Summary: How Christ’s miracle of feeding the 5,000 teaches you where to find the means to live by when your resources are running low.
We’re in the series on the seven conversations with Jesus that preceded His "sign" miracles in John’s Good News account.
The setting for this week’s conversation between Christ and his disciples and the performance of his miracle is simple. Thousands of people had been listening to Christ’s teaching for days. He had tried to get into the wilderness for some rest but they kept following him. Now they’re all out in the boondocks with no groceries! Everyone is starving. Demand was high but supply was low. Kind of like our current high-cost-of-gasoline woes.
Before the people perish with hunger Jesus takes matters into his own hands. GOD ALWAYS HAS A PLAN! Nothing ever catches him by surprise. We’ve seen some wrangling over the response to Hurricane Katrina the last couple of weeks. Was the response plan a good one? Did everyone follow it? A lot of people were concerned that local, state and federal authorities didn’t repond quickly enough. But no one will ever be able to point a finger of blame at God for not having a good plan. No one will ever be able to say that he didn’t initiate his plan on time.
This conversation between Jesus and his disciples reveals a wonderful plan. And the good news is not just for the hungry multitude in Jesus’ day! The plan is for you!
MEANS TO LIVE BY WHEN YOUR RESOURCES ARE RUNNING LOW:
1. BE A GOOD MANAGER, EVEN IF ITS ONLY WITH A SMALL AMOUNT.
While Jesus had a plan, the disciples had been caught unprepared.
We can at least give some credit to Andrew. He was often finding people and bringing them to Jesus. In this case Andrew said to Jesus, "There’s a young boy here with five barley loaves and two fish. But what good is that with this huge crowd?" (Verse 8)
Andrew’s comment seems somewhat resigned to futility. "What good is such a small amount with such a huge need?" Ever felt that way? You look at your need and look at your resources and they just don’t balance out? What do you do when that happens?
Jesus intentionally used a small amount to authenticate his miracle. A young boy - a small lunch. You don’t have to be a big shot for God to use you. You don’t have to have a gazillion dollars! Just be available! God is big even if your resources aren’t!
Put in historical context, the "loaves" were more like pancakes and the fish were probably pickled and more like a relish you would put on the bread. What good would that be to this huge crowd? You could probably make about five people a snack with this resource. But there were a thousand times five to feed - and that’s just counting the men! (Verse 10) With women and children present (and we know they were present because of the mention of this little boy with his food) the crowd could have swelled anywhere from ten to twenty five thousand!
Before implementing his plan Jesus initiated another of his problem-solving conversations with his disciples by using another of his thought-provoking questions: "Philip, where can we buy bread to feed all these people?" (Verse 5) John comments: "He was testing Philip, for he already knew what he was going to do." (Verse 6)
Why was Philip the disciple to be tested with the question? Perhaps because from Philip’s answer we see that he especially needed to witness this miracle. Verse 7 - Philip replied, "It would take a small fortune to feed them!" Maybe he was just representative of all of the rest of the disciples and all of us.
Philip did the math. He calculated that it would take about two-thirds of a year’s wages to buy enough food to feed this multitude of people. He was very sure of what could NOT be done but he had no vision of what could be done.
Sometimes God allows our resources to subside in order to test and consequently increase our level of trust in him. When your resources are running low you need to learn to stop putting your trust in material provisions and learn to put it in God. You need to learn that life is not just numbers. Life is trusting God for your resources - realizing that every resource comes from the hand of God in the first place.
Concurrently, you need to wisely oversee the resources God has already given you - even if the resources you have don’t seem to you to be enough.
Five "barley" loaves means they weren’t the "name brand" - they weren’t "wheat" loaves - they were the less expensive, less desirable bread made from a cheaper grain. This signifies that the boy probably came from a humble home. Jesus used this boy and his meager fare to prove an essential truth: little is much IF God is in it!