Summary: This is the fourth sign the Gospel of John gives us revealing the identity of Jesus. The feeding of the 5000 is more than a miraculous feeding.
GIVE US THIS DAY OUR DAILY BREAD…
When I hold a hockey puck in my hands, it’s just a hockey puck. But when you place that hockey puck in the hands of Team Canada…aaahhhh, it’s just a hockey puck. It should have been a thing of beauty. Put a paintbrush in any of our hands and you might just paint a wall or two by sundown. But put a paintbrush in the hands of Rembrandt and you get a masterpiece. Place a gun in the hands of a hunter and it becomes a tool used for sport or obtaining food. But place that same gun in the hands of Dick Cheney and you better duck (excuse the pun). Quite simply, it depends on who’s holding these tools and how they use them that make the difference. In the right hands you get amazing results.
Put a small loaf of bread in the hands of Jesus and he makes a meal for thousands. Imagine what would happen if we put our limited resources in the hands of Jesus. Every Sunday that I preach I pray this prayer in a variety of forms: “Lord, take these empty words and make them mean something to someone.” And someone is usually encouraged or challenged or provoked to further thinking. It’s not my doing; I say “thank you” but Jesus deserves any credit. Imagine what would happen if you gave him your little bit.
But we pray, “Give us this day our daily bread…” and we can say this prayer two ways. We can pray like Jesus taught us to pray. Or we make it a demand… “Give us what we want. If you don’t, I won’t be faithful, I won’t believe in you.” We demand everything but we hesitate to put anything in his hands.
In the fourth sign John records, we see a beautiful miracle that teaches us something about Jesus and his ability to provide. We also will see that, like the other signs, there is something that disturbs us and challenges our willingness to follow Jesus. This is a simple story from our Sunday School lessons, but as we enter into it, ask the Lord to make this little lesson a lot for you.
1. Why were the crowds following Jesus?
This simple story seems to have been very important to the gospel writers in the first century. Other than the death and resurrection, this is the only miracle that all four gospels record. That should tell us something about this event. For John it follows the healing of the lame man and the explanation he gave for doing this on the Sabbath.
“Some time after this, Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee…and a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the miraculous signs he had performed on the sick. Then Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down with his disciples. The Jewish Passover feast was near.”
Why were the crowds following Jesus? The answer is obvious: though John records only 7 signs for the purpose of this gospel, Jesus was healing a lot of people and doing amazing things. This story indicates that 5000 men were fed at this meeting, and every writer I have read insists that there were thousands more women and children besides. So approximately 10000 people followed Jesus around the shoreline of the Sea, about 12 miles around, and met him at the other side.
Can you imagine that many people leaving their work to go and follow a guy around? John also tells us that it was almost time for Passover, which means that these people were ignoring the most patriotic festival of the Jew to run after the miracle man. That’s like Americans ignoring July 4th to watch the Canadian House of Commons (though nothing miraculous happens there).
Why were the crowds following Jesus? Quite simply, they wanted to see the next trick. To be fair, some were amazed at Jesus’ teaching and his authority. But it was not a matter of belief; it was a matter of curiosity, piqued interest, fascination. Some were wondering whether Jesus might be the next in a long line of rebels to threaten the ruling powers. This could be exciting, they thought.
2. “Do we have enough?”
“When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.”
Jesus knew it was Passover time and so he decided to make a point with this crowd and reveal something of himself to them. But he also wanted to make a point with his disciples. That is why he asked Philip about the food. You see, Philip was a quiet, methodical type who figured things out. He calculated the problem in his head and said, “Can’t do it!” His mental math took into consideration the number of disciples times the amount of people plus labor, overtime and said there is not enough.