Updated: Dec 19, 2020

This morning I read the words of a familiar but amazing story, the story of the feeding of the five thousand. While I have heard this story many times, as may be true for you, God's Word challenged me in new ways this morning that I want to share with you. I invite you to read along...

John 6 New King James Version Feeding the Five Thousand 1After these things Jesus went over the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tiberias. 2Then a great multitude followed Him, because they saw His signs which He performed on those who were diseased. 3And Jesus went up on the mountain, and there He sat with His disciples. 4Now the Passover, a feast of the Jews, was near. 5Then 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?” 6But this He said to test him, for He Himself knew what He would do. 7Philip answered Him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may have a little.” 8One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to Him, 9“There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two small fish, but what are they among so many?” 10Then Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand. 11And Jesus took the loaves, and when He had given thanks He distributed them to the disciples, and the disciples to those sitting down; and likewise of the fish, as much as they wanted. 12So when they were filled, He said to His disciples, “Gather up the fragments that remain, so that nothing is lost.” 13Therefore they gathered them up, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves which were left over by those who had eaten. 14Then those men, when they had seen the sign that Jesus did, said, “This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world.”

The words of verse 6 struck me anew this morning. Jesus asks Philip, "Where should we buy bread to feed all of these people, Philip?" The scripture then reveals to us what Philip didn't get to hear. It tells us that Jesus asked Him this to test Him, He already knew what He would do. I love this. I relate to this exchange as it plays out between me and my kids. Maybe we're out for a fun day and my husband and I have already planned to stop and get lunch out as a treat to the kids, unbeknownst to them. We may bait them a little, asking, "Well guys, what do you think we should get for lunch? Should we head back home and make some sandwiches?" We already know we have something more in-store, but we throw out the question nonetheless to make it all the sweeter when we reveal the surprise. I wonder if Jesus had a little twinkle in His eye when He asked the question. He already knew what He had in store, but He was asking, "Do you believe I can provide for them?"

I was challenged this morning by three responses I saw in this story: the response of Philip, the response of Andrew, and the response of the boy.

Philip answered practically. He basically says, "It would cost a ton of money for everyone to have even a tiny bit, we can't afford to buy bread for all of these people." Philip's response was, "We don't have enough."

Next came the response of Andrew. In my own paraphrase, he says, "There is a kid here who has a little bit of bread and a few fish, but what can that do? It won't make a dent in feeding these people." Andrew's response was, "What we do have is so little it won't make a difference."

Both Philip and Andrew see the situation for what it is, not suggesting or expecting divine intervention. We know the disciples had seen Jesus perform miracles, verse 2 tells us that the crowd was following Jesus because they'd just seen Him heal the sick. And yet neither Philip nor Andrew suggested that Jesus provide bread for the people. Why? Did they not want to presume? Did they not think that the same one who healed the sick could provide bread to the masses? Or were they just so used to thinking practically that it was not a pattern of their thinking to look to Jesus to provide?

I can find myself responding to circumstances like both Philip and Andrew. How easy it is for me to feel a stirring of excitement over a new idea, to begin to dream of some big way of helping others or plugging in with a great cause. Yet within minutes, right on the heels of the dream, come the same old lies. It may be, "I don't have enough (fill in the blank)"...time, talent, ability, resources. I am not enough to fulfill that dream, and so it instantly fades. Or similarly, in creeps, "What little I do have will not make a difference." My heart is stirred for those living in poverty, for those who have been involved in human trafficking, for those lost, hurting, alone, and afraid, for my neighbors and friends who need to know about Jesus. God begins to churn in me a desire to do something, and then, like the seed that falls on the rocky path, the seed is plucked up when I listen to the thoughts that say, "What difference can I make? I am too small, too insignificant in the face of this big problem. What will my small donation do? What can I do, I am a mom with three kids, I can't GO, I can't do anything significant." Like Philip and Andrew, I look at the circumstances and see them for what they are practically. Yes, they are big, too big. And yet, like was true in the feeding of the five thousand, there is more to the story than what we can see, more to it than what we can do. I forget to expect, to suggest, to ask for Jesus' intervention. Even though I know Jesus can do anything, I know He can make the little much, I know He is the great Provider, I get caught in my old thinking and I FORGET. Still, I am encouraged that even though the disciples didn't ask Jesus to provide bread, they still got to be witness to and participant in the miracle that Jesus did. It says later that after Jesus gave thanks, He distributed the bread and the fish to the disciples to distribute to the people, as much as they wanted. Jesus didn’t chide Philip and Andrew, He used them. Thanks be to God that even though I can be nearsighted and struck by spiritual amnesia at times, stuck in my old habits and old ways of thinking, God does not count me out or leave me out. He continues to move in and through me, to make my mind new, to change old ways to new ways in Christ. (2 Corinthians 5:17, Romans 12:2) Jesus continues to intervene, and it is His intervention in my "little" and "not enough" that makes all the difference.

Finally, we come to the boy. The boy is not actually in this story, but we are told that it was "a lad" whose lunch Andrew said would be too little. What strikes me about the boy is that he gave all that he had to Jesus. Jesus did not tell him what He would do, but the boy clearly trusted Jesus as he gave it all to Him. I was struck by the thought, "How many loaves would I have given to Jesus?" Would I have given 1, 2, 3, even 4 but kept one for myself "just in case?" Or would I have given it all to Him, letting go of any backup plan? What does it look like today to offer all that I have to Jesus without holding just a little back for myself, just in case? The boy could have said it wasn't much to offer. That is wasn't enough. That it wouldn't make a difference. He could have kept some. But He put it all in Jesus' hands, and it was multiplied into far more than it could have ever been if not fully given.

As I engage with this story, I am challenged to offer all that I have to Jesus. That which may feel small and insignificant, that may feel "not enough", to offer it willingly, fully, and freely to the One who is the ultimate provider, the One who can make my little enough that all might be filled. May He use me, may He use us, for something far greater than we could ever be otherwise. May we look to Jesus as the provider, the miracle worker, the God for which nothing is impossible. May we remember to ask, to suggest, to expect that Jesus is willing to intervene in our circumstances, big and small. And may we glorify Him as we see the great and miraculous things He will do, and come to know and trust Him more as Provider.

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