John 6:1-9 (NIV): Some time after this, Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee (that is, the Sea of Tiberias), and a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the miraculous signs he had performed on the sick. Then Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down with his disciples. The Jewish Passover Feast was near. When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do. Philip answered him, “Eight months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!” Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?”
Jesus took time away from the controversy, made some space between Him and those who opposed Him, by traveling across the Sea of Galilee. But the people saw Him and followed Him out into the wilderness. They wanted to see more miracles, more healings.
Jesus went up on a hillside with His disciples to get away for a while, but the crowds began moving up the hill toward them. There were thousands of them – about 5000 men, plus women and children (cf. Matthew 14:21).
Jesus knew what God had called Him to do on this day, but He wanted to provide a teaching moment for His disciples. So He pointed to the people swarming up the hill and asked Philip basically, “How are we going to provide enough food for all of those thousands of people?” Of course the answer, as Philip clearly saw, was that even a year’s wages wouldn’t suffice to feed this crowd. And they didn’t even have a year’s wages on hand. The situation was hopeless; the question had no possible answer.
Andrew, always a man of action, saw a young by nearby with a small pack of food: five small barley loaves and two small fish. This was enough to feed the boy for a day, but wouldn’t stretch far enough to feed even one more of the gathering crowd.
The disciples were practical men, fishers and tradesmen. They knew how to problem solve, but they only knew how to do that on the physical plane. And, from a physical plane point of view, this situation was impossible. More than 5,000 hungry people, one young boy’s lunch, a little silver in the money bag, and not a single market anywhere in sight. Impossible.
But Jesus dealt in more than the physical plane. He also worked just as readily in the spiritual dimension – the source of not only every miracle that He did, but of all of the provision that He consistently received from the Father. Jesus knew that after His departure, these disciples would need to be able to operate simultaneously on both planes as well. So lesson one began now.
Father, how easy it is for us to get caught up in the same limitations: to see only the physical solutions to the issues we face. But, Lord, You tell us over and over again that in You we have all that we need – not just for our needs, but for every need, even those that present themselves as ministry opportunities. Help us to live consistently in BOTH planes, just as Jesus did, so that we too can do everything You call us to do today. Amen.