Sometimes this saying echoes in my mind. “Houston, we have a problem”.
I think I have an impossible situation in front of me. It can’t be done. I know it. It is reality.
Here is the deal. Jesus doesn’t care about any of that. Jesus says to me (like he did with Phillip), what are you going to do about it? I have no clue. Really, no clue at all. It is impossible and there is no solution. Jesus wants an answer though. I make something up.
But then again there is Jesus. Nothing is impossible with God. Jesus knows the Father and He knows that is true. With God, there is a way and there is a solution.
After this, Jesus crossed the Sea of Galilee (or Tiberias). 2 A huge crowd was following him because they saw the signs that he was performing by healing the sick. 3 Jesus went up a mountain and sat down there with his disciples.
4 Now the Passover, a Jewish festival, was near. 5 So when Jesus looked up and noticed a huge crowd coming toward him, he asked Philip, “Where will we buy bread so that these people can eat?” 6 He asked this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do.
7 Philip answered him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread wouldn’t be enough for each of them to have a little.”
8 One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, 9 “There’s a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish—but what are they for so many?”
10 Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.”
There was plenty of grass in that place; so they sat down. The men numbered about five thousand. 11 Then Jesus took the loaves, and after giving thanks he distributed them to those who were seated—so also with the fish, as much as they wanted.
12 When they were full, he told his disciples, “Collect the leftovers so that nothing is wasted.” 13 So they collected them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces from the five barley loaves that were left over by those who had eaten.
14 When the people saw the sign he had done, they said, “This truly is the Prophet who is to come into the world.” | John 6:1-14
The problem, of course, was how to meet the needs of such a vast crowd of people. Four solutions were proposed.
First, the disciples suggested that Jesus send the people away. Get rid of the problem. This is my go to solution. But Jesus knew that the hungry people would faint on the way if somebody did not feed them. It was evening, and that was no time for travel.
The second solution came from Philip in response to our Master’s “test question”: raise enough money to buy food for the people. I tend to go here. It is a money problem. Let’s just throw some money at it.
Philip “counted the cost” and decided they would need the equivalent of 200 days’ wages! And even that would not provide bread enough to satisfy the hunger of all the men, women, and children. Too often, we think that money is the answer to every need. Of course, Jesus was simply testing the strength of Philip’s faith.
The third solution came from Andrew, but he was not quite sure how the problem would be solved. He found a little boy who had a small lunch: two little fish and five barley cakes. Once again, Andrew is busy bringing somebody to Jesus. We do not know how Andrew met this lad, but we are glad he did! Though Andrew does not have a prominent place in the good news narratives, he was apparently a “people person” who helped solve problems.
The fourth solution came from our Master Jesus, and it was the true solution. He took the little boy’s lunch, blessed it, broke it, handed it out to His disciples, and they fed the whole crowd! The miracle took place in the hands of the Messiah, not in the hands of the disciples. He multiplied the food; they only had the joyful privilege of passing it out. Not only were the people fed and satisfied, but the disciples salvaged twelve baskets of fragments for future use. The Master Jesus wasted nothing.
The practical lesson is clear: whenever there is a need, give all that you have to Jesus and let Him do the rest. Begin with what you have, but be sure you give it all to Him. That little lad is to be commended for sharing his lunch with Christ, and his mother is to be commended for giving him something to give to Jesus. The gift of that little snack meant as much to Jesus as the pouring out of the expensive ointment (John 12:1ff).
But did Jesus really perform a miracle? Perhaps the generosity of the boy only embarrassed the other people so that they brought out their hidden lunches and shared them all around. Nonsense! Jesus knows the hearts of men and He declared that the people were hungry. Surely He would have known of the existence of hidden food! Furthermore, the people themselves declared that this was a miracle and even wanted to crown Him King! Had this event been only the result of mass psychology, the crowd would not have responded that way. John would never have selected this as one of the “signs” if it were not an authentic miracle.
It is significant that twice John mentioned the fact that Jesus gave thanks. Matthew, Mark, and Luke all state that Jesus looked up to heaven when He gave thanks. By that act, He reminded the hungry people that God is the source of all good and needful gifts. This is a good lesson for us: instead of complaining about what we do not have, we should give thanks to God for what we do have, and He will make it go farther.
Christian Standard Bible. (2017). (Jn 6:1–71). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.
Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 1, pp. 309–310). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.