This is an exposition of the story of Christ’s miraculous feeding of the five thousand. This event is very rich in spiritual lessons for every child of God. Perhaps that is the reason why this miracle of Jesus is recorded in all the four Gospels (Matthew 14:13-21; Mark 6:30-44; Luke 9:10-17; John 6:1-13).
There were more than five thousand people who were as hungry as hunters, and there was no way of providing enough food for all of them. To make things worse, it was also not possible for the people to get back to their homes quickly, as they had come from very far to be with Jesus.
The disciples felt helpless and anxious about the situation. But our blessed Master was not ruffled by this enormous need of the crowd to have food to eat. He was compassionate and concerned, yet calm and confident. So John recorded, “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? And this he said to prove him: for he himself knew what he would do” (John 6:5-6).
The Lord Jesus Christ knew exactly what He ought to do to feed that huge hungry crowd. He knew what He would do to solve that desperate situation. He had all the knowledge and power to feed everyone in the crowd and send them home, full and satisfied. Then, a very canny Philip tried to answer Jesus’ question, “Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat?” He quickly did a calculation of the cost of food for such a large crowd, and said to Jesus, “Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may take a little” (John 6:7).
Why did he mention that two hundred pennyworth of bread would not be enough? In fact, it was a large sum of money, which was about eight months’ wages. (One denarius was a day’s pay for a common labourer; two hundred denarii therefore represent about eight months’ wages.) It was sufficient to provide for a large family for more than eight months. But even such a large sum was not enough to feed this huge crowd. Philip could not think beyond the mundane activities of the market place. He was totally lost, and he had no idea how they could carry out their Master’s wish to feed the hungry crowd. Philip needed to believe that the Lord is able to do that which seems impossible in his mind.
Suddenly, the Lord’s work of provision began to unfold. “One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, saith unto Him, There is a lad here, which hath five barley loaves, and two small fishes: but what are they among so many?” (John 6:8-9). Andrew brought to Christ a boy who had five barley loaves and two small fishes.
This was so much lesser than Philip’s mention of two hundred pennyworth of food. The boy’s food was extraordinarily disproportionate to the need. Then why did he mention the boy’s five loaves and two small fishes? It must have been an amazing intervention of God’s providential hand. Against all logic, as it appeared, Andrew talked about what he had found.
Again we must wonder, “How did he find the boy in the crowd?” “Who was that boy?” “Was he a peddler who tried to make some money after having sold all he had except the five loaves of bread and two fishes?” “Or was he a hungry boy in the crowd who was about to eat the food packed by his mother?” We have no answer to these questions.
Nevertheless, we see the providence of God helping Andrew meet this boy in such a huge crowd and then bring him to the Lord. Is it not also amazing that the boy was willing to part with his food? Let us, therefore, believe in His providence. To meet the needs of His work, the Lord can even use a little boy.
The boy was willing to part with his food. There is no doubt that he gave the food to the Lord, for we read that “And Jesus took the loaves” (v. 11). The boy was not selfish, but generous. If the lad had considered his own need as most important, he would not have given that food to Jesus. But now because he had given his food to Christ, it became a blessing for him as well as the thousands who were around him.
Until the boy expressed his willingness to give his food for Christ’s use, he was an unknown lad to most people. So Andrew introduced him to Jesus, saying, “There is a lad here, which hath five barley loaves, and two small fishes” (v. 9). But his anonymity was not a hindrance to his contribution.
So, may you be rest assured that if you are willing to serve God, you need not be afraid that obscurity will ever prevent you from doing it. Do not say, “Nobody knows me, I don’t think I can be of any help to the huge challenges before us.” Just come forward to do what you are capable of for His glory. If you would avail yourself to the Lord, God would use you for great purposes.
The boy’s gift appeared very trivial. Andrew commented, “What are they among so many?” Likewise, some may judge your contributions to be very small too. Now, I dare say, do not let anybody, even Satan, discourage you from giving of yourself to the Lord. You may hear voices such as, “What is the use of you trying to do anything? You cannot serve God.” Do not let any such discouraging voices affect you.
God will honour your loving and ready gift to Him, even though man might first despise it. You may face the derision of men, but afterwards you will be used of God. Let us take note that though some considered the boy’s gift as rather insignificant, the Lord Jesus Christ thanked God for the boy’s food and then commanded it to be distributed to the people who were seated. His blessings made the small gift of the boy sufficient for all the people who were gathered around Christ. The miraculous provision continued until all the five thousand were fed and twelve baskets full of bread were left over.
Jesus cares for the hungry and needy through every contribution that comes out of a willing heart. He manifests His goodness and glory through our gifts to bless the humble and the needy. Praise the Lord!