Feeding the 5,000

Introduction: Critics have often tried to portray the apostles of Jesus as mindless followers who would accept anything Jesus said and did. Many times these men are depicted as delusional crackpots who simply desired a Messiah so badly that they would follow anyone who made the claim to be king of the Jews and made up the stories to substantiate their claims.

  • Although the apostles were no perfect people they were men of extraordinary conviction and reasoning. They were not gullible idiots, but men who considered the teaching of Christ seriously. They became the fearless proclaimers that we see in the book of Acts through the preparation of Jesus ministry. He was willing to test their faith in the “everyday” experiences they shared.
  • At times, the very thing that provided the incontrovertible evidence was also the test. Jesus’ miracles were often performed in the context of a test of faith, the very thing they were to create.
  • Consider the event of John 6:1-14

I. Feeding the 5,000 – All 4 gospels record Jesus’ miracle of feeding the 5,000 on the shoreline of the Seas of Galilee. (Also found in Matthew 14, Mark 6, Luke 9) Jesus and his apostles have crossed the Sea of Galilee. Jesus’ miracles had reaped an enormous benefit by this time – many were following Him (v. 2) When they land on shore they see a large crowd coming toward them. Jesus has compassion on them and began to heal the sick.

A. The Test of the Disciples… Matthew 14:15As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, ‘This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food’”. Mark and Luke also indicate that the disciples asked Jesus to send the people away so they could find food elsewhere. Notice His answer: Matt 14:16 “But Jesus said to them, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.” Matthew tells us there are 5,000 men, plus women and children. So there are perhaps 10,000 or more. Philip would have had problem visualizing that task, much less a workable plan.

1. Jesus was testing his apostles. John 6:5-6He said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread, that these may eat?” But this He said to test him, for He Himself knew what He would do. Could they find a solution to this problem?

a. v. 7 – Philip (statistical pessimist) indicates that 200 denarius would not buy enough bread to feed everyone even a little. The most significant way to view this amount is to recognize that it was 200 days wages. Jesus made it clear to the apostles that they did not have the resources to do this. God would have to provide.

b. v. 8-9 – Andrew (trusting optimist) Chiming in along with Philip is Andrew: “One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to Him, ‘ There’s a young boy here with five barley loaves and two small fish. But what good is that with this huge crowd?’ (John 6:8-9). Andrew seems willing to take an inventory, but her still sees the obstacle as insurmountable. Notice that none of the apostles are jumping up declaring that Jesus can perform a miracle. No one sees Jesus as the solution. When a small boy’s lunch – five barley loaves & two fish – is brought before them the conclusion is “What are these among so many?” Luke 9:13 says… And they said, “We have no more than five loaves and two fish, unless we go and buy food for all these people.

B. Jesus Miraculous Solution: Jesus had a plan all along. It should be noted that Jesus’ plan went beyond feeding this hungry crowd. Mark describes Jesus’ compassion for them in Mark 6:34 – And Jesus, when He came out, saw a great multitude and was moved with compassion for them, because they were like sheep not having a shepherd. So He began to teach them many things. His first concern was for their spiritual well-being. They need guidance from God – so he taught them first. Later he upbraids them for seeking him only for the food. But in the course of the time spent teaching, the people became hungry, and Jesus is adverse to feeding them, or even having the disciples feed them. And this provided the opportunity for a confirmation of the lesson in a most memorable way.

1. v. 10 – “make the people sit down” Burton Coffman says that Jesus was calling on the crowd to trust in what was being said. They could not see any evidence of how they were going to be fed. But if they did not sit down, they would not be fed. (v. 11) The other accounts tell us that they sat in groups of 100 and groups of 50.

2. v. 11 – Jesus is not the waiter, but the provider. The disciples serve up what Jesus provides. This is the way the gospel (spiritual bread) is delivered to the world. The apostles trust in Jesus to provide what they will serve. They trust that it will be enough to satisfy everyone.

            • 1 Cor 2:1-5And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. 2 For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. 3 I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. 4 And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.
            • Later the apostles proclaimed that they did not have time to serve tables, because they were giving themselves to the ministry of the word and prayer. (Acts 6:4), serving up the spiritual food
            • Jesus gave thanks: This is clearly an example for us. Why did Jesus need to give thanks for bread that He created and provided? Jesus is fulfilling every aspect of humanity
            • How much did everybody get? What are the limitations on the reception of spiritual blessings from God? Eph 3:20Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think,

C. How did the disciples do in the test? It seems that they failed in at least one important way. They looked only to themselves for the solution.

1. The problem is that Philip is looking only at the physical aspect of the problem. He knows that there is no way for them to feed more than five thousand people. Although unintentionally they impugn Jesus’ ability to provide a solution.

2. They should have realized that Jesus could do anything. We find out that Jesus continued to divide the five loaves and two fish until everyone had eaten, were full, and had twelve baskets full of leftovers. They ended up with more than they started with, even after everyone had eaten.

3. How do we do in this test? We often fail in the same manner as these disciples. We face what seems to be an insurmountable challenge, and we go into our crisis mode: “what are we going to do?” We wring our hands in desperation, “what are we going to do?” We have an issue with money and cannot make ends meet. “What are we going to do?” We have problems with the family and we fret about what we are going to do. We experience health troubles and we worry what we are going to do.

4. It never occurs to us that God already has the solution in mind. We simply need to recognize his ability to do something about our problems.

5. This is not to suggest that God wants us to do nothing about the problems that we face. God used what the disciples brought to Him. But there was no reason to worry. Sometimes we act like God has put these things into our hands to fret about. God is testing us to see what we will do. Will we limit the power of God? Will we think that God cannot deal with the obstacle in front of us? Too often we are merely looking at the physical dilemma and are not seeing that God holds the answers.

II. Failing to Learn from God’s Response: It is interesting to note that this problem arises again. Some time later during the ministry in Galilee great crowds came to Jesus again for healing. The crowds had been following Jesus for three days and Jesus did not want to send them away hungry. The disciples respond, “Where could we get enough bread in this remote place to feed such a crowd?(Matthew 15:33).

A. It is the same problem as before, except one major exception. This time the disciples have a little more food (seven loaves of bread rather five and few fish rather than two) and less people (4,000 not including women and children, rather than 5,000).

B. Did the disciples not remember what happened just a few months previous? It seems incredible that they would have forgotten. Yet they are still not confident enough to express their faith in Jesus’ ability and willingness to respond to the need. “Where could we get enough food?”

1. The question of the disciples may have simply been an affirmation of their own inability to provide without a confession of their confidence in God’s ability to solve. This is a start, but they are in need of more faith. We often wring our hands because we have this incomplete faith.

2. Again Jesus miraculously feeds the multitude in the same manner. Matt 15:37-38So they all ate and were filled, and they took up seven large baskets full of the fragments that were left. 38 Now those who ate were four thousand men, besides women and children.

Conclusion: Mark 8:13-21 – And He left them, and getting into the boat again, departed to the other side. 14 Now the disciples had forgotten to take bread, and they did not have more than one loaf with them in the boat. 15 Then He charged them, saying, “Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.” 16 And they reasoned among themselves, saying, “It is because we have no bread.” 17 But Jesus, being aware of it, said to them, “Why do you reason because you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive nor understand? Is your heart still hardened? 18 Having eyes, do you not see? And having ears, do you not hear? And do you not remember? 19 When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of fragments did you take up?” They said to Him, “Twelve.” 20 “Also, when I broke the seven for the four thousand, how many large baskets full of fragments did you take up?” And they said, “Seven.” 21 So He said to them, “How is it you do not understand?”

  •  So school is still in session, even after 2 profound miracles. How is it that we still do not understand? I am amazed at Jesus’ longsuffering and patient with such a dull bunch!
  •  We have lost the innocent trust of a child to a parent. The child breaks a toy and brings to the Dad. Even if Dad tells the child he cannot fix it, the child responds, “you can fix it, you can fix anything.” God wants us to have that simple trust that realizes he can do it, even if it may not seem so.