A Miraculous Meal
Good Morning, from the Voices of Hope Evangelistic Team, to all who are reading this message; I welcome each of you gathering by way of the internet. Once again, I praise God as we are able to share His Word all over the world.
The title of my message is “A Miraculous Meal” and the scripture is found in John 6:1-14 which we’ll read as we go through the message. If you would turn there, you will be able to follow along.
The feeding of the 5,000 as it’s called is such a familiar account that sometimes we tend to simply read over them. But I believe there are some applications for us to see; particularly as we are considering the gospel of John.
As we come to chapter 6 we have already found that the Jewish leaders as well as the Jewish people have rejected Jesus Christ. After all of the plans of God, after all that was accomplished in Christ’s coming, after He came to Israel with His message, they had rejected Him. In fact, not only did they reject Him but they had decided that He was the most blatant kind of blasphemer because He claimed to be God. And besides that, He had the gall to break their legalistic Sabbath ritual and that combination caused them to reject Him. Those were merely the circumstances; the real reason was the hardness of their hearts and the blackness of their sin. We’ve covered those in previous lessons.
So as we come to chapter 6 Christ has already been rejected and in fact they have plotted His murder in Jerusalem and Judea. But that does not stop Christ from making His claims, Christ goes on doing what He did, claiming what He claimed.
The reason He left Jerusalem and Judea is reported for us in chapter 7 and verse 1 where it says, “After these things Jesus walked in Galilee for He would not walk in Judea because the Jews sought to kill Him,” so in chapter 6 He is ministering in Galilee where He claims to be that one which cometh down from heaven, that bread of life. And someone who takes of that bread of life shall never hunger. And this great claim to deity comes as a result of the basic fact of this miracle that takes place.
Now this is the only miracle in John’s entire gospel that is also included in the other three gospels. From time to time John does indicate certain miracles that are recorded in one of the other gospels but this is the only time he uses the miracle that is in all three of the other gospels. And because he does there must be some tremendous importance laid upon this miracle. May I suggest what I think are perhaps the two primary reasons why John uses it.
Number one, it shows the creative character of Christ’s miracles more clearly than any other miracle. Now all of Christ’s miracles, in a sense, are creative in that even in healing a blind man He recreates the ability to see but He transforms more than creates. He’ll take a lame man and take what he has and make it function. He’ll take even a dead body and make it come to life, but there’s something there in the other miracles. In this miracle and only one other, the marriage at Cana where He made wine, it is a purely creative act where He simply creates food for thousands of people. And incidently, in terms of volume, this is the greatest miracle Christ ever did, because it is a miracle involving this multiplicity of people and showing Christ’s absolute creative power, such power as only God would have.
Then I think that John includes it because it is always John’s purpose to present Christ’s deity. And nothing will show His deity any better than a creative miracle, God in action. Also, this miracle is the occasion for the tremendous discourse later in the chapter where Christ claims deity. So it sets the stage for the claims of Christ to deity which is John’s constant, relentless, never ending message. Jesus is God.
In the discourse to come Christ takes from the miracle the fact of the feeding of these people and says, “I am the bread of life,” presents Himself as the sole answer to the hunger of the hearts of men. I’ve heard a lot about soul food, but the only satisfying soul food is Jesus Christ. So as we come to chapter 6, particularly the first 15 verses, we see the miracle that sets the stage.
I began to think how beautiful that the two primary creative acts of Jesus Christ speak to us symbolically of His shed blood and His body given for us. Every time we celebrate around the Lord’s table for communion, we take that wine that speaks of His blood, we take that bread that speaks of His body. And Christ in these two creative miracles, the wine at Cana and the bread here, spoke of His own body. And in case you think that’s just conjecture on my part, notice verse 53 of chapter 6, “Jesus said unto them, ‘Verily, verily I say unto you, except you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood you have no life in you, he who eateth My flesh and drinketh My blood hath eternal life and I’ll raise him up at the last day.” He can not only satisfy the hunger of a man’s stomach but He can satisfy the hunger of a man’s soul … and He does both in this chapter.
I want us to see five elements in this chapter, we’ll break these 15 verses into five elements. The multitude following, the missing faith, the miraculous feeding, the many fragments and the Messiah foretold.
First of all, I want us to see verses 1 - 4, the multitude following. And let’s set the setting for this miracle. Verse 1, “After these things Jesus went over the Sea of Galilee which is the Sea of Tiberias, And a great multitude followed Him.”
It was after these things that He went away. Now what things? What things have been going on here? Is he referring to what happened in chapter 5? No, because there’s a gigantic gap between 5 and 6. Look at 5:1, everything that happens in chapter 5 took place in the setting of verse 1, “After this there was a feast of the Jews,” so chapter 5 took place at a feast. Some believe it was Passover, some the Feast of Tabernacles.
If it was the Feast of Passover, notice 6:4, “The Passover the feast of the Jews was near,” we’ve got another Passover. So it’s been a year if it was one Passover to the next. If it was the Feast of Tabernacles then it would be from October to April because Passover always came in April so it would be six months away. So after these things of verse 1 is talking about a ministry that was either six months long or a year long. What ministry was this? They’re located for you in Matthew 4 through chapter 15. If you prefer to read Mark you’ll find them in chapters 1 to 7 or Luke in chapters 4 to 9. That is the record of His Galilean ministry which took place between verses 5:47 and 6:1. So all of this time, either six months or a year, Christ has been ministering in Galilee.
So this miracle of chapter 6 is toward the end of Christ’s Galilean ministry. And that’s one reason why He has so many people following Him.
Besides that, there had been some really tragic News; just prior to the opening of chapter 6 the other gospels tell us that they had gotten word to Jesus and His disciples that John the Baptist had been beheaded. And undoubtedly Jesus’ heart was grieved and so was the hearts of those disciples, you’ll remember the initial disciples had initially been disciples of John the Baptist.
So they wanted to get away and spend some time together and Jesus wanted to be with them. They crossed the sea of Galilee and as I said, Mark says they took a little boat and went secretly.
Well it wasn’t very secret. Verse 2, “And a great multitude followed Him because they saw His miracles which He did on those who were diseased.” Why did they followed Him? Because they loved him? Because they repented of their sins? Because they believed He was the Son of God? They followed Him because they were pure unadulterated thrill seekers, that’s all they were.
They followed Jesus Christ to see the things that He did, they could care less about repentance or anything else. The power that Jesus had, to do miracles, had placed Him on the crest of a popularity wave. But it was very temporary. All that popularity turned to scorn and hatred and ultimately He lost His life.
They loved His miracles, but they killed Him for His words. Look at verse 15, “After they had seen the miracle of the feeding of all these people, they wanted to make Him a king. But then He starts in verse 22 and He tells them who He is and over in verse 66 look what happened to all the would-be disciples who were going to make Him a king. Verse 66 days, “After He got done with His speech about who He was and what He wanted out of them … it says … from that time many of His disciples went back and walked no more with Him.”
They loved Him for His miracles but they didn’t want to hear His words. They were thrill seekers following His miracles. Reminds me of some folks I know today.
So we see the multitude following. Kind of a beautiful thing that even though Jesus Christ wanted that time with His disciples, He knew that crowd would be there and He stopped what He was doing with His disciples and went and ministered to them.
We’ve seen the multitude following, now looking at the missing faith in verses 5–9. Before we do though, let’s set the scene. Matthew records it this way, “And Jesus came forth and saw the multitude and He had compassion on them because they were as sheep not having a shepherd.” He saw them in their lost milling condition. He saw past the physical milling around to the spiritual. And, of course, the Bible then says in Matthew that He began to teach them many things. And Mark and Luke add for us that He healed all that had need of healing and He cared for the sick. So what He did was come down off that mountain and spent a whole day healing the sick and teaching. Jesus always gave Himself to everyone who ever came to Him. Note verse 37 of chapter 6. Whenever anybody came to Christ He had time for them.
So He came down and ministered to the people. He knew what kind of people they were. He knew they were thrill seekers. But His love was so great that in spite of their motives He met their needs. What a beautiful thought that is. That’s just the way God is.
Matthew, Mark and Luke tell us it was evening, “And the disciples said, ‘Look, it’s evening, we better get rid of this crowd because they’re going to get hungry.” But that wasn’t Jesus’ way; He never got rid of anybody. And as we see the disciples wanting to get rid of the crowd, we pick up the detail now in the middle of verse 5. After the disciples evidently had said this, “Jesus saith unto Philip, ‘Where shall we buy bread that they may eat?’ ” In other words, Jesus is going to meet the need of this crowd. Now He knows that but Philip doesn’t. And He asks Philip this question.
Why did He ask Philip? There are probably a lot of reasons, but the real reason He asked Philip this is told to us in verse 6, “And this He said to test him.” God brings things into the lives of His own just for the sake of tests, no other reason. And a test is set out to prove something; He wants to prove something to Philip. Verse 6, “He said to him these things to test him for He Himself knew what He would do.” He knew He was going to feed that multitude. He knew He wasn’t going to go buy bread. In other words, He was trying to decide whether Philip really believed in His power, whether Philip had gotten anything from seeing the majesty and the glory and the power of Christ and all the miracles that had been done in the time intervening. He was testing Philip to see where his faith was.
These are what I’ll call tests of trust, they come into everybody’s life. God brings them to us. Some times things happen in our lives for no other reason than to test our trust. Remember back in Genesis 22 when God tested the trust of Abraham by telling him to give his son Isaac? Remember back in Deuteronomy where God tested the trust of the children of Israel for 40 years in the wilderness? And it’s always interesting to me that God gives us a test just past our trust level. If God only tested me as far as I already trust Him, I’d never get any growth in my spiritual life.
That’s a beautiful thing. He never tests us so far that we’re going to blow our mind and explode. No, never. Just past our trust. Why? Because then He’s going to bring something into our life to pull our trust up to that test and pretty soon we trust Him more and more. Tests of trust.
Can testing upset the believer? No, James says the trial of your faith brings patience. You just know what God’s doing because you just learn to trust Him more and more.
So Philip needs a little test of trust here. And just like everybody else, the first thing to do is … “Well, let’s see, mathematically it can’t happen,” No way, verse 7, “Philip answered 200 denarii,” he’s doing mental arithmetic, “Two hundred denarii of bread is not sufficient to give them a little bite.” No, let’s see, we can’t do it that way. First thing we do in a test is fall on our own resources. Figure out the statistical impossibility of our situation. Then in desperation pray. It’s always that way. First of all, we look at the impossibility, we look at the inadequacy of our own resources. Then we decide it can’t work, then we get upset, and then when we’re really upset, we pray. And then all of a sudden, we remember, “Oh yes, isn’t there a verse somewhere that says My God shall supply all your needs according to His riches by Christ Jesus?”
So Philip forsakes his faith and substitutes mathematics. And he goes through mental calculation to decide that everything is hopeless. He’s thinking statistically and instead of saying, “Lord, You can provide,” he says, “It’s an impossible situation, so Philip shows missing faith. He’s been tested past his faith. He might have believed that God could heal one blind man, but feed thousands, oh no. That’s pushing it a little, Lord. He’s tested past his faith.
Now we come to verses 8 and 9, evidently it ran among the disciples because one of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, dear Andrew, he was always Simon Peter’s brother, “Andrew saith unto Him, ‘There’s a lad here who has five barley loaves and two small fishes, but what are they among so many?’”
I love this, some dear mother made her son wait till she packed him a lunch. Everyone’s running after Jesus; Mom I have to go. Just a minute, I have to pack you a lunch. Some dear mother made some dear boy wait till she packed his lunch. So this little boy had this. But Andrew’s not thinking about using it, he’s simply saying, only one kid I could find that even brought a lunch.
It’s interesting too that the loaves are barley because this was a poor little boy. Barley is the loaf of the poor, or the bread of the poor, so this was a very poor lunch and it was all there was. So they didn’t have any faith. Philip didn’t have any, and Andrew didn’t have any. So you see secondly the missing faith.
Now Christ can do one of two things. Christ can bawl them out and reprimand them for not having enough trust, or He can forget about the reprimand and take their trust and move it up. He doesn’t say, “Oh, you people don’t have trust.” He just takes them where they are and moves their trust up. We see that in the miraculous feeding of verses 10 and 11, a miraculous feeding.
Verse 10, “Jesus said, ‘Make the men sit down;’ that does not imply that the women had to stand, “Make the men sit down, now there was much grass in the place.” Isn’t that beautiful? God actually provided a comfortable green carpet for all those people to sit on, that’s just the way Jesus does things.
So the men sat down in number about 5,000. And Mark tells us that they had them in groups of 50 and 100 sections. He told the disciples to get them set up in hundreds and fifties … sections. The disciples knew what was going on, somebody was getting ready to serve dinner. They were organizing those people into sections so they could be served. Can you imagine, twelve people serving thousands of people dinner. Some of us complain about the lines at the pot-lucks.
Verse 10, it’s also a very beautiful thought; how thankful we should be that the grace of God is not dependent upon the poverty of our faith. This crowd didn’t know what was going on. Those disciples, they didn’t know what was going on either but that didn’t restrict the grace of God. It’s also interesting that the grace of God was not even restricted by the poor excuse for the hearts of the people who were there. So Christ sets them all out and He gets ready to feed them.
He commands the disciples to do this, He says get them all seated and everything. And they never even questioned Him. Now watch this, their faith may have failed but their obedience did not. That’s a very fortunate thing, because obedience is always the channel through which faith comes. Your faith will never grow unless you’re obeying the Lord. You see the supply was already in the mind and the sovereign will of the Savior but it was going to flow through the obedience of those twelve. That miracle wouldn’t have happened if they hadn’t obeyed Him. See, faith grows, trust grows through obedience; obedience is the channel of blessing. Jesus said, “He that hath My commandments and keepeth them, He it is that loveth Me and My Father loves Him and I love Him and I will manifest Myself to him.” You see, faith and trust grows through obedience. And so their faith was weak but, their obedience was on schedule.
Verse 11, “And Jesus took the loaves, and when He had given thanks He distributed to the disciples and the disciples to them that were sitting down and likewise of the fishes as much as they would.” It doesn’t even say it was a miracle. It doesn’t say, “And Jesus multiplied the loaves,” just kept passing it out. Who grew that barley? Nobody, it never grew. Who caught those fish? They never swam. He was making them there in His hands … creating fish, creating little biscuits.
Here we see the creative power of God. Standing on the side of that hillside, Jesus Christ was creating … creating … creating … creating. The Creator God at work. And He just kept handing it out. I don’t know what those disciples were thinking, but it must have been unbelievable.
Do you think He needed to use the discples? If He could create it, if He could create those fish He could make them swim through the grass right to the right person. He didn’t need those disciples. But this miracle was not for the crowd. It was for them. It was a test of trust for them. He took their trust where it was and by this miracle He moved them up. Do you think from then on they believed He could do this?
It’s so like God. Listen, He used the tear of a baby to move the heart of Pharaoh’s daughter. He used the shepherd’s stick for mighty miracles in Egypt. He used a sling and stone to conquer a nation. He used a little girl to bring a great leader, Naaman, to his knees before a man of God. He used a widow with a little meal to sustain His prophet. He used a little child to teach His disciple the lesson of humility. And I want us to know that there’s hope for Him using you and I because He even used the jawbone of an ass to slay a thousand men. And He used Balaam’s ass to preach. That’s great encouragement.
God can use anything in His hands. And if it happens to be you and it happens to me, He can use us. This is glorious. Listen, Jesus uses the weak things of the world to confound the mighty. And His strength is made perfect in our weakness. So we see the miraculous feeding. It’s a beautiful thing.
He always uses the instruments that make themselves available. And I just get so blessed when I look at that verse and the end of verse 11 it says, “They ate as much as they would.” That’s unbelievable. They stuffed themselves. Verse 12, “When they were filled,” everybody was filled. Listen, when Jesus provides a meal by His grace, it is a feast.
So we see the multitude following, the missing faith, the miraculous feeding; now look at the many fragments, verses 12 and 13. “When they were filled He said unto His disciples, ‘Gather up the fragments that remain.’” Isn’t that a tremendous truth? You never run out of supply; that when you’ve exhausted all of God’s grace there’s more left! Some people think they’re at the limit of God’s grace already. There’s baskets full left and you haven’t even gotten to the end. When they were filled He said gather the fragments. Verse 13, “Therefore they gathered them together and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves which remained over and above that which they had eaten.”
I think that these fragments acted as a memorial to those disciples. How many baskets were there? Twelve. How many disciples were there? You know what He did, He just provided the next day’s food for those twelve which would be just another little memorial reminder to make sure that their trust had moved out to meet the test.
So we see the many fragments. But that’s the way God’s grace always operates. You exhaust it all and there’s more left.
Then we see the Messiah foretold, verses 14 and 15. Verse 14, “Then those men when they had seen the miracle,” and “those men” refers to the people, “When they had seen the miracle that Jesus did said, ‘This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world.” That gives us a perfect indication of what kind of a Messiah the Jews want. They wanted a Messiah who healed and fed them and was a physical earthly political Messiah.
They had no concept of repentance at all. They wanted a Messiah who came and did everything for them. They said “that prophet,” “This is of a truth that prophet,” they were referring to Deuteronomy 18:15 where Moses talked about that prophet. This was the kind of Messiah they wanted. They didn’t think of spiritual revival, of repentance. They were too self-righteous. They wanted a king to come in and throw off the Roman oppression and feed them, that’s what they wanted. That was their idea of Messiah and Jesus never fit it.
Verse 15, “When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take Him by force to make Him a king,” He wanted them to take Him as King but He said this, “The Kingdom of heaven is at hand,” but before He ever said that what’s the one word He said? “Repent.” He didn’t want to be crowned King until there had been a spiritual revival in Israel. And that didn’t happen. So He postponed that Kingdom. He would not be made King by force on their terms. He was not going to be forced to be King. And He knew the character of their hearts. Again, in verse 66, “Many of the disciples when He told them how He wanted it, when He told them what He expected, when He made the demands, they turned around and walked away.”
There are a lot of people in our world who want the same kind of Christ as that. They want one who will just do everything for them and make no demands. If that’s the Christ you want, then you don’t want this Christ. He said, “If you’re not willing to leave father and mother and everything in this world, if you’re not willing to take up the cross, you’re not worthy to be His disciple.” It will cost you your life … everything. But it’s a cheap price for what He gives … cheap … for all the riches of Christ.
He demanded repentance. He still does. He demanded recognition of sin and a hunger for forgiveness. He still does. He didn’t get it in Israel. And in the world today He doesn’t get it either. But if you’ll receive Jesus Christ on His terms by faith and repentance for sin, you’ll know the soul satisfier and you’ll have every need of your life met because that’s the way He is.
Father, we thank You this morning for Your Word to us. We just have scratched the surface, but, Lord, we pray that You’ll teach us by Your Spirit. Seal these things in our hearts. Lord, so many of us say we’re Christians; maybe instead of being vessels that You can use and being obedient we’re just really in the way. God, teach us to obey. Even though our faith be feeble, may our obedience never fail, may we be usable instruments. And, Lord, send us tests of trust, send us tests that are beyond our trust and then show us Your power that our trust may move just that much further ahead. And, Father, for those here who do not know Jesus Christ, may they eat of the bread of life this morning, feast upon the soul satisfier, Jesus Christ. These things we pray in His name, Amen.
When Voices Of Hope Evangelistic Team is ministering in Word and Song, their Fire Choir will sing several songs and then lead the Congregation in singing. Since that isn't possible on-line, please click hereand may you be blessed by the song, "All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name."