Greetings in Christ!
This week we come to John’s account of Jesus feeding the five thousand. This miracle can be found in all four Gospels. There must be some deep spiritual truths embedded into this story for each of the Gospel writers to have included it. Only John, however, mentions a certain detail not found in the other three Gospels.
Father, give us understanding as we read thy word, in Jesus’ name. Amen.
1 After these things Jesus went over the sea of Galilee, which is the sea of Tiberias.
2 And a great multitude followed him, because they saw his miracles which he did on them that were diseased.
3 And Jesus went up into a mountain, and there he sat with his disciples.
4 And the passover, a feast of the Jews, was nigh.
5 ¶ When Jesus then lifted up his eyes, and saw a great company come unto him, he saith unto Philip, Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat?
6 And this he said to prove him: for he himself knew what he would do.
7 Philip answered him, Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may take a little.
8 One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, saith unto him,
9 There is a lad here, which hath five barley loaves, and two small fishes: but what are they among so many?
Whenever we see Andrew in John’s Gospel, he is always bringing people to Jesus. (John 1:40-42; 12:20-22)
Only John mentions the little boy who made this miracle possible. While the disciples were fussing about the futility of the situation (cf Mark 6:36), a lad comes forward to offer his sack lunch. Now Jesus has someone He can work with. Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.
10 And Jesus said, Make the men sit down. Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand.
11 And Jesus took the loaves; and when he had given thanks, he distributed to the disciples, and the disciples to them that were set down; and likewise of the fishes as much as they would.
12 When they were filled, he said unto his disciples, Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost.
13 Therefore they gathered them together, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves, which remained over and above unto them that had eaten.
14 Then those men, when they had seen the miracle that Jesus did, said, This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world.
15 ¶ When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take him by force, to make him a king, he departed again into a mountain himself alone.
Faced with the same situation as that little boy, many would have simply kept their lunch for themselves without any thought of sharing. But by giving it away, he turned his sack lunch into an all-you-can-eat buffet — and not just for himself.
John only mentions the loaves when he tells us about the leftovers from the multiplication. As we have seen already in previous chapters, John has a way of drawing out the object lessons that Jesus built into his miracles throughout his three to three-and-a-half-year ministry. In the Bible, bread is a type of the word of God. (Matt 4:4 et al) According to the law of expositional constancy, the bread that Jesus multiplied is a picture of the word of God, and how it is multiplied when you give it away. From the beginning of his Gospel, John has focused on the multifaceted aspects of the word, in all of its splendor and majesty. He therefore emphasizes the loaves. A long time ago, I was told that whenever you give out the gospel somebody always responds. Over the years I have found that to be true. God’s word multiplies when you give it away.
Consider the case of William Carey. Despite many voices telling him not to go, Carey left for India in 1793. As a cobbler with no formal education, Carey translated the entire Bible into seven different Indian languages. He translated portions of the Bible into twenty-eight other languages. His work is still bearing fruit today. In India, I met Dalits who were educated and led productive lives. One of them told me that if it were not for William Carey, he would have been a poor man who spent his days sweeping the streets with a broom and who was shunned by society. There is a lot of talk these days about different investments that pay high returns, but however much money you make in this world, ultimately it is only wood, hay, and stubble. It is going to burn. If you want to invest in something that will pay dividends for eternity, give away the word of God. See, not only was it important to collect the fragments of the loaves, as the word of God is precious, but the fish too. (Mark 6:43) According to the law of expositional constancy, the fish represent the new Christians that multiply by giving out the word. (Matt 4:19)
…..And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith.
…..Then had the churches rest throughout all Judaea and Galilee and Samaria, and were edified; and walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied.
…..But the word of God grew and multiplied.
…..And so were the churches established in the faith, and increased in number daily.
When Jesus helped the disciples with a catch of fish after his resurrection, He had them count the fish. (John 21) Here, He has them collect the leftover fish. Every soul you lead to Christ is precious and it is your responsibility to pray for them and disciple them if possible. You never know how much of an impact you can have on their lives. Consider this entry from a journal I kept while I was in Zimbabwe:
Monday, January 7, 2002
…..I ran into a young lady today who received one of my letters. A while back we had 43 people respond to an altar call after the noontime Bible study so I had them pass around a spiral notebook and write their names and addresses down. A few days later I drafted a follow-up letter to encourage them in their decisions. Lazarus, Milton, and I spent an afternoon writing copies of the letter for everyone who gave me their contact information. After we were done I signed the letters and we sent them off in the mail. I wondered about what kind of an impact those letters made. This young lady was actually carrying her letter around with her. She said she had read it over and over and over.
Father, help each of us to have the faith of a child, to step out in faith and do whatever it is You have called us to do, that we may bear fruit for your Son. We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.