In John 5 we see that Jesus is in Jerusalem for a feast of the Jews. It may have been Passover, but we are not certain what feast they were attending. There were large crowds who had come to worship. Jesus saw a man by the pool of Bethesda, and healed him, telling him to “Get up, pick up your pallet and walk.” Which he did. Jewish officials upbraided the man for carrying his pallet on the Sabbath. When they learned Jesus had healed the man, the Jews were persecuting Jesus and intensified their efforts to kill Him. He responded “My Father is working until and I myself am working.” If Jesus wanted to cause a controversy, he certainly succeeded. Not only was he breaking the Sabbath by healing the man, he was also being blasphemous by making himself equal with God. His Father.
I cover that background to set the stage. Jesus had been with people all day long, mingling, healing, probably listening to the crowds. So we see in Chapter 6 that Jesus sought some down time as He went away to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. So much for that idea as we are told that a large crowd was following Him, watching to see Him perform miracles.
Take Time for People. That brings me to the first lesson I see in this passage. Jesus took time for people. He was tired, he wanted some time alone to rest and recharge. But that wasn’t happening. He became concerned for the physical needs of the crowd, He asked Philip where they could get food to provide a meal for them. I had a pastor friend who frequently counseled individuals. I called on him once and we talked for a while, I found his advice helpful. As he was leaving he confessed to me that when I asked to talk with him, he was exhausted. But God had something else in mind. He told me that when he counsels someone and sees results, he is energized. God energized him to enable him to help me.
Look Up for a God Solution. Secondly, we need to raise our perspective. Philip was seeing the problem through human eyes. He was not factoring in the ability of God to provide. We serve a mighty God. In Philippians 4:19 we read “And my God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” Nothing is impossible with God but I would draw your attention to the word “needs.” When we come to God in prayer, we need to distinguish between needs, wants, and desires. I may desire a brand new $100,000 sports car. I don’t expect God to provide that, but He could. I may want a nice sedan. I don’t expect God to provide that, but He could. I need transportation to get around. If it is a true need, God will make a way. He could provide a car, a friend to drive me, or other solutions. He provides our needs, but not always as we anticipate.
Give to God. Third, we need to make available to God whatever we have. After my wife, Gloria, passed away, I was trying to sell her handicapped van that I used to transport her. It was old, and not in great condition. I knew I couldn’t get what I wanted for it but the more, the better, right? A missionary on home assignment was interested in the van for his handicapped daughter. He came out to look at it and told me that $3,500 was all he could give me at that time. If I wanted more, we would have to work out a payment plan. Amazingly, God spoke to me at that moment and I said to the missionary, “I’ll take $2,500.” Those who know me know that is not in my nature. My kids were flabbergasted when I told them. But this family had a need that God could fulfill through me. As it turned out, more people were helped. When the missionary and his family returned to Thailand, he gave the van to a church group who totally rehabbed it and provided transportation to another family needing such a van.
How many loaves and fish? Scripture says that Andrew told Jesus “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what are these for so many people?” Now we are getting somewhere. The disciples have looked to see what resources are available. Unfortunately, that was not enough to feed the multitudes. And the disciples are still short-sighted. One step at a time.
The Bible does not say, but I have often wondered if there were others in the crowd who had food and were unwilling to share. After all, many of these people are on a journey. Wouldn’t we expect them to travel prepared – bringing food with them? I wonder how many people had food but kept it to themselves. Just like the disciples, they may have been short-sighted, looking out only for their own needs. But there was a boy who shared his five loaves and two fish. Being a small child, no one thought he mattered but he was willing. We never know which little person God will use, and how he will use them.
The rest of the story is well-known. Jesus turned the five loaves and two fish into an abundant meal for those who were there. Jesus told the disciples to gather up the leftovers so that nothing would be lost. The disciples gathered up 12 baskets of the leftovers. I wonder if the 12 baskets were not eaten because others brought their own food.
While this passage shows us that Jesus cares for our physical needs, it also leads people to Jesus “Therefore when the people saw the sign which He had performed, they said, ‘This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world.’” He cares for our spiritual needs into all eternity.
Several years ago Casting Crowns recorded a worship song “If We are the Body.” In part, the lyrics read”
But if we are the body
Why aren’t his arms reaching?
Why aren’t his hands healing?
Why aren’t his words teaching?
And if we are the body
Why aren’t his feet going?
Why is his love not showing them there is a way
Jesus paid much too high a price
For us to pick and choose who should come
And we are the body of Christ.
What do you have that God can use? Have you given it to Him?
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