FAST FOOD FOR FIVE THOUSAND
Dr. Chuck DeVane, Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
May 3, 2020
1 After this Jesus went away to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tiberias. 2 And a large crowd was following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing on the sick. 3 Jesus went up on the mountain, and there he sat down with his disciples. 4 Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand. 5 Lifting up his eyes, then, and seeing that a large crowd was coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?” 6 He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he would do. 7 Philip answered him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread would not be enough for each of them to get a little.” 8 One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, said to him, 9 “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many?” 10 Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, about five thousand in number. 11 Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated. So also the fish, as much as they wanted. 12 And when they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, “Gather up the leftover fragments, that nothing may be lost.” 13 So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves left by those who had eaten. 14 When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!” 15 Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself.
— John 6:1-15, ESV
The sixth chapter of the Gospel of John gives us the fourth and fifth of seven signs and the first of seven “I Am” statements made by the Lord Jesus Christ. Along with the rest of the dialogue, they travel upon a mountain road that takes Jesus to the peak of His popularity then down to the bottom where He is abandoned by everyone but the twelve (and one of them is a traitor). We begin with the miracle known as the feeding of the five thousand, the only miracle of Jesus reported in all four Gospels.
On the Road with Jesus
The setting for this great miracle is the second Passover season sprinkled into the Gospel of John. The next one would be Jesus’ last, so we have about a year left to go in the greatest story ever told. If Jesus came to be popular, which He most certainly did not, this day would have made His ministry complete.
Most of Jesus’ miracles were offered in Galilee, so by now a large number of Galileans were interested in Him. It was time for the annual pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the Passover, which all God-fearing males and their families were supposed to attend, which also helps explain the unusually large crowd. The story records five-thousand men, which means the added women and children would push the count to approximately twenty-thousand souls.
Why were so many people on the road with Jesus? At the beginning it was because Christ was offering free health care, “They saw the signs that He was doing on the sick” (vs. 2). At the end, it was because Jesus was giving away free food, “They had eaten their fill” (vs. 12). People tend to want a Savior who can give them money, or save them money by giving them other things for free. A big crowd of Americans look at government that way, now. A big crowd of Galileans looked at Jesus that way, then. But of course, nothing is free, not even pardon for sin. Someone has to pay.
Most of those on the road with Jesus were using Jesus to get what they wanted, not following Jesus to see what He wanted. They would make marvelous modern Christians. However, there were a few old school souls in the crowd. These Jesus took into His classroom.
In the Classroom with Jesus
When it became clear to Jesus that the crowd was following Him for what they could get and not what they could give, the Lord actually acquiesced. He decided to feed them all by providing them with a free lunch.
The Lord knew what He was going to do and how He was going to do it, but He wanted to teach a lesson to His disciples in the process. Class was called into session. One question was asked: “Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?” (vs. 5). Three students participate in the discussion: Philip (vs. 5), Andrew (vs. 8), and an unnamed boy (vs. 9).
The question went to Philip first, since they were near the fishing village of Bethsaida, Philip’s home town. We can’t give Philip a failing grade, for Philip was a faithful disciple. I suppose we could give him is a “D” for doubting. He was a pessimist. He did not think two-thirds of a person’s annual salary could feed a crowd that size. He obviously didn’t think Jesus could do it, either.
Then Andrew raised his hand. He had found this little guy with a little lunch of two fish and five bites of bread. Andrew is always bringing people to Jesus, bless his heart. We’ll give him a “B” for bringing. But Andrew was pessimistic, too, and thought the lad’s lunch was not enough for Jesus to work with to feed all these people.
The boy is not quoted. All we know is that he gave Jesus his lunch, which is no small thing for a small boy to do. It was all he had. Jesus, a person the boy had probably not met heretofore, standing over the boy with twelve strange men, wanted the boy’s sack lunch. The boy gave Jesus all he had. That get’s an “A” in God’s classroom every time.
Christians live constantly in the classroom of Jesus Christ. The Lord is always testing us to strengthen our faith. We should not be pessimistic, like Philip and Andrew. We should not be divas and name it and claim it, either, like the word of faith heretics. Every time we are tested we should simply look to the Lord and say, “All I have is Yours, take it and do what You will.” That’s what the boy did, he gave, and I think at the end of the day he ate more than he brought.
At Lunch with Jesus
My favorite class in school was lunch. I only wish when you got those little bitty servings of food, that Jesus would have been there in person to make the portions bigger. On this day described by John, Jesus made fast food for five thousand, plus. Everyone had plenty, and there were even leftovers to spare. It tasted good, too, how could it not?
Jesus made the food, miraculously. This was not a magic trick, for there was no stage, no props. This was not a psychological trick, where everyone got a minuscule pinch and were manipulated into thinking it was enough. This was not a ministry trick; besides, I’ve never seen the televangelists even try this one. This was a bonafide miracle, organic in nature, with multiple witnesses, for “the people saw the sign He had done” (vs. 14).
Jesus made the food, transformatively. Unlike original creation, this was not done “ex nihilo,” or out of nothing. Since that big bang, God takes what He has made and transforms it into some better. He transforms things, especially people who surrender their all to Him. He turns a small lunch into great feast, water into wine, crumbs into bread, and yes, sinners into saints.
Jesus made the food, personally. In the first miracle in John’s Gospel, Jesus made wine. In this miracle, the emphasis (as the ensuing context proves) is on the bread. Bread and wine. Jesus was giving the people Himself, the bread of life, the wine of forgiveness. Sadly, the hungry crowd did not seem to notice the parable in the miracle.
In Church with Jesus
We’ve walked down the road with Jesus, He’s taken us to school, and the served us lunch. Now it is time to go to church, for the Gospels and the gospel are for the church, to edify and evangelize. So what does this sign say to the church, and through the church to the whole wide world?
Jesus is good. He feeds the hungry. He cares for the poor. He gives common grace to all of mankind made in His image. People do bad things to one another. There is a personal devil and demons who perpetrate bad things upon people. Jesus did only good. But He is more than good.
Jesus is God. Only God can make something out of nothing. Only God can take something He has made and transform it into something better. Only God can take sinners, and transform them into saints. This most notable miracle cannot be performed by big government, by big haired TV evangelist, or by some big con. This could only be done by the hands of a big God, for Jesus Christ was, is, and always will be God.
Jesus is King, but not the kind of king most people want. Most people, then and now, will take a prophet like Moses, as long as he gives them water from rocks and bread from heaven that they don’t have to work for. Most people, then and now, will take a king like David who will fight all their battles for them so they do not have to risk life and limb. Most people, then and now, want a God like Santa Claus, to grant their wishes and give them their best life now. Jesus is not that kind of king.
Jesus is the kind of King that cares about our empty stomachs, but He cares more about our eternal souls. So He performs this miracle, the fourth sign, and all signs point to Heaven. They lead to a road to walk on with Jesus, a classroom to learn from Jesus, and lunchroom to be cared for by Jesus, and a place before the throne to bow the head and bend the knee before King Jesus, Lord of all. For if He is not Lord of all, He is not Lord at all.
Dr. Charles F. "Chuck" DeVane, Jr., is the Pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church in Hot Springs, Arkansas. His weekly sermon article, "The Gospel Truth," has been published in newspapers in Arkansas and Georgia. Dr. DeVane is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and has served in the pastorate for over 20 years. Contact Pastor Chuck at PastorChuck@lakehamiltonbaptistchurch.org