WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE ABOUT THE
The theme of this lofty portion of Scripture cries aloud with clear, clarion voice, "Little is much when God is in it!" I am learning to believe that statement to be true. When I was ordained to the gospel ministry as a young twenty-three year old preacher, that was the name of the song that the ordaining church chose to sing. I thought at the time the people were magnifying my youthfulness. I would even hear some say, "We are proud of our little preacher." While growing up, many times I would hear the words "little Max" spoken in reference to myself.
One day I admitted that, "I am little," "I do need someone much bigger than me." From that time on, God began to teach me truly, "That little is much when God is in it." God has repeatedly shown me His "all sufficiency." In so many myriad ways I have seen His gracious provision. I truly lack nothing. There was a time when I gave God my "few crumbs" and He gave me His all. I recognize, appreciate, and accept His wonderful grace. His grace is sufficient! John the Baptist, when introducing the Messiah, introduced Him as the Son of God (John 1:34). John the writer, told us that He is the Creator God. Jesus Himself declared Hid deity. Yet the disciples that surrounded the Creator God who is the Messiah, have not yet learned His sufficiency.
Through they were with Him, they were lacking in the sense that they did not have the "canon of truth" as we have it today. We have the Bible in its entirety. Yet even with the precious Word of God, with all its promises, we often tend to forget that God is the all-sufficient One. He is able to meet all of our needs with the reserves of Heaven and also with His creation power. Yet we, like the disciples, worry and wonder, scheme and stumble while refusing to trust Him to be the all-sufficient One. This section reveals further that God is working out His plan. As He feeds the five thousand plus, He is doing more than just meeting hunger needs. He is performing this sign miracle to demonstrate to the multitude that there is a "miracle bread" which can satisfy the spiritual hunger that the world has. After Jesus performed the miracle, He was able to declare, "I am that bread of life" (John 6:48). This "creation miracle" is one of the favorites of all students of the Bible. However, the great lesson pertaining to this miracle is often left unconsidered. This miracle serves as a foundation upon which the truths pertaining to the discourse of the "Bread of life" will be laid. If one studies only the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand, He will fail to grasp the teachings intended to show the all-sufficient Christ as the Savior of the world. May we consider these three thoughts: (1) The plea for food, (2) the power of faith, (3) The people are fed.
I. THE PLEA FOR FOOD vv. 1-6
A religious feast was soon to take place. Yet a multitude was showing signs of another kind of hunger but with the promise of a feast. The spiritual significance of this could be a contrast that is found in todayís world. There are those who hunger and lust after many things with the potential of their desires being met, yet they continue to hunger. In our scenario here, there are those who are hungry, but there is also one who really cares, that person is God. Tenderness is a characteristic of the love of God. Those who are cold, callused, and uncaring do not demonstrate at all the love of God. Jude says, "Keep yourselves in the love of God" (v. 21) Tenderness, love, and compassion must be at least "first cousins." Jude 22 says, "some have compassion, making a difference." The compassionate, tender care of the Lord is demonstrated when John 6:5 tells us, "When Jesus then lifted up his eyes, and saw a great company come unto him, he saith unto Philip, Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat?" The feeding of the five thousand is not the greatest lesson from our text, but it is a great lesson on considering the need of others. When Jesus "lifted up his eyes" He saw others. In being preoccupied with ourselves we often forget the need of others. Our churches should be populated with people who are lifting up their eyes of compassion, conscious of the need of others. Sadly, outside the doors of many of our churches the world is sinfully going to Hell and no one has even noticed. They are out there with their spiritual hunger pains and receiving not one offer of a morsel of bread. We need to care as He cared.
Just as Jesus had tenderness towards the multitudes, He has a test for the disciples.
"Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat?" This question was not asked for the purpose of obtaining knowledge, but to identify and invoke a response from Philip. His answer revealed His level of faith. It also indicated to what degree he trusted and believed upon the Lord Jesus Christ. His answer was focusing upon the impossibility of the situation, not realizing that with God "all things are possible." Philip gave a very human answer, "Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may take a little" (v. 7). With this answer, Philip is calculating only in human terms. Quite often we are guilty of trying to help God instead of just trusting God. To trust God requires a simple faith. One proves this degree of faith in his obedience to the Word and then acting upon the Word. Philip was at least appraising the situation and sizing up the need. It was as though Philip was telling Jesus if one would work from eight months to a year and then take the proceeds from his earnings and buy food that it still would not be enough to feed the multitude. There is nothing wrong in calculating unless the calculating excuses God or does not consider God. This seems to be the case here, but it very well could be that Philip was only answering Jesusí question.
The Scriptures tell us that He was asking Philip the question to prove Philip "for he himself knew what he would do." Jesus may have wanted to show Philip His need to rely upon Him and not even think in human terms. Would it have been more spiritual for Philip to have answered, "Lord we know that thou can doest all things; create and supply the need; I believe?" The word "prove" in verse 6 comes from the verb peirazo having three successive meanings: (1) test, (2) prove by testing, (3) approve as the result of testing. It is obvious that the first meaning is intended here (Earle).
Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, said in verse 9, "There is a lad here, which hath five barley loaves, and two small fishes: but what are they among so many?" The "quality" and the "quantity" may have been lacking, but when Jesus gets through there will be more than enough and the taste will be delightful. Barley is a poor manís food, the fish were too. Yet when the miracle was performed that which may have been "fishy" become a real feast.
II. THE POWER OF FAITH vv. 7-9
There is a strong and perfect faith; it is not the faith of man, but of God. Jesus could do nothing unless He saw and heard the Father do (5:19; 30). Jesus came to accomplish the Fatherís will. The Fatherís plan was His plan and He "knew what he would do." The Son acted with complete confidence in doing His Fatherís will. When Philip and Andrew answered in the way that they did they were certainly considering the large number and need. If there were five thousand men, there could have easily been that many women and children. The number may have been over well 10,000 people. Most people would certainly have considered and questioned the means of feeding a multitude of this size with no obvious resources available.
Abraham also had an impossible condition apart from the miraculous working of God. He was promised the opportunity of being a father of many nations. Romans 4:18-20 says, "Who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations, according to that which was spoken, So shall thy seed be. And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sarahís womb: He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God;" Abraham who had several earlier experiences which proved that he was weak in the faith, now is said to be strong in the faith. Verse 19 tells us that "he considered not"; verse 20 says, "he staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief." Abrahamís faith had grown in such a way that anything that God promised him would not at all have been questioned nor considered. This is the kind of faith needed by Christians today to accomplish the work of God that they have been entrusted with.
Faith is knowing! Jesus knew what He was going to do. He knew what He was going to accomplish, and how He would accomplish it. Hebrews 11:1 says, "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." "Now faith is," when a person has this degree of faith He does not say, "Now faith may be," but "faith is actuality." Faith is substance or as indicated faith is actuality. There is nothing wrong in "sitting down and counting the cost.." This principle of protection is certainly given to us. When God gives a call there is a cost. The sitting down and counting the cost aspect is not to determine whether you should say "yes" or "no" to that call. When God calls it should be similar to the military draft. "You have been chosen to serve your country" or "Uncle Sam wants you." You at that point "sit down" in the interest of making your arrangements to depart. When God calls, you calculate the investment that you are to render to Him and then go.
The cost may involve giving up a lucrative job and going to a place without promised support. Yet in faith, you will trust God and resign from your job. The cost may involve selling your house not sure of where you will live. You will pack your bags and by faith make the appropriate move. The spirit of trusting God this way is becoming more rare. It seems that one must have a guaranteed place of opportunity before making any commitment.
There is no way to calculate the power of faith. But remember, "without faith it is impossible to please him." Even though there is great power in great faith, we are so prone to "cast away" our confidence (Hebrews 11:35) and not capture the reward. Jesus demonstrated the power of trusting the heavenly Father when He performed the miracle of feeding the multitude.
III. THE PEOPLE ARE FED vv. 10-14
In our city wide crusades there are ways to prepare for the large crowds that leave the impression that the planners have it down to a science. The name of the game is organization. The most efficient organizational strategy is cloaked in the garment of simplicity. While a student at Tabernacle Baptist Bible College, Dr. John Waters would insist that as often as possible employ the KISS principle. That was an acnonymn for "Keep it simple stupid." Good organization needs a simple, clearly, defined path in which to follow. The Lord gave simple commanding instructions, "Make the men sit down." Johnís careful observation noted to us that there was much grass available to sit on.
As the 5000 men were seated the Lord took the five barley loaves and gave thanks and distributed the loaves and the two fishes feeding the people as much as they wanted. Never read over or lightly consider the significance of what may seem insignificant. Notice the number of loaves and the number of fishes. Evangelist C. L. Roach taught me the value of examining in detail the Word of God. I remember sitting with him in "Ma Hawkins Cafť" in the late seventies, as a young preacher. "Brother Roach, I want to take a speed reading course so I can read more of the Bible."
He looked over his glasses almost like a school teacher saying, "Son, you donít need a speed reading course; you need to learn to read one verse at a time and know what youíve read." What he said spoke volumes to my heart. Thank God for what he told me that day. Practicing what he told me, I have found many Bible nuggets waiting to be unearthed. As I think of the number of loaves being five, I am reminded that number five once again is the grace number and the number two is the number for witness. The fish also has been a symbol for the gospel witness. It was as though the Lord was communicating and showing forth His grace to the hungry multitudes, witnessed by all. To me it was no accident that the numbers add up this way. Speaking of "adding up," the addition of five plus two equals seven, which is a perfect or complete number.
It was not accidental that the little lad with his little lunch had the numerical combinations. It was very much providential. Jesus when testing Philip knew what He was going to do, even as He also knew what was going on. This is the fourth sign miracle which Jesus performed. The first thing that He distributed was the bread. The bread will be the subject of the discourse in the next section. So once again what Jesus does is marked by purpose.
After this miracle was performed there was more than enough. There were twelve baskets left over which would be enough for each of the disciples to take home, as a witness to the power of God in providing all of our needs. Truly He is the all-sufficient Christ!
Sermons From Pastor Max Alderman, Ph.D.