Summary: People may genuinely want to help others and because God is left out, they set out to do it in their own strength. It doesn’t take long when dealing with material wealth and/or material resources that limitations are soon reached.
THE POWER TO MEET NEEDS
John 6:5-11, 26-31, 47-51
You’ve heard of having too much month at the end of the money. Our resources can run out before all the needs are met. For a lot of people this is an ongoing experience. They are like the person described in the song Sixteen Tons – you’re “another day older and deeper in debt.” For others, the overwhelming need might be failing health or some dreaded disease. You could be overwhelmed with relationship problems or emotional issues or any number of addictions. It really is overwhelming to think about all the possible overwhelming needs in the world.
It is not so unusual to hear about famine in third world countries and see reports that people have died by the thousands because of lack of food. Relief organizations send food to these people; however, their efforts are hindered by groups that are fighting each other for control of the country and many people (who have no interest in who is in control) are suffering. In this country there are the homeless people who can't seem to get help and don't have the slightest idea from where their next meal is coming. Many others suffer from malnutrition or other health problems simply because they do not eat the right kinds of food. In a world where we pay farmers to NOT grow food and where there are all kinds of organizations dedicated to helping people and where nutritionists know what constitutes a healthy diet, all these problems seem rather incongruous. In some cases there are evil people in power who would rather see people die than for themselves to lose control. In the case of the homeless, there seems to be unconcern in the various governmental organizations that profess they want to help people. And in the case of the malnourished there is rampant lack of knowledge at work for those people who either don't know the consequences of eating improperly or refuse to change once they do know.
We find the same problems exist in the spiritual realm. There is spiritual starvation, spiritual hunger and spiritual malnutrition. Some parts of the world are under the control of pagan religions and it is very difficult to get the word of God into these areas. The church is not free to operate and it is illegal to witness to people. In our own nation, there are people who would believe and receive help, if someone were to minister to them. Yet, even though we have many churches that recognize that their mission is to find these folks and help them, many never get reached. Others are surrounded by good spiritual food and yet they are spiritually weak and sickly because they ignore the spiritual truths and adopt humanistic ideas as their basis for life.
Spiritual hunger is not as easily recognized as physical hunger and because of this difficulty in recognizing it for what it is, many people search for what they think will bring satisfaction. Many times what they find in their search is comparable to what the skid row bums finds in the garbage cans – they consume it and they compound their problems with food poisoning. Jesus recognized that people have spiritual hunger and He taught “truth” to the people who came to Him. What does it take to be successful in meeting needs?
See the Need – 6:5-7
5 Therefore Jesus, lifting up His eyes and seeing that a large crowd was coming to Him, said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these may eat?” 6 This He was saying to test him, for He Himself knew what He was intending to do. 7 Philip answered Him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, for everyone to receive a little.” John 6:5-7 (NASB95)
This event was almost a year later in the ministry of Jesus following the healing of the man at the pool in Jerusalem. In the meantime, word had spread among the people and large crowds would come to hear and to find healing. During this intervening period Jesus had sent the disciples out (in pairs) to minister to others in the various cities and they had returned (see Mark 6 and Luke 9). Another significant event had occurred just before this trip to the mountains and that was the death of John the Baptist (see Matthew 14). We see from Mark’s account (chapter 6) that the pressing opportunities (demands) of the crowds were such that Jesus and His disciples did not have time to eat. We find a lesson for life in what Jesus did in taking Himself and His disciples out of the intense, demanding situation and getting away from it to find a time to rest.
Jesus picked His times and the circumstances. He could have gone into Jerusalem and condemned Herod for the terrible act of killing John the Baptist; however, the timing was not right. Instead, He sought solitude and withdrew to be alone. When we encounter evil in our present world, the best approach may be via the prayer closet rather than the picket line.