This is the second part of a study in Jesus’ providing food for more than five thousand. If you missed the first part, you can find that study at this link: Jesus, our provision: part 1
By this time it was late in the day, so his disciples came to him. “This is a remote place,” they said, “and it’s already very late. Send the people away so they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.” But he answered, “You give them something to eat.”
They said to him “That would take eight months of a man’s wages! Are we to go and spend that much on bread and give it to them to eat?”
“How many loaves do you have?” He asked. “Go and see.”
When they found out, they said, “Five—and two fish.” (Mark 6:35-38)
When God calls us to a task, there is a strong tendency to first look around, rather than to look up to Him. Our inclination is to start calculating what we have available and how we can use those things to accomplish what God is asking. We want to construe plans and construct pieces into place for what needs to be done to meet the task with whatever resources we see before us, and within our talents and conveniences. What materials and finances do we have? Which people have the talents and time to do what God is asking?
Shouldn’t we rather first seek God and ask Him for the how’s, what’s, and where’s to do His work? God isn’t looking for men to contrive ways or methods to implement His work. He is seeking, and preparing, men who are willing to be used as instruments of His work.
Many times, God asks us to do something that is beyond what we are capable of—to tasks and ministries far above our abilities and resources.
Why? Foremost, for God to get the glory. God calls His followers to tasks beyond their capabilities so He can show Himself in the process. When men recognize God’s supernatural intervention, He is exalted.
Too, it is for man’s discipleship. When God calls His followers to a task that doesn’t seem doable, we have to look to Him. Then, watching the works of God as He moves, it strengthens and enhances faith within His followers.
For example, when Jesus questioned the Twelve about feeding the crowd of more than five thousand, He already knew what He intended to do (John 6:6). Still, he challenged the Twelve to provide food for the crowd before He showed them how He would do it.
The disciples first thoughts went to what they had available. They didn’t have food, but they had some money. So, they calculated what it would cost to buy food to feed the people. However, the cost would be greater than the sum of their purse. Any provisions they may have been able to purchase wouldn’t be ample. Even if they spent all the money they had, the amount of food they could purchase couldn’t satisfy the crowd’s appetite. As Philip said, “eight months wages would not buy enough bread for each one to have a bite! (John 6:7). It wasn’t workable.
Next, they tried gathering charitable donations from among the people there. Perhaps, they thought, if they panned the crowd for food, there could be enough provisions to feed the people. But, after going through the crowd and asking for food, the situation seemed more dismal. There was only one person, a young boy, who was willing to give up his food. He offered his basket of five small barley loaves and two small fish (John 6:9). But, for what was needed, that young man’s gift basket didn’t even seem notable.
It was getting late and there was a pressing need. Thousands had gone the day with little or no food. They had been on their feet, out in the sun, all day. Without food, there could (ordinarily) be very real potential for people becoming faint or passing out. Yet, there was (without Jesus’ intervention) virtually nothing to provide them.
When Jesus told the disciples to give the people something to eat, He challenged them to an impossible task. There was no way they could do what He asked with the means, material, or men available to them. The only way to feed the crowd would be through the work of the Lord.
Jesus still challenges today’s disciples to impossible tasks. And, like He did here for the Twelve, He may challenge us to do something without telling us beforehand how He will provide for it. But, in doing so, He has purposes—such as bringing glory to Himself, growing our dependence on Him, and building our faith in Him.
God wants, and works, to grow followers who will seek His guidance in prayer and obediently follow Him in faith. God desires to work through available men, not through devisable methods. When God assigns us to a task, we are to surrender in obedience to His Word and rely in dependence upon His omnipotence.
Then Jesus directed them to have all the people sit down in groups on the green grass. So they sat down in groups of hundreds and fifties. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to his disciples to set before the people. He also divided the two fish among them all. They all ate and were satisfied. (Mark 6:39-42)
When Jesus directed the crowd to sit down on the grass in groups, He had purposeful reasons for doing it.
Most importantly, it would gather together and still the crowd so their attention would be directed to Jesus. There were to be no distractions or interruptions. Everyone was to see the Lord’s work. There was to be no doubt that this miracle was not the work of man’s effort behind the scene, but of the Lord’s intervention for all to see. The Lord alone would get the glory for this miracle.
God sometimes calls us to stillness so we are able to see Him more clearly. “Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth” (Psalm 46:10).
Next, by having the people sit down, Jesus was preparing the crowd to anticipate God’s intervention. It stirred expectations among the people as they were drawn to watch for the Lord to work. They were anxiously waiting on God.
God wants His people to anticipate His work. As a young child looks up to his father with excitement and expectations, we are to look up to our heavenly Father with great expectations.
All eyes in the crowd were on Jesus as He looked toward heaven and gave thanks to God before He broke the bread. Notice that Jesus thanked the heavenly Father for providing food for thousands when there were yet “only” five loaves and two fishes.
We should expect God to act. And we can thank Him before He provides, assured that He will—if He wills. “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him” (1 John 5:14-15).
Yes, we can anticipate that God will provide. With that, as He provides, we are to gratefully acknowledge God for His provision. He is all-deserving of our praises and thanksgivings.
Still, the Lord is such an awesome God that He allows us the privilege of taking part in His works and seeing the excitement, joy, and graciousness of others as God blesses them.
The disciples had the privilege of passing out the food provided by the Lord. That must’ve been thrilling! As they handed out the fish and loaves, imagine the awe and elation on those thousands of faces. What a humbling and honoring experience that must’ve been to participate in this great miracle.
In serving the Lord, it is God who works but we can have the humbling privilege of seeing the excitement in people as they receive blessings from the Lord.
I think another reason Jesus specifically had the people sit in groups was to encourage fellowship. There is a tendency to fellowship primarily with family and close friends, so to sit down with a group of fifty or more would typically make most people a bit uncomfortable.
However, on that day, as the people sat together to enjoy the Lord’s blessings, and share their testimonies about the blessings they had received from Jesus, it must’ve been delightful and refreshing. They talked about what they learned as Jesus taught, the miracles they saw Him perform, and the inexpressible peace they experienced in the presence of Jesus. These people were gathered there proclaiming the awesomeness and majesty of Jesus. It was powerful.
Jesus was building His church and a big part of being His church is being among other believers. We are to interact with fellow followers and share what Jesus is doing in our lives. We are to pray for one another, care for one another, encourage one another, and be actively involved in fellowship. It is powerful.
We have a great Savior to proclaim. He is wonderful, and He is the One who fulfills.
People need Jesus. The Bible tells us that every person among the thousands gathered that day was satisfied (v.42). Yes, their stomachs were filled. But, more than that, Jesus satisfied their soul.
Jesus still satisfies. He is the only One who can. “Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied” (Luke 6:21).