After this, Jesus went across the Sea of Galilee (some call it Tiberias). A huge crowd followed Him, attracted by the miracles they had seen Him do among the sick. When He got to the other side, He climbed a hill and sat down, surrounded by His disciples. It was nearly time for the Feast of Passover, kept annually by the Jews.
When Jesus looked out and saw that a large crowd had arrived, He said to Philip, “Where can we buy bread to feed these people?” He said this to stretch Philip’s faith. He already knew what He was going to do.
Philip answered, “Two hundred silver pieces wouldn’t be enough to buy bread for each person to get a piece.”
One of the disciples — it was Andrew, brother to Simon Peter — said, “There’s a little boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But that’s a drop in the bucket for a crowd like this.”
Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” There was a nice carpet of green grass in this place. They sat down, about five thousand of them. Then Jesus took the bread and, having given thanks, gave it to those who were seated. He did the same with the fish. All ate as much as they wanted.
When the people had eaten their fill, He said to His disciples, “Gather the leftovers so nothing is wasted.” They went to work and filled twelve large baskets with leftovers from the five barley loaves.
The people realized that God was at work among them in what Jesus had just done. They said, “This is the Prophet for sure, God’s Prophet right here in Galilee!” (John 6:1-15 MSG)
The feeding of the 5,000 is a story of Jesus familiar even to those beyond the church. There’s one character in there, though, who is often overlooked: the little boy who had brought the loaves and fish. He’s not even named in the story, and probably for good reason. He didn’t do anything miraculous. He just provided what had been given to him, probably from his parents for his own provision at the festival. Giving his own food wasn’t miraculous, but it was generous.
It was Jesus who turned the boy’s simple action into the miraculous multiplication.
Remember when Jesus turned the water into wine at the wedding at Cana? The servants brought the water; Jesus did the miracle.
When we at Gather Church offer our selves, our belongings, our time to serve others, we need to remember it is Jesus who converts those offerings into the gifts only He can give. We are just the little boy — we need to always point to the Miracle Worker as the real source of life.
Later in the same chapter, Jesus admonishes those who were drawn to Him by the free meal: “Don’t waste your energy striving for perishable food like that. Work for the food that sticks with you, food that nourishes your lasting life, food the Son of Man provides. He and what He does are guaranteed by God the Father to last.” (verse 27)
And later He says: “I’m telling you the most solemn and sober truth now: Whoever believes in Me has real life, eternal life. I am the Bread of Life. Your ancestors ate the manna bread in the desert and died. But now here is Bread that truly comes down out of heaven. Anyone eating this Bread will not die, ever. I am the Bread — living Bread! — Who came down out of heaven. Anyone who eats this Bread will live — and forever!”
When people come into our presence hungry, we do right by filling their stomachs. But if that’s all they get, they are being short-changed. Full stomachs don’t last. They’ll be back for more free food.
But when we give glory to Jesus instead of to Gather Church, we are pointing them to the only one Who sticks to their spiritual ribs. “Your ancestors ate bread and later died,” He says in verse 58. “Whoever eats this Bread will live always.”
— Steve and Marcia Brown