Summary: Do not measure a problem according to your own abilities. Trust God. Little in the hands of the Lord becomes much.
[The thoughts here are extracted and adapted from Tom Holladay’s sermon on The Lesson of the Loaves.]
The feeding of the five thousand is the only miracle of the Lord that is recorded in all 4 Gospels.
• This is really unusual when you think of all the miracles that Jesus performed in 3½ years of ministry.
• Each of the gospel writers has something to say about this miracle feeding that perhaps the others might have omitted in their telling of the story.
• When they are all put together, an interesting story begins to unfold before us.
What we do not usually take note of is the lesson Jesus wants us to learn from the miracle.
• Is there something that Jesus wants us to learn? Was it just a miracle to feed the crowd?
• Verse 5 tells us Jesus asked Philip a question: “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” And verse 6 says, “He asked this only to test him, for He already had in mind what He was going to do.”
Jesus wanted to challenge the disciples. He wanted to teach them something.
• There were 5000 men in the crowd (v.10). It means there were probably 5000 women, maybe 5000 kids. This was a huge crowd of over 15,000.
• It was getting towards evening. According to the accounts in Matthew (14), Mark (6) and Luke (9), the disciples were getting worried. This is a remote place and the people need to eat.
• Someone got to tell Jesus to stop talking and send the people to the nearby villages and buy themselves something to eat.
And then we saw Jesus turning to Philip and asked, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?”
• He saw this as an opportunity to teach His disciples, and us today, the way God works.
• The disciples and the crowd eventually saw one of the most memorable miracles in Jesus’ ministry.
Lesson ONE: The Yardstick Lesson - Do not measure a problem according to your own abilities.
Don’t measure it according to your own abilities. That is the wrong measuring stick.
• Anytime you face a problem, you tend to feel small next to the problem.
• Don’t look at the problem from your own abilities. That’s what the disciples did. That’s what Philip did.
• And then he did what we all do in that circumstance - he panicked! John 6:7 “Eight months' wages would not buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!”
• Don’t be ridiculous! What are you talking about? This is an impossible situation!
You don’t need to even count the people. For a crowd of over 10,000, one glance is enough to tell you, you have too many people.
• One glance is enough to tell you that there isn’t any ‘hawker centres’ within sight.
• That was what Philip immediately sees. It was impossible.
Jesus loves impossible situations. He is the Son of God. Impossible circumstances do not bother Him.
• Jesus heals those who cannot be healed. He raised the dead. He delivered those who are demon-possessed.
• Some of us may be in an ‘impossible’ situation right now. God allows us to be in impossible situations - circumstances that come into our life that we don’t have any control over.
Why does God allow these things to happen?
• We don’t have all the answers, but at least Jesus gives us a reason here - He did this to test Philip, to test the disciples.
• The Lord wants us to put our trust in Him, not in ourselves; to put your trust in what He can do, not what you can do.
Jesus allowed His disciples to struggle with the problem BEFORE He worked the miracle.
• Has that ever happened to you? Or does God always give you the answer right away. No.
• He allows us to struggle with the problem. He stretches our faith. He challenges us to trust Him, even when we cannot figure out the solution to our problem.
Why does He do that? Why doesn’t He give me the answer straight away? Why doesn’t He simply solve my problem?
• He does not, because He is giving us a test.
• When God tests us it is not to grade us. It is to grow us.
• God does not need to grade us. God knows our hearts already. He knows every answer you would write down on the test. He knows everything you would think. He knows us already.
So why does He test us? Because it impacts our hearts; it grows us.
• When we come out on the other side of the test, we learned something, we have grown. Our faith is strengthened; our understanding of God is deepened. We have changed.