ATP Blog 35
Once Jesus gave testimony of His identity and purpose, He went for a boat ride to the ‘other’ side of the Lake (Sea of Galilee), possibly Bethsaida on the North side (Luke 9:10-11). A large crowd followed Him. Given the context, you would think that they followed to hear more about His mission as the Messiah, but John specifies that they were more interested in His signs, that is His miracles of healing. How sad is that, they had heard very specific instruction on who Jesus is, yet they followed for the entertainment value!
Rest Needed ‘Jesus went up on the mountain, and there He sat with His disciples.’ Christ had been busy teaching and ministering. Now He was ready for a break.
Timing ‘Now the Passover … was near.’ Most Jews would be heading to Jerusalem, to observe the Passover Celebration, honouring the freedom God had given them out of slavery in Egypt.
Compassion ‘Jesus lifted His eyes, and seeing a great multitude coming toward Him, He said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread, that these may eat?” The other synoptic gospels explain that Jesus spent the day healing the sick and teaching the crowd (Matthew 14, Mark 6, Luke 9). At evening, Jesus felt compassion for them. It was a remote location (no restaurants or grocery stores nearby), the people were needy (both physically and spiritually), they were ‘like sheep without a shepherd’ needing leadership and instruction, and it was the end of the day so they were likely quite hungry.
Lesson ‘”Where shall we buy bread that these may eat?” He said this to test them, for He Himself knew what He would do.’ Not only was He compassionate toward the crowd of entertainment seekers, He still wanted to use the opportunity as a teachable moment with His disciples, so He involved them in ‘figuring out’ what to do with the situation.
Responses Philip was depressed thinking that there was nothing they could do, as they did not have nearly enough money. Andrew was hopeful, despite the limited supply (a little boy’s lunch). Jesus, being mysterious as usual, told the disciples to organize the people into groups and have them sit down for the coming meal. That exercise must have taken quite a bit of time, given 12 disciples, and possibly 10 000 – 15 000 people in the crowd (more than 5 000 men), time to think about what Jesus might do to feed them all.
Provision ‘Jesus took the loaves, and when He had given thanks, He distributed them to the disciples, and the disciples to those sitting down.’ So, I guess if anyone decided to remain standing, they got no food! A simple prayer, and that little lunch became enough to feed a large crowd! Not only that, John tells us that there were leftovers!!! Jesus instructed His disciples to gather up the leftovers so that nothing would be wasted. What a great example, even though we don’t know why there were leftovers, or what they did with those leftovers.
Result ‘Then those men, when they had seen the sign that Jesus did, said, “This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world.”’ Notice that they say prophet, not Messiah or Christ. Matthew, Mark, and John specify that the people sought to make Jesus King. Not wanting this, as it was not God’s will to take control of the political arena by force, Jesus escaped up the mountain by Himself to pray.
Take Home God provides for us both physically and spiritually. Two things we must ask ourselves in response: What is it that I am supposed to learn from this? What is it I should do because of this? The people did not understand what He was teaching, nor did they act according to what Jesus had taught. The lesson of the day had been that God’s spiritual provision (the teaching) was more important than the miracles or physical provision (food). Just as Jesus responded with prayer to depend on the Holy Spirit, so we must get away and rely on God through prayer, especially when people enthusiastically do the wrong thing.