Typically, I’m guessing, when you come across the story of Jesus feeding the 5,000 in John 6, you tend to focus mostly on, well, the feeding of the 5,000. That’s the main event. The glory of Christ is seen as He takes the humble offering of a little boy, just five barley loaves and two fish, and multiplies them to feed a small arena. And not just a nibble each. John says they ate “as much as they wanted” and that Jesus stopped the food distribution “when they had eaten their fill.” And then they collected the leftovers . . . and “filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves.” And it says when the people “saw the sign” that Jesus had done, they said, “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!”
Big miracle . . . big impact. But there’s a sub-story to this story. One that I most often just blow past. A little “sidebar” that reminds me that Jesus not only cares for the crowds but that He’s also interested in the individual.
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?” He said this to test him, for He Himself knew what He would do.
(John 6:5-6 ESV)
So, I can’t help wonder if there’s a bit of a grin on Jesus’ face as He asks Philip this question. And I can’t help but wonder if there isn’t a bit of a confused countenance on Philip’s. Impossible! Even if they had a Costco to go run to, Philip does the math and realizes that there’s no way they could afford to feed so many.
But Jesus didn’t ask Philip the question so that Philip would come up with a creative plan, He asked Philip to test Him. He posed the problem to Philip for the purpose of assaying the nature of his faith. He put the “elephant in the room” right on Philip’s lap in order to see what Philip would do with it.
And while I’m thinking that Philip may not have aced this test . . . that while communing with the Lord of Creation, he says, in effect, “I don’t know how You’re gonna do this” . . . what’s really grabbed me is not Philip’s performance, but Jesus’ focus on Philip. That He’s interested in the individual.
Jesus wanted to minister to Philip. With 5,000 hungry people surrounding Him . . . will 12 disciples figuring out what it meant to follow Him . . . Jesus takes a “teachable moment” and, in a sense, feeds the one. Philip’s greatest need at the moment isn’t figuring out how to feed a hoard, but to have his focus drawn on the One who can do the impossible. Tests of faith beget faith. Sometimes they happen in large crowds, such as witnessing 12 baskets of food being picked up . . . sometimes they happen one-on-One with the Shepherd of our souls.
I don’t have many how-do-you-feed-five-thousand type of challenges in my life. But there are things that come along . . . temporary trials . . . current crises (at least in my own mind) . . . that Jesus can use to test my faith.
O that I would look beyond wrestling with all the possible solutions and, instead, simply look to the Savior. Not trying to calculate how much it might cost but be reminded of the price He has already paid . . . and the promises He has already made. Leaning not to my own understanding, but trusting in Him with my whole heart . . . acknowledging Him in all my ways, confident that He will direct my paths (Prov. 3:5-6).
By His grace . . . for His glory.