“Where’s the closest Wal-Mart?”
That might as well be the modern equivalent of what Jesus asked Philip at the start of the famed story of Jesus feeding 5,000. Jesus is concerned about immediate need of this large group and he lays out this “test” for Philip. Maybe, Jesus, knowing what’s about to happen, is just having a little fun with one of his disciples before the big reveal. Honestly, Jesus has to have the greatest sense of humor ever created.
Philip’s response is basically, “Jesus, we don’t have enough money to solve this problem.”
Money, money, money. The lack of it is often the tombstone of so many “ministries.” We don’t have enough money to do that, sorry. Philip even points out that if they worked for a year that they still wouldn’t have enough money to solve the problem.
Another disciple, Andrew, has been working to solve this himself and he comes up with a possible solution. There’s a young man in the crowd who has five little loaves of bread and two fish. Maybe in modern terms, he has five biscuits and two fish sticks.
Now, here’s a question to ponder: Is this seriously all of the food that 5,000-plus people have among them? Honestly, there’s got to be at least one parent with a granola bar or some Goldfish to feed the kids! There are even some who speculate that the miracle in this story was that Jesus is able to get everyone to share what they already have and, with a little divine intervention, lunch is served. I wasn’t there and I can’t answer to those particulars so I’ll go with what John writes.
When Jesus moves from asking the question to providing the answer, he lays out a series of steps for people to follow. Those steps are:
- He tells them to sit down (John 6:10). In his first act, Jesus tells everybody to find a spot and take a seat. In other words, everyone chill out and let me get this. What about us? When we have a problem, maybe, before we take any action, the first thing we need to do is sit down. Chill out for a moment. Think it through. That’s what Jesus gives this group.
- Give thanks for what you have (John 6:11) . In addressing this problem of feeding 5,000-plus, Jesus thanks God for what he already has in hand. Notice, it’s not a prayer about what he’s lacking. Jesus thanks God for five biscuits and two fish sticks. Maybe, Jesus is saying to us that we need to think about what we already have in hand before we start trying to fill in the gaps. have before you worry about what you don’t. Take inventory of what’s already available to you and thank God for it.
- Use what is available to you (John 6:11). In taking on this lunch dilemma, Jesus takes what he already has — five biscuits and two fish — and starts feeding people. Now, in our minds, that little bit of food isn’t going to go very far and, maybe, that’s the point of having faith. If I know that I have everything I need to address some concern — such as feeding those who are hungry — then where is my faith and trust in God? Francis Chan, in his book “Crazy Love,” points out that many churches don’t leave space for God (The Holy Spirit) to work. We want everything in place before we begin. We have contingencies in place if it doesn’t work. And the question is, “Where do we leave room for God to work?” Jesus does leave room for God and the miracle happens.
- Make use of the leftovers. After Jesus hands out the food and all of the people have eaten their fill, he sends his disciples out to collect the leftovers. Each disciple comes back with a full basket of food. Somehow, someway, this situation turns from one of having next to nothing to eat and turns into a situation of an excess of food. The leftovers become that “extra” on top of everything and the leftovers remind us that God delivers in extravagant ways. When God works in our lives, usually exceeding our expectations, then what are we doing with what’s left? When someone unexpectedly answers our prayer, then what do we do with what’s leftover?
Those are all great points about the story, but here’s a question to think about as this post concludes. Who is the story really about? There are many candidates in this passage and, maybe, it’s about more than one.
- Jesus. It’s like Sunday School where Jesus is the answer to everything. This passage does show some things about Jesus. He’s kind, compassionate, funny and he’s not above putting on a faith lesson in front of a large crowd.
- The Disciples. In this case, Jesus is asking Philip, “How are we going to feed them? For Philip, there’s serious doubt and there’s not enough money to solve the problem. Then, Andrew is taking a kid’s lunch. Yet, in the story, they do follow the commands of Jesus to help feed the people.
- The people. More than 5,000 people follow Jesus into the wilderness away from town and sources of food. What would it take for you and your family to drop everything to go find the person everyone is talking about? The crowd is looking for something.
- The boy. This child makes the biggest sacrifice in the story — giving up five biscuits and two fish sticks. Ever try taking a lunch away from a child? It’s a big deal. But this sacrifice, made in the backdrop of faith, leads to even more than the child had in the first place.
- God. Ultimately, this points to the nature of God. God who blesses those who have faith and gives them more than they thought they had. God shows compassion, mercy and he does it in an over-the-top way.
- You. Let’s face it. We all like to read ourselves into a Bible story. Who do you play in this story? Where would you have been?
That’s where this story ends. There’s not a Wal-Mart close by. There’s not enough money to buy everyone lunch. There’s not enough food available to feed everyone. There’s only five biscuits and two fish sticks. Yet, God finds a way to work through the situation, to solve the problem and to give more than was needed.
If God can do that, then what can he do for us? Sit down, think about it, take stock of what God has given you, thank God for it, put it to work and let God fill in the rest.
This website, Reignite My Story, is ultimately about the journey of its writer in the ups and downs of following God. Sometimes, folks in Christian circles say it this way, “I’m just a sinner saved by grace” and I’m on a journey to find out what grace is really all about.