jesus went out He saw a great multitude; and He was moved with compassion for them, and healed their sick.
No sooner does Jesus finish His quiet time, alone with the Father, and boom, there they are again...all wanting a piece of Jesus. All desiring His healing touch. Don’t you just want to scream at these people? “Leave Him alone for crying out loud!” Can’t you see what He has gone through?”
Of course, we aren’t the ones desperate for healing are we? We aren’t the ones dragging our loved ones on stretchers hoping that He would just say the Word and they would be made well.
But maybe you are in need of healing. Maybe you are in need of a touch from the Lord today! Maybe some loved ones of your own need to be brought to Him. And Matthew says that “He was moved with compassion for them and healed their sick.”
Learn from this beloved. Jesus is never so tired, never so emotionally drained, never so busy, never so distant from you that He won’t respond to your prayers. You are not bothering Him!
You just need to set your love upon Him and come to Him in prayer.
Ps 91:14 "Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore I will deliver him; I will set him on high, because he has known My name. 15 He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him and honor him.
That’s a promise. Will He respond in the way that you want? Not necessarily, but He does promise to answer, and He does promise to be with you in your trouble. He does promise to deliver you, and He does promise to honor your prayer...to give value to it.
Sometimes I think we Christians give a little bit too much meaning to the word “deliver.” It has come to mean a complete removal of a problem. If the problem isn’t removed, if the prayer isn’t answered, we don’t consider ourselves delivered.
But think about it. When you call Papa John’s and order a pizza and you want it delivered, they aren’t removing a pizza from the equation, they are merely seeing that pizza through the process of finishing it’s assigned course to your door.
So God’s promise in deliverance is to help us through the trouble, through the trial, through the temptation, to help us finish our assigned course. You’re the pizza and He promises to deliver you to His door.
In Milwaukee yesterday, we drove by a church on Burleigh St. called the Holy Church of Deliverance. In light of our definition of deliverance here, that’s a great name for a church isn’t it? The Holy Church of Getting You Through.
God wants to get you through. He promises to get you through, so don’t ever feel like you’re bothering God with your prayers.
Ask yourself this question....How many people are healed in this biblical account, if they don’t clamor after Jesus to the other side, if they stay put not wanting to be bothered or be a bother? ....the answer is none. I think our Sunday night prayer group is beginning to understand the necessity of setting our love upon Jesus and then clamoring after Him in prayer.
All right, so Jesus is busy healing away and the time passes by quickly and even as the day is far spent, the people continue to press in. He’s hungry, the disciples are hungry. He’s tired, they’re tired and they still haven’t had a chance to share about their great mission trip.
As we put all the gospel accounts together of this event, we see that Jesus was not only healing, but He was teaching as well. As darkness moves in, the disciples bid Jesus to break up the crowd, send them into the nearby villages to get something to eat, incredibly, Jesus would have none of that.
He made it clear that the throng was welcome to stay for supper. Lesson number two for us today. The church is to be a place of teaching and healing. You should come here on Sunday and be taught, and you should receive healing from the wounds your soul-suffered from this sin-sick world during the week.
Some self-inflicted, but you need to come and receive the healing balm of the gospel with a humble and penitent heart, and you should leave here on Sunday, quietly confident that Your Redeemer lives and has died for your sins!
But this is also to be a place of fellowship. We are not to heal, teach, and then send people on their merry way. We are to break bread or fellowship with one another. I long for the day, when we can have our own building, with a kitchen and a fellowship hall and we can have pot-blesses every Sunday!
But what’s happened to the church? We’ve become too busy for each other.... we have become to possessive of our own time. We forget, who hold’s our time in His hands, and the one who holds our time in His hands says.....”fellowship with each other!”
Would He give such an order and then not make provision to fulfill it? As God multiplies the seed we cast into the offering basket, I believe He also is capable of multiplying our time for other things as we first offer Him our time in fellowship.
I’m busy! You’re busy! But, seriously, are we any busier than the Lord and His disciples were on this day? I don’t think so. Let’s learn to make time for one another, breaking bread with each other, it’s what Jesus would do.
He says, “Make the people sit down.”
Back to the text:
5 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?" 6 But this He said to test him, for He Himself knew what He would do. 7 Philip answered Him, "Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may have a little."
Now, let’s put ourselves in Phillip’s shoes. Jesus doesn’t ask the twelve, He doesn’t ask one of the inner circle, (Peter, James, or John) He asks Phillip! If I’m Phillip I’m saying, “What! You expect us to buy lunch for all these people? There’s 15 to 20 thousand people here counting women and children! That’s a lot of happy meals Lord! 200 days wages wouldn’t be enough to buy the cheapest thing on the menu!
“But this He said to test Phillip.” Isn’t that amazing! Thousands of hungry people on hand, the disciples needing some tending of their own, Jesus is tired and mourning the loss of John, but He is willing to pay special attention to Phillip.
Phillip needed to learn something about relying on the supernatural power of Jesus. By singling out Phillip here, He gives hope to you and I as well. Jesus cares about where you are in your walk with Him, and if you are going through a test right now, it’s because He cares. The Lord disciplines those HE loves. And His tests are always geared to help us see where we are. He already knows where we are..
And Phillip who just returned from a mission trip empowered by Jesus in which incredible supernatural things were accomplished, has already forgotten about supernatural power and views the feeding situation as hopeless.
Phillip was kind of a special project for Jesus. He was one of those kind of people that seemed to lack confidence. He didn’t like to make decisions. You don’t want to wind up behind Phillip at the line at Culvers....he just can’t make up his mind.
Case in point John 12:20-22
Joh 12:20 Now there were certain Greeks among those who came up to worship at the feast.
21 Then they came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida of Galilee, and asked him, saying, "Sir, we wish to see Jesus." 22 Philip came and told Andrew, and in turn Andrew and Philip told Jesus.
Pretty simple request from the Greeks wouldn’t you say? But Phillip turns it into a big project. and look who he turns to for help.....Andrew. Maybe he remembered that Andrew was the one who tried to bail him out at the feeding of the 5000. Or maybe Andrew was the guy that Phillip trusted most for help in making these kinds of decisions.
I don’t know why he turned to Andrew, but I do know that Phillip needed more confidence. Phillip needed to know and believe the supernatural power of Jesus and this incident in the feeding of the 5000 was to be a part of firming up that confidence.
Let’s turn to another portion of John where Jesus talks directly to Phillip. Jesus was talking about His departure and His preparing a place for His disciples and Thomas asked, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?
Then Jesus said, If you had known Me you would have known My Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him!” Now we pick up the conversation in Jn 14:8,
Joh 14:8 Philip said to Him, "Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us."
9 Jesus said to him, "Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, 'Show us the Father'?
In verse 10 Jesus says, “The Father who dwells in Me does the works!” (In other words, all that stuff you witnessed and experienced Phillip, including the feeding of the 5000, when I singled you out, that was the supernatural power of the Father! You need not lack confidence, that same power will be available to you!
Jesus continues in Jn 14:12, “Most assuredly I say to you, He who believes in Me, the works that I do He will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to my Father.”
And so Jesus uses this moment in the feeding of the 5000 to teach Phillip to not worry about being alone when faced with life’s challenges....just believe in the capabilities of Jesus! “And whatever you ask in My name Phillip, I will do it!” (Jn 14:13,14)
Pardon me, while I use this as another opportunity to talk about our Sunday night prayer meeting, but one of the things I see happening is people are starting to believe in the capabilities of Jesus! Just as Phillip needed that confidence, evidently the Lord knows that we need it too here at Living Word.
Back to the text for one more quick lesson. Have you ever considered how ridiculous Andrew’s answer to the question about how are we going to feed these people must have sounded to the others?
”There’s a lad here with 5 barley loaves and two small fish.” SMALL fish! Good one Andrew! Hey I have an idea, let’s just throw the bread and fish into the Jack Lalane juicer and we’ll spray it over everybody! I mean what would two small fish and 5 loaves of bread look like evenly divided among the 10 thousand plus people?
Embarrassed and perhaps aware of the stupidity of his remark, Andrew says, “but what are they among so many?”
Then Jesus puts all the disciples to the test with His next words. He says, “Make the people sit down.” In modern terminology, Jesus was telling the disciples to tell the people to pull up a chair and have something to eat. Will they do it? Will they obey Jesus and trust Him for the results?
As Jesus calls you to trust and obey His Word, will you protest? Or will you trust Him for the results?
Well, we know they did and their trust in Jesus gave way to a miracle. A meal that at first sight seemed to be nothing but a few embarrassing crumbs turned into a feast for thousands with enough left over for each disciple to have a full basket of his own!
But why 12? Why not 13? Why not one for Jesus too? Because the Lord still has another lesson for us. We are to provide for Jesus out of our own abundance. That speaks about proper giving to the church.
Oh my friends. That we would learn to take what we have been given in this life...both the good and the bad, and give it to Jesus, to have Him touch it, that we might use it as a blessing for others. Oh that we would bring it all to Jesus and learn to trust in His capabilities instead of our own!
What have we learned today?
1. It’s alright to clamor after Jesus
2. The promise to deliver is the promise to get you through
3. Teach, heal, and fellowship
4. Jesus tests us in areas in which we need to grow.
5. Believe in the capabilities of Jesus
6. Bring it Jesus, allow Him to touch it, and then bless others with it.