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Saturday, December 6, 2014

Feeding the 5,000 – New Food John 6:1-15

Jesus has just learned of the beheading of John the Baptist. The forerunner who pointed to Christ is now gone from the earth.  John the Baptist represents the Law that points to Christ.  John the Baptist was the last prophet under the Older Testament. Jesus will now be the spokesperson for God.  The old has passed away; the new has come!

Jesus retreats to a mountain with His disciples to rest. Jesus often went to a high place to pray to His Heavenly Father and to teach His disciples. Jesus is continually taking us higher. Jesus wants us to get alone with Him in quiet, rest and peace, so He can teach us.

This miracle took place at the time of the Feast of Passover and Unleavened Bread which is in springtime -- the time of “sacrifice (Passover) and new life.” The feeding of the 5,000 and the first and second appearances of the risen Christ are the only two miracles that are in all four Gospels. Why? Jesus is the eternal Bread of Life and the eternal Resurrection and the Life for all.

Jesus is traveling eastward toward Jerusalem for the Feast of Passover and Unleavened Bread. Jesus had to do all that the Law required while He was on earth to fulfill it once-for-all. He sees a crowd coming. There were 5,000 men as well as women and children. The total could have been 15,000 – 20,000 people. These were probably Jews also on their way to the Feast in Jerusalem. This crowd didn't really believe in Jesus. They were after Him for what He could do for them. In spite of this, Jesus still loved them and met their need. Matthew 14:14 says that Jesus “was moved with compassion for them.” And Mark 6:34 says He “was moved with compassion for them because they were like sheep without a Shepherd. So He began to teach them many things.” Being all-knowing, Jesus saw not only their physical hunger and need, but also their spiritual hunger and need of Him-- the Good Shepherd. Jesus wants to satisfy their physical hunger but, more importantly, He wants them to know that He is the Bread of Life who can satisfy their spiritual hunger. Those who do not know Jesus are like sheep without a Shepherd (guide and leader who feeds and cares for them and wants to protect them).

The first suggestion of the disciples in Matthew 14:15 was “send them away.” In other words, “get rid of the problem.” In Luke 9, Jesus tells His disciples to give them something to eat knowing full well that this would be impossible without Him. We must first receive truth from Jesus. Then we are to share it with the lost and those who are spiritually hungry. We can only give what we receive from Jesus.

In John, Jesus uses the scant provision of a lad's lunch to feed the crowd. Jesus will use this earthly circumstance to teach His disciples about faith and supernatural provision.

Philip

Even though Jesus knew what He was going to do, He asks Philip to test his faith in Him, “Where can we buy bread for these people to eat?” v5 The True Bread of Heaven cannot be bought! It is a free gift of God that must be received. Jesus will do in the “natural” what He will soon do in the “supernatural.” After His death, resurrection and ascension to the Father, the Supreme Teacher Jesus will feed the multitudes with the Word of God in the hearts and mouths of His disciples. Jesus will use the miracle of the multiplication of the earthly bread to show that He is the Great Multiplier and the Bread of life – spiritual life. In the “natural” (our flesh), we can do nothing. (see John 15:5) When Jesus is brought into a situation, He does the impossible.

Philip saw their physical hunger but Jesus saw both their physical and spiritual hunger. Philip responded, “Eight months' wages would not buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!” v7 “How could we possibly meet the needs of this great number?” Money wasn't the answer! Philip saw the vastness and the impossibility of the problem. They were in a desolate place and the need was great. Philip was looking with “natural” eyes. Philip counted the cost and knew it was impossible for men to do. Man's deficiency is Jesus' sufficiency! Jesus will use this circumstance to teach Philip and Andrew His ability versus man's ability. He will also reveal His multiplying power to all present. Today and throughout the generations, Jesus feeds the multitudes with the spiritual bread of His Word through the mouths of His disciples. Believers are now Christ's mouth and hands. Like Philip, we must count the cost of feeding the hunger of the multitudes with His spiritual food. Jesus doesn't want us to teach His Bread falsely which would lead the lost or His flock astray. Jesus is the Good, Chief and Great Shepherd. (see John 10:11-14; 1 Peter 5:4; Hebrews 13:20) As His underlings, we are to teach the Truth and love others with the same willingness, love, compassion and grace that He did.

Andrew

Philip had no faith and probably threw his hands up in despair, but Andrew had a little faith. Andrew at least looked around to see who had food that they could share. He found a young lad with five small barley loaves and two small fish, “but how far will they go among so many?” v 9 Barley is the grain of the poor. In the spiritual, it would be the poor in spirit. The barley harvest is associated with the Feast of Passover when the lamb is slain for the atonement for sin. Jesus came the first time to fulfill the barley harvest and the atonement for sin. The wheat harvest is associated with the Feast of Tabernacles. Jesus will come a second time to gather the wheat harvest (godly ones) and fulfill the Feast of Tabernacles. The true Tabernacle of God – Jesus – will be with mankind for all eternity.

The Lad

In the other gospels, the lad is not mentioned. Here in John he is revealed as a young lad. Because the Gospel of John is about Jesus as the Son of God, things are revealed in it. It would be a child who provided the provision of bread and fish! As a lad, Jesus – the Living Bread – was teaching in His Father's house feeding those present in the synagogue. Jesus wants His followers to have childlike faith.

This young man willingly surrendered all he had to Jesus to feed this multitude. He isn't even mentioned by name but his willing and generous act is recorded in the Word of God and read throughout the generations. God can take a humble, unknown servant and do great things through him or her for His glory. This young man is a perfect example of this. All we must do is offer our time, talents, spiritual gifts, money and ourselves as a living sacrifice to God. Jesus will do the rest. This young man's childlike faith would bless the multitudes. Andrew's seeking and this young lad's generosity would bring the miracle. Andrew did what he could and sought a solution, but also saw the smallness of the resources. Little is much in the hands of Jesus. Jesus will use Andrew's little faith and the lad's small provision to feed the multitudes. Jesus will do the same with those who love and follow Him. He tells us that if we have faith as small as a mustard seed, nothing is impossible. (see Matthew 17:20)

Five Small Barley Loaves and Two Small Fish

There is a spiritual message in the provisions given by the lad. Five is the number of grace and two is the number of truth (two testaments; two witnesses of Jesus; agreement). The number two is double-edged. It can also mean division and/or separation. Together the two numbers (5 and 2) add up to 7, the number of spiritual perfection and completion. The spiritual message hidden within the story of the five loaves and two fish is Jesus feeds the multitudes with His Grace and Truth, and multiplies it through the mouths and hands of His disciples. It is Grace and Truth that will bring us to spiritual completion and perfection.

First the gift of the 5 barley loaves and 2 fish must be given to Jesus. Matthew 14:18: “Bring them here to me.” All that we have is given to us by the Godhead. Therefore, any gift or provision we might have belong to the Godhead for their use. The bread and fish (meat) in Jesus' hand was multiplied and fed the multitude. As all present ate of the same food in this desolate place, all who love and follow Jesus eat from the same food – the Bread and Meat of His Anointed Word. Here in John, Jesus distributed the food. We must first receive the truth (bread of heaven) from Jesus and the Holy Spirit; then we are to distribute it to others for spiritual life.

                                            (continued next week)

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