Summary: # 18 in series. In this miracle that Jesus performs are three truths to be discovered.
A Study of the Book of John
“That You May Believe”
Sermon # 18
“Little Is Much When God Is In It!”
“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 per-formed 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.”
Although John begins his account with the words “after this things” he does not tell us what “this things” are. But the parallel accounts do, Matthew connected the Lord’s retreat to the desert place with his hearing the news of John the Baptist’s death (Matt. 14:13). Mark (6:30-31) gives us an additional motive, the Disciples had just returned from their mission, and they and the Master needed time for refreshment of body and spirit.
So to get some rest from the crowds that followed Him and seeking time to deal with the news of the murder of John, Jesus and His disciples withdrew by boat across the Sea of Galilee from Capernaum to Bethsaida.
But a great crowd followed Jesus into a deserted (uninhabited) area. Verse two tells us why the people followed him, “Then a great multitude followed Him, because they saw His signs which He performed on those who were diseased.” The three verbs in this verse are all in the imperfect tense indicating continuous action. It would read literally, “A great multitude was following Him because they were seeing His miracles which He was doing.”
When the people found out where Jesus was bound for and while Jesus and His disciples made the trip by boat, the people followed along the shore and actually got there before He did. When He arrived He found a large crowd to greet Him. The presence of these huge crowds entirely defeated the whole intention of making this trip.
In a way the story really begins with a problem. The problem was that there was a large group of people, they were in a deserted place, it was late in the afternoon and everyone was hungry.
I don’t know about you but, when I am faced with a big problem in my life it is hard for me to see anything wonderful about it. What I usually see is yet another demand being placed on me and frankly, I wasn’t looking for another demand. I was looking for a little relief. Has anyone else noticed that life can get a little demanding?
Now here is the problem, the disciples have 5,000 hungry men on their hands. Matthew tells us (Mt 14:21) that this number does not include women and children so the total could be as much as 10,000 – 20,000.
John says in verses five and six, “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.”
John tells us that Jesus said this to test Philip. I think that it is essential that we understand that Jesus already knew what He was going to do. He did not need Philip’s advice, he wanted Philip’s confidence, he wanted his heart.
Jesus used this as an opportunity to teach the Disciples. What we have here is a test of faith. Yet, when the Lord tests our faith it never in order that He might know what we would do. The test of faith is to reveal to us the condition of our faith and the truth that our trust is never misplaced when it is placed upon the Lord. We often say we believe something and really think we do in our heads but we only really know what we believe when we are forced to stand on them in real life. God knows what His plans for us are, and yet He does not often let us in on His plans before hand.
In today’s text we will discover three important truths.
First, Christ Desires That We Live In Dependence. (vv. 1-9)
God’s desire is always that His people live by faith. We are told in Hebrews 11:6, “But without faith it is impossible to please him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is the rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” As I have already said, the story really begins with a problem, what to do with all these hungry people. And as always when we are faced with a problem believer’s are faced with the dilemma of whether or not they will live by faith. As we look at the story we see the disciples display three different responses to the problem that faced them.