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Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Feeding the 5,000 -- John 6:1-15

          Jesus is in Jerusalem because it is the time of the Passover Feast. According to the Law, the Jews are commanded to come to Jerusalem to celebrate three feasts:  Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles. Because Jesus is fulfilling the Law, He must obey all that the Law commands, so He is in Jerusalem for this feast. In this miraculous feeding of the 5,000 plus women and children, Jesus will show His loving concern for humanity and His miraculous provision. This miracle is the only one recorded in all four gospels because it points to Jesus as the Bread of life and his compassion for people. Without the Bread of life -- both the Living Word Jesus and the written Word -- our spiritual life cannot be sustained.
          A great crowd of people followed after Jesus because of His miraculous signs of healing the sick. Jesus went up on a mountainside with His disciples to teach them truth. Jesus sat down with his disciples around him as was the custom of rabbis and their disciples at that time. Notice in the gospel of John, Jesus and His disciples are in a higher place! Often when Jesus wanted to talk with the Father and with His disciples, He would take them to a higher place. Jesus always wants to take us higher into the spiritual realm above the "natural" realm.
        In Luke 9:14, Jesus told His disciples to, "have the crowd sit down in groups of about 50 each."  In Mark, they were organized into groups of one hundred and of fifty. In other words, they are seated in an orderly way -- fixed in their place and ready to receive the bread of life. Let's take a closer look at the numbers involved in this miracle.
  • Five: The number of loaves were five which is the spiritual number of grace. When a 0 is added to any number, it represents a greater measure. So, 50 would represent greater grace and 5,000 represents the fullness of grace through Jesus that feeds the multitudes. 50 also represents jubilee when the Israelites were to sound the trumpet on the Day of Atonement when all debt is set free. Jesus who is the fullness of grace will spiritually feed the multitudes the fullness of Truth. Jesus is also God's atoning sacrifice for sin and the trumpet as the Word of God.
  • Two: There are two fish. Two is the number of agreement and testimony -- the two testaments of the Word -- Truth. (Two witnesses -- Jesus sent His disciples out two by two)
  • Seven:  5 loaves and 2 fish add up to 7 which is the number of spiritual perfection and completion. So, the spiritual message in this miracle of the multiplied bread is Jesus feeds the multitudes with His grace and truth to bring them to perfection and completion. Two is also the number of division. Jesus will separate the sheep from the goats, the wheat from the tares, the holy from the profane. 
  • Ten: The number 10 in scripture spiritually represents Divine order. So, 100 would represent greater order and 10,000 fullness of Divine order.
  • Twelve: There were twelve disciples and twelve baskets. Twelve is the number of Divine Government. There were 12 tribes of Israel and twelve chosen leaders from each tribe who led God's people through the wilderness. In like manner, Jesus chose 12 disciples to begin to establish His Divine government on earth and to reveal the Kingdom of God to others -- both Jew and Gentile.
The Hungry Multitudes
        Philip: When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward Him, he said to Philip, "Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?" He asked this only to test him, for He already had in mind what He was going to do. John 6:5-6 Jesus is going to test Philip's faith. He will use this miracle of multiplying this earthly bread to teach about the provision of His spiritual bread and its multiplication through His people.
         Philip who is looking with "natural" earthly eyes responds, "Eight months wages would not buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!" v7 Although Jesus is in a flesh body in the natural realm, He is always operating in the spiritual realm. Philip counts the cost and sees the impossibility for him to get enough food for this crowd. He calculated the amount of work and money it would take to do so. One denarii was a day's wage, so it would take more than 240 days to get enough money to buy enough bread for this crowd. Philip saw the vastness of those hungering and the smallness of the resources.
          Andrew: Another of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, spoke up, "Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?" v8 Andrew also saw the insufficiency of the available "natural" food, but at least he went in search for any food that might be around and brought it to Jesus in spite of its insufficiency. In our eyes, this provision would seem meager, but in the hands of Jesus, it is much.
Sit Down
          Jesus said, "Have the people sit down. There was plenty of grass in that place, and the men sat down, about five thousand of them. v10 Jesus wants them to relax, be orderly and get prepared for the feast He is about to supply  Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed it to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish. v11  In Matthew, Mark and Luke, Jesus told His disciples to give the multitudes something to eat. Jesus will teach His disciples that without Him they can do nothing. Jesus gave thanks to His heavenly Father for the provision, then broke (rightly-divided it and blessed it. The spiritual Bread of Life -- the Word of God -- must be rightly divided if it is to feed truth to the multitudes. In the spiritual, the Bread of Life Jesus will be broken on the cross so hungry souls will be fed and satisfied.
           Then Jesus gave the bread to His disciples to give to the multitudes. His disciples obeyed Jesus' command. It was in the obedience and the giving that the food was multiplied. In Jesus and with the help of those who love and serve Him, more was produced -- enough to satisfy every person's hunger. They were fed to the full. Jesus could have distributed the food Himself, but He wanted His disciples to understand that He and His disciples will work together to provide the meat and bread of His Word to others. Jesus is still feeding and satisfying people through the bread and meat of His Word through His faithful followers.  What He has implanted inside each of His followers is never too little to touch hearts and feed others the Truth in the spiritual. Jesus uses human hands, feet, arms, mouths and hearts to reach out to others with the truth of His love, compassion, truth and grace. We can only share what we receive from Jesus.
Multiplication of Bread in the Older Testament -- 2 Kings 4:42-44
            Elisha feeds 100
                   A man came from Baal Shalishah, bringing the man of God twenty loaves of barley bread baked from the first ripe grain, along with some heads of new grain. "Give it to the people to eat. For this is what the Lord says: 'They will eat and have some left over.' " Then he set it before them, and they ate and had some left over, according to the word of the Lord.
              God's prophet told his disciples to set the twenty loaves made from the firstfruits of the grain before the people because God told Elisha that there would be more than enough. Barley bread is the bread of the poor and the humble. When Elisha and his disciples obeyed God's Word, the bread multiplied and everyone was satisfied. Jesus is the fulfillment of this multiplication of bread in greater measure. He is the Bread of Life -- the Word of God brought alive in Him. He is also the Firstfruit in His resurrection to the Father.
              The Word of God never runs out! It is new every morning. There is always fresh truth available to all who hunger for this wonderful, spiritual food. Elisha and his disciples like Jesus' disciples started with what they had and Jesus who is God gave them the increase. His disciples not only served Jesus, they served others. Nothing that we do in obedience to serve Jesus and others is too small. As the bread satisfied the physical hunger of the people, when the bread and meat of the Word is eaten, it brings new, resurrection life and satisfies the hunger of our spirit.

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