The Feeding of the 5,000 (John 6:1-14) 

We all know that tests are important, but that doesn’t mean we have to enjoy them. It has been said that during a test, “people look up for inspiration, down in desperation, and left and right for information.” After a particularly painful math exam, one student left a note on the exam: “Dear Math, please grow up and solve your own problems, I’m tired of solving them for you.” Tests are important because they reveal what you know and believe. R.C. Sproul said that before He gave his class an exam he would pray, “Heavenly Father, help these students be able to quickly recall every bit of information they have diligently studied.” The students, however, would pray, “Heavenly Father, send a miracle!”

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Jesus asked Philip a question when He saw a large crowd coming towards Him. He asked Philip, “Where will we buy bread, so these people can eat?” Philip didn’t realize this at the time, but Jesus asked this in order to test him and the other disciples (6:6). How did they respond? How would you respond to Jesus’ question? How are you responding to similar situations in your life? How we respond reveals the strength or weakness of our faith.

The Crowd: Where is Jesus?

In John 5, Jesus was in Jerusalem for a feast of the Jews and sometime later He “crossed the Sea of Galilee (or Tiberias)” (6:1). Luke tells us that the city was called Bethsaida (Luke 9:10). When He arrived “a huge crowd was following Him, because they saw the signs that He was performing on the sick” (6:2). Remember that this crowd is similar to the crowd from John 4:43-45. That crowd and this crowd followed Jesus⎼not because they worshiped Him as the Messiah⎼but because they saw Him as a miracle worker who would provide for them what they wanted. Jesus had previously rebuked the Galileans because “unless you people see signs and wonders, you will not believe” (4:48). As He beheld the crowd, Jesus didn’t see a problem to be overcome but an opportunity to be seized. Jesus provided the bread for the people miraculously, not just to give them a meal, but to show them that He is the One who provides them with “food that lasts for eternal life” (6:27). 

Jesus: Where Are We to Buy Bread?

Jesus knew the crowd sought signs and wonders and He gave them one. Jesus saw the crowd coming to Him and said to Philip, “Where will we buy bread so these people may eat?” (6:5). Why did Jesus ask this question? Mark tells us that Jesus “had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd” (Mark 6:34). Luke tells us that Jesus “welcomed them, spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and cured those who needed healing” (Luke 9:11). Jesus was merciful to the crowd and used this opportunity to test His disciples and to grow their faith. Jesus asked Philip about bread “to test him, for He Himself knew what He was going to do” (6:6). Jesus saw an opportunity to feed the faith of His disciples and show mercy to the crowd following Him. 

Philip & Andrew: That’s Impossible!

Jesus saw an opportunity, but His disciples saw a problem. Philip responded, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread wouldn’t be enough for each of them to have a little” (6:7). A denarius was a Roman coin that was approximately one day’s wage for a laborer. The NIV translates two hundred denarii as “eight months’ wages.” Philip’s answer to Jesus’ question was, according to John Gill, “Very quick and short, and in a carnal and unbelieving way.” D.A. Caron said, “Philip’s response betrays the fact that he can think only at the level of the marketplace, the natural world.” Andrew overheard Jesus’ conversation with Philip and he supported Philip’s conclusion. Andrew said, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fishbut what are they for so many?” (6:9). The five barley loaves and two small fish was enough food for one young boy, but not enough for over 5,000 people. The disciples were correct that this wasn’t enough food for the crowd, but they failed to factor Jesus into the situation. 

The Meal: A Boy’s Lunch

The disciples were correct that this wasn’t enough food for the crowd, but they failed to believe that Jesus was the One who made the world and was Lord over all things, including fish and bread. Philip and Andrew failed the test, but rather than rebuke them, Jesus said: “Have the people sit down” (6:10). Jesus gave thanks to the Father for the food they had and “He distributed them to those who were seated…as much as they wanted. When they were full, He told His disciples, ‘Collect the leftovers so that nothing is wasted.’ So they collected them and filled 12 baskets…” (6:11-13). How did Jesus do this? He is God! Being God, He made the five barley loaves and two small fish multiply until there was more than enough for everyone. Just as He can cause deformed bones to reshape, He can make food appear. 


Philip and Andrew saw a problem and lamented that it was hopeless. Their faith was tested and they failed the test because they were looking at the problem from a worldly perspective. In other words, their analysis failed to include Jesus. How could they be with Jesus for as long as they were and have such little faith? They saw Him turn the water into wine (2:8), heal the Royal Official’s son (4:50) and heal the sick man at Bethesda (5:8). How could they not respond: “Lord, I don’t know how we can get these people enough bread, but I know You and You can do all things!”?

How do we respond to the problems we face? Tony Dungy said, “The Lord doesn’t always take you in a straight line. He tests you sometimes.” Do we, like Philip and Andrew, see everything from a worldly perspective? Do we see things through eyes that do not see Jesus? While God has not promised to perform a miracle in every situation in our life, have we abandoned all hope of seeing God’s miraculous work? 

When God presents you with a problem and/or a trial, He is not expecting you to come up with a plan; He is presenting you with an opportunity to trust Him. Let us trust Jesus and grow in faith. If something seems hopeless, pray to the Lord for He is rich in mercy and grace. Let us proclaim that with us it may be impossible, but “with God all things are possible” (Matt 19:26).

Published by First Baptist Church of Scott City, MO

Bringing the love of Christ to a hurting world.

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