Feeding the Five Billion: John 6:1-15

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When we read through the gospels and compare them with one another, John’s gospel seems to stand alone in how it describes Jesus. While all four gospels focus on Jesus as the Messiah who God sent into the world, and while all four gospels describe Jesus’ crucifixion, Matthew, Mark, and Luke take a similar approach to Jesus’ life, and there is a lot of overlap in the events they describe.

In some cases, the events in each of these three gospels might be the same event, but in other cases, they each may have chosen similar but unique events to include. However, John’s gospel seems to share a unique series of events. Aside from the crucifixion conclusion, which is also shared from a unique angle, John’s gospel rarely overlaps events found in the other gospels.

But our passage and event for this week is one of those rare exceptions. While I am use to saying an event is found in two or three of the gospels, our event for this week is found in all four of the gospels. Since John includes a couple additional details, let’s look at how He describes what took place one day during Jesus’ ministry.

The event we are focusing on can be found in the gospel of John, chapter 6, and we will be reading from the New American Standard Bible translation. Starting in verse one, John tells us:

1 After these things Jesus went away to the other side of the Sea of Galilee (or Tiberias). 2 A large crowd followed Him, because they saw the signs which He was performing on those who were sick. 3 Then Jesus went up on the mountain, and there He sat down with His disciples. 4 Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was near. 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.”

Let’s pause reading here for a moment. Jesus is very observant to what is happening around Him, and He senses a teaching moment for the disciples. While He directly asks Philip the question about bread, Jesus probably could have asked this question to any of the twelve disciples. Maybe Philip knew this part of the countryside better than the other disciples, or perhaps they were all in an unfamiliar location.

It is interesting to note that Jesus asks His question looking for a place, and Philip response is that a place to find bread is not as significant as simply coming up with the amount of money needed to purchase enough bread.

However, another one of the disciples, on hearing the question, catches this nuance, and he chooses to answer with a place that has some bread, but even he is doubtful in his response. Continuing in verse 8:

8 One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to Him, 9 “There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are these for so many people?” 

Pausing again, while Andrew understood that Jesus was looking for bread, even he understood that that five loaves and two fish wouldn’t satisfy the hunger of 5 people, let alone 5 thousand men, in a crowd that also had plenty of women and children in it as well.

However, Andrew did answer with a place, and with the gift of a child, let’s read about what happens next. Picking back up in verse 10:

10 Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand. 11 Jesus then took the loaves, and having given thanks, He distributed to those who were seated; likewise also of the fish as much as they wanted. 12 When they were filled, He said to His disciples, “Gather up the leftover fragments so that nothing will be lost.” 13 So they gathered them up, and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves which were left over by those who had eaten.

Let’s stop reading here and draw our attention to the lesson Jesus wanted the disciples to learn. In this event, the size of what we have is less relevant than the power of God to exponentially multiply what we are willing to give to Him.

In this event, the small gift came from outside of the circle of disciples, and God used it in a powerful way. We can learn from this event to not discount any gift given to God, and to ignore the size of it. We could also frame this event as what happens when a child gives up his entire meal so that Jesus has something to eat. This child didn’t have an extra loaf or two in his back pocket and only gave Jesus part of what he had. In God’s eyes, giving up an entire meal to help one other person was just the faith God could use to bless a crowd that might have exceeded 10,000 people.

Using this ratio and applying it to what God accomplished through Jesus, one perfect life that was sacrificed was able to cover all of humanity’s sin. The feeding of the 5,000 is really an event that echoes what God was doing through Jesus on a much smaller scale.

From the disciples’ frame of reference, the gift of a little food was given to them from an outside source, and God used it to bless thousands. From our frame of reference as members of humanity, the gift of Jesus came from an outside Source, and through Jesus, God is actively saving people each and every day, and giving those who choose Jesus a new life with Him.

Through Jesus, God has made the way for the over 5 billion men, women, and children who have lived at every point in history the option of a new life with Him. Jesus’ life is a sacrifice given to humanity similar to that unselfish child’s gift of a lunch – and when a gift is given like this, God is able to use it to do great things!

As we come to the end of another podcast episode, here are the challenges I want to leave you with:

Continue seeking and moving towards God in your life. If you haven’t done so already, accept Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross as a substitute for your sins, mistakes, and your rebellion, and trust in Him for your salvation.

Also, intentionally study the Bible for yourself to learn more about God, more about Jesus, and more about what He has done for you and for me.

And as I end every set of challenges by saying in one way or another, never stop short or chicken out of where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Season 3 – Episode 18: Cam discusses the feeding of the 5,000 and some things we can learn about Jesus, God, and salvation from this event.

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