"Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?" John 6:9
There once was a man who fell off a cliff, but managed to grab a tree limb on the way down.The man yelled, "Is anyone up there?"
"I’m here. I’m the Lord. Do you believe me?"
"Yes, Lord, I believe. I really believe, but I can't hang on much longer."
"That's all right; if you really believe you have nothing to worry about. I will save you. Just let go of the branch."
There was a moment of silence, and then the man asked, "Is anyone else up there?"
How many of us are like that man? God is right there just waiting to lift us out of our troubles and we pull our hand away. What it comes down to is faith. Do we really believe that God can help us when we have problems?
The biblical account of the feeding of the five thousand with the multiplied bread and fishes is an example of how God came through when there was a seemingly impossible problem. This is more than just a story about a miracle. It is actually part of a great lesson on the Bread of Life.
Besides Jesus, there are three people specifically mentioned in connection with this event. There is Philip, Andrew, and a boy who gave his lunch. We can learn a lesson from the way that each of these people handled the problem of how to feed so many people.
First there was Philip.
Philip was the man who figured on the least.
What do we know about Philip? Philip was a Jew and a native of Bethsaida, which is located on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. He had been a disciple of John the Baptist, who preached in the wilderness about the coming Messiah.
Philip worked as a fisherman, but left that life behind when Jesus found him and asked him to become his disciple. Philip was a man of great faith, and he wanted nothing more than to serve God.
In John 6, we learn about one particular day where a great multitude of people began following Jesus. Jesus was healing the sick and the people were amazed by the miracles which he performed. Jesus led his disciples up on a mountainside and the crowd followed.
Five thousand plus people gathered to listen to Jesus, and as the crowd drew near Jesus began to think in very practical terms about feeding the crowd. So, Jesus directed a question to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?"
Talk about an overwhelming situation. How do you feed 5000 people?
Have you ever faced a situation that was overwhelming? Or, a problem so difficult or complex that resolving it seemed impossible?
Most of us have. It doesn’t matter how old or how young we are. We all face overwhelming and stressful situations in our life.
• Maybe the stack of bills on your desk keeps growing and growing.
• Perhaps you are waiting to hear from your doctor about some test results.
• The company you work may have just laid off several workers and you fear you will be next.
• Or, you’re having trouble with an addition.
Our lives are full of experiences that at times seem overwhelming and beyond our capacity to handle.
Notice how Jesus saw the problem before Philip did. Jesus saw a need. The people were hungry and needed food. Know that nothing takes Jesus by surprise.
When Jesus asked Philip where they could buy bread to feed the people he was actually testing Philip. Jesus knew Philip to be a business-minded person. He knew Philip would think only about the cost of feeding the people. However, Jesus’ plan was to show Philip that he should exercise faith in the Lord for his provisions and not depend entirely on earthly means.
Figuring on the least, Philip answered Jesus, “"Eight months' wages would not buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!" (John 6:7). Philip had looked the situation over, and was basically saying, “It’s hopeless. Nothing can be done.” To Phillip the problem seemed impossible.
Is that really a bad approach to an overwhelming situation? It’s practical. It’s realistic. It did seem like a hopeless situation.
No, Philip’s approach was not a very good one because he did nothing to change the situation. When we believe that nothing can be done, then the situation does indeed become hopeless.
As we experience problems at home or work, the best way to insure that there will be no improvement or resolution to our situation is to sit back with Philip and say it’s hopeless … nothing can be done.
• The bills are stacking up, but you go out and buy a new television on credit.
• The doctor says your health problems will improve if you lose weight, but you say you don’t have time to exercise.
• Your company is letting people go, but you can’t seem to get to work on time.
• You know you have a drinking problem, but you don’t want to get help.
It is good to be realistic and practical, but you have to have more than that.
In this situation all Philip could do was focus on the problem.
• They had a huge crowd of over 5000 people.
• They were far away from the nearest town.
• The people were hungry.
• And, they didn’t have the money to feed all those people.
Many people see only problems and constantly focus on them. Just focusing on our problems does nothing to solve the situation, and it can lead to physical problems such as anxiety attacks, ulcers and even depression.
Philip should have focused instead on the power of God. After all, he had previously witnessed Jesus perform a similar miracle when He turned water into wine during a wedding. Philip should have said, “Lord, you can perform a miracle like you did at the wedding!” But he didn’t. Instead he said to Jesus that they didn’t have enough money.
Most of us live far below our potential, because we just focus on our problems. We lack the faith to believe that like that bread, God can take us as we are, and make us more than we can imagine.
Now we come to Andrew.
Andrew was the man who was finding for the Lord.
Who was Andrew? Andrew was also a Jew and from Bethsaida. His father, Zebedee, ran a successful fishing business which employed, among others, Andrew and his brother Simon Peter.
Andrew seems to have thought more about matters of the soul than about fishing, for he left his fishing nets to follow John the Baptist. However, after John proclaimed Jesus to be the Son of God, Andrew began to follow Jesus. Andrew is best known for his ministry of bringing men to Christ.
Some people are always fretting over problems, while others are finding possibilities. Andrew was a finder. Right after coming to Jesus, the first thing he did was find his brother Simon Peter and he brought him to Jesus. Often those who are newly converted are the best at finding followers for Christ.
Were you ever a finder? Do you remember the last time you were a finder?
• Do you remember the last time you found time to be alone with God?
• Do you remember the last time you found the solution to a problem by referring to God’s Word?
• Do you remember the last time you found someone for Christ?
While Andrew may not have an answer to the problem of how they were going to feed all those people, he was willing to find a solution. He was the one who found the boy with the five small barley loaves and two small fish.
However, even though Andrew found the boy, he asks in a realistic tone to Jesus, “how far will they go among so many?”
How far they will go depends on whose hands they are in.
• It was God who provided a continual supply of manna to the Israelites as they made their way to the Promised Land?
• It was God who provided endless meal and oil to a widow because she was obedient and gave her last scrap of food to Elijah?
There is a big difference between Philip’s approach and Andrew’s approach to this problem.
Andrew takes a realistic approach like Philip. He knows he is facing a difficult situation. However, unlike Philip, he does not give up. He takes the time to find an answer to the problem. He finds a boy with some food.
The lad was the one who gave all he had.
Scripture does not tell us what the boy’s name is. We are not told anything about his parentage. All we know about him is that he was one of many people in the crowd that day that had come to see Jesus. The difference is that he brought his lunch.
When Andrew looks around to see if there is anyone who can help, the only person he finds among the 5000 people is this small boy … with his lunch of five loaves of bread and two fish. Andrew brings the boy to Jesus, and the boy willingly gives his all to Jesus.
Philip, Andrew and the boy each had something of value in their approach towards handling this difficult situation. Philip was realistic. Andrew looked for a solution. The boy gave all he had towards the solution.
Anytime we face an overwhelming situation our approach should include a little of all three approaches.
The bills may be piling up. The doctor may have just given you some bad news. You may have just been laid off. Maybe you fell off the wagon. These are all serious problems. You can’t pretend they aren’t there. You need acknowledge them in a realistic way like Philip.
However, you can’t stop there. Next you need to shift into Andrew mode. You can’t just say things are hopeless. You have to be willing to find a solution to your problem. At times you must also be willing to look to someone else for help.
Then you need to do what that little boy with the lunch did. You need to be willing to give all you have to resolving the situation. If the bills are piling up, then stop making unnecessary bills. If you lose your job, don’t wait until your unemployment runs out to look for a job. Start looking right away.
Yes, it is important to be realistic about our problems, to seek a solution to them, and to be willing to give everything you have to solve the problem. However, when all is said and done we need to remember that there are some problems that require more than earthly means to be resolved. Some problems can only be solved with the aid of bread. I’m talking about the Bread of Life … Jesus Christ.
John 6, verse 10, tells us that, “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. Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted.” Not only was Jesus able to feed the crowd, but afterwards he all of the leftovers collected. A total of twelve baskets were filled with the remaining bread.
The next day Jesus fed the crowd more than just physical bread; he fed them spiritual bread. Jesus told them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.” (John 6:35)
Jesus had successfully shown Philip that he should exercise faith in the Lord for his provisions and not depend entirely on earthly means. It is a lesson that all of us should learn.
• When the bills are piling up and you don’t know what to do – put your faith in Jesus.
• When you doctor has told you that you have a serious illness – put your faith in Jesus.
• When your job is gone – put your faith in Jesus.
• When the whole world seems to be coming down on your head – put your faith in Jesus.
How are you looking at your situation? Are you like Philip, only focusing on the problem? Are you trying to find the possibilities like Andrew? Or, perhaps you just need to turn the whole thing over to Jesus like that little boy.
Don’t be afraid to accept God’s help when your situation makes you feel like you’re just hanging from a branch on the side of a cliff. He’s reaching out to you. Just know that you can’t lose by reaching out to Him.
God bless you!