Our Youth have been focusing on the idea of “the one” and I asked Daniel if there were three students who could share the three principles that are centered around “the one” before I get started today.
Mark 6:30-44–30 The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. 31 Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”
32 So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. 33 But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. 34 When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.
35 By this time it was late in the day, so his disciples came to him. “This is a remote place,” they said, “and it’s already very late. 36 Send the people away so that they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.”
37 But he answered, “You give them something to eat.” They said to him, “That would take more than half a year’s wages[e]! Are we to go and spend that much on bread and give it to them to eat?” 38 “How many loaves do you have?” he asked. “Go and see.” When they found out, they said, “Five—and two fish.”
39 Then Jesus directed them to have all the people sit down in groups on the green grass. 40 So they sat down in groups of hundreds and fifties. 41 Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to his disciples to distribute to the people. He also divided the two fish among them all.
42 They all ate and were satisfied, 43 and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces of bread and fish. 44 The number of the men who had eaten was five thousand.
When you think of this scene and you read about how Jesus had compassion on the crowd because they were like sheep without a shepherd and how He had the crowd sit down in the green grass to receive food from the disciples, what Scripture comes to your mind? For me it is the 23rd Psalm. “The Lord is my Shepherd. I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures.” Psalm 23 is a picture of God as our Shepherd and fully illustrates all that He is prepared to do to bring satisfaction to our lives, to provide what we need, to protect us from the enemy we know is Satan.
I don’t want to get deep in the weeds here, but it is significant to me that Jesus had the crowd sit down. Something about being seated put them in a posture where they could receive the food that was coming. Getting that many people to sit down, to stop, to rest, to humble themselves to receive, even when they didn’t know what they would be receiving at that point or how that many people could all receive something at all, I think it is significant. The request for them to be seated put them in a state of expectation. Something was coming. It put them in the place of being able to receive what was coming next. Friends, sometimes, our Shepherd makes a request of us to stop, to sit down, and to wait in expectation. Do we ever get in a spiritual posture that makes it conducive for us to receive something from Jesus? Do we ever open our hands, our hearts, our minds, to taking something in just because we expect that He has something for us?
We also see in this account something that reminds us of a future meal Jesus would have with His disciples. It is reminiscent of the Lord’s Supper, that Passover or Communion meal, that Jesus shared with His disciples before He was crucified. In that setting, He took bread and broke it and gave thanks for it. In the same way that bread, and in this case, bread and fish, were broken and distributed and fed or satisfied thousands of people. It was an act of consecration. One sacrifice, one person, Jesus, was broken and spilled out for the salvation of all who call on His name for salvation.
This feeding of the 5000 men, scholars say, is more like the feeding of the 15-20,000 when you figure in the women and children. This feeding miracle is the ONLY miracle, aside from the Resurrection, that is recorded in all four Gospels. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John all thought it was super important. Can you imagine if I told you we were all staying for lunch and these two itsy bitsy fish and these five Hawaiian rolls were all we had for all of us to be fed? You wouldn’t be very excited about lunch, would you? There are probably close to 500 people in this room. What you see here isn’t even enough for one person to get full, so how could 500 of us get full? If we were all going to get full, there would have to be a miracle, right?
Verse 42 tells us they all ate and were satisfied. They all got full. Everyone had enough to eat. Five little Hawaiian rolls and two itsy bitsy fish were miraculously multiplied. Verse 43 tells us that there were even leftovers. 12 baskets of leftovers. How many disciples were there? 12, right? Each disciple got a “to-go” container when the miracle was over.
Do you remember how the Scripture passage began? Look at Mark 6:31 again. 31 Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” The disciples went into this encounter hungry. They hadn’t had a chance to eat themselves. I wonder, if when they told Jesus to send the people away so that they could get something to eat, they were thinking about their own stomachs that were grumbling. Maybe, they thought if the people left, they would actually get a break to go find food for themselves. We see in this verse that Jesus wanted them to get some rest, so we know they were also tired. So, we see here that Jesus was asking them to take care of the needs of thousands of people even though they were tired and hungry.
And what happened as a result? The disciples had more than enough food for themselves.
What Mark’s Gospel doesn’t highlight is where they got the food. For that answer, we look to John. John 6:9 tells us that there was a little boy in the crowd who had some food. His parents had packed him a lunch or he had thought to pack a lunch. Just note that it was a young person that surrendered their resources for Jesus to perform a miracle. I’m going to tell you what I think, OK? I can’t substantiate this or back it up by citing theologians and commentaries. I can only surmise that in a crowd of 15-20,000 people, there were other people with food on their person. You can find some snacks in any crowd. I guarantee if I said my sugar was low, and I was feeling shaky, at least 30 percent of you are packing some peanuts or granola bars or snickers bars or something in your pocket or purse, and you could help me out with a quick snack. Am I right?
Let me just prove my point. How many of you right here, right now, in fact…let’s just get the lights up so we can see well, how many of you have something edible on your person? Raise your hand. Yep. Many of us don’t leave home without a snack. Just in case we are stuck in traffic, just in case the preacher goes long, and we need a little pick-me-up, just in case our kids get restless, we can toss them some goldfish and buy a little more good behavior, right? I know the drill. Now we are all hungry. You’re welcome.
My point is that in a crowd of 15-20,000 people, he wasn’t the only person with something to eat. I think it is possible that other people kept their stash hidden. They knew they didn’t bring enough to service those around them, so they didn’t make their resources available. Perhaps the young boy didn’t think about everyone else’s potential hunger and therefore wasn’t afraid of having to share. The Scripture doesn’t indicate that he had to wrestle with whether to make his resources available. He simply surrendered the sardines and the saltines. Well, you know what I mean. He gave up his lunch.
What I am trying to say is that I don’t see evidence that anyone had to cajole him, compel him, or command him to surrender what He had. His loaves and fishes became the disciples’ loaves and fishes and as a result, they became Jesus’ loaves and fishes. When Jesus asked His question in this story, He asked it of the disciples, “How many loaves do you have?” The way Mark tells the story, Jesus wasn’t asking the little boy. He was asking the disciples. That is what leads me to believe that the resources had probably already been transferred to the hands of the disciples.
Look at the way John 6:8-9 put it, 8 Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, 9 “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?”
Again, I’m surmising, here. I’m just suggesting it is possible that the little boy, knowing he had some food on him, saw that the disciples were trying to figure out what to do, and he wanted to help. I could totally see this kid, walking up in between the disciples as they were huddled together and were trying to solve this big problem. I could see him tugging on one of their cloaks and saying, “Here, Mister, I’ve got some food you can have.” I personally think he had already surrendered his resources to Andrew before the resources were made known to Jesus because Andrew said to Jesus, “Here is a boy with food, but it isn’t enough.” Andrew presented the boy and the food to Jesus, but Andrew had already made a determination that it wouldn’t solve the problem.
But because of the boy’s generosity and desire to help, he was going to get a front row seat to a miracle. The contents of the boy’s lunch are significant because it was mostly barley loaves of bread. Can I show you something that thrilled me as I read it this week? It’s an Old Testament miracle of the multiplying of bread. Y’all, I don’t remember reading about this Old Testament miracle of bread multiplication. I don’t know how I’ve missed it over the years or didn’t take it in when I read it. It’s in II Kings 4:42-44.
42 A man came from Baal Shalishah, bringing the man of God twenty loaves of barley bread baked from the first ripe grain, along with some heads of new grain. “Give it to the people to eat,” Elisha said. 43 “How can I set this before a hundred men?” his servant asked. But Elisha answered, “Give it to the people to eat. For this is what the Lord says: ‘They will eat and have some left over.’” 44 Then he set it before them, and they ate and had some left over, according to the word of the Lord.
Y’all, the Jewish people knew their Scripture. They knew their history. They would have known about the prophet Elisha and this multiplication of bread miracle in the Old Testament. When they saw Jesus multiply five Hawaiian rolls and two sardines, they would have marked Jesus down as greater than the prophet Elisha. Every miracle Jesus performed would mark Him as greater than any Jewish prophet, priest, or king.
I want to make several quick points before I close this message. Here is the question Jesus asked, “How many loaves do you have?”
Point 1. Jesus asked the question because He intended to use the disciples to distribute a miracle. The disciples distributed a miracle. They didn’t perform the miracle. They stewarded God’s miracle. Wouldn’t it be cool to be one of the distributors of God’s miracles? In that moment, that was the furthest thing from the disciples’ minds. They weren’t thinking this was a moment for a miracle. They weren’t considering they could be used of God to handle the massive need. This was a big issue. The way they viewed it, it had too big a big price tag. There was no way they could fund a meal for 15,000+ thousand people. Their resources were inadequate. They were tired. They were hungry themselves. But God told them to feed the people and asked them how many loaves they had.
Point 2. When Jesus asks you to do to something, He will make a way for you to be able to do it. You don’t have to know how it will happen. You just have to answer the question when Jesus asks, “How many loaves do you have?” Your answer might be, “I don’t have any loaves.” Notice that they were told by Jesus to “go and see” in verse 38. There was a boy with some lunch in their midst. Sometimes we can’t see what is right in front of us. Sometimes, we don’t see the resources God has placed in our proximity. The disciples hadn’t brought lunch, but that didn’t mean there were no resources nearby. The disciples didn’t have to have the food for 15000+ people. They simply had to open their eyes to what God had already placed in their midst.
The disciples weren’t prepared to feed the crowd, but what they didn’t know was that Jesus had prepared someone else to supply some resources. Now, the little boy’s lunch didn’t feed the people. It couldn’t feed all the people. But the little boy’s lunch became the seed needed for the miracle. When God is about to do something miraculous in a situation, He has already prepared someone to provide the seed that is needed to get things started. You just have to obediently answer the question, “How many loaves do you have” and be willing to look around so that you can get an accurate account of the resources in your midst. Just believe that if God tells you to feed someone, or to witness to someone, or to help someone in a crisis, even if you, yourself are hungry or tired and even if you don’t have the resources in your immediate possession, God will make a way for you to be able to do whatever He asks.
When Jesus asks the question, “How many loaves do you have?” He is inviting you to take part in a miracle.
Point 3. You never know who God will use to spark a miracle. It just might be you! That little boy never thought, “Today, I am going to be used to spark a massive miracle, one that will feed 15000+ people and will satisfy them all. It will be a miracle so great that everyone present will see that Jesus is greater than the Old Testament Prophet, Elisha. I’m going to be the conduit for a miracle that will be the backdrop for Jesus being able to go on and teach that He is the Bread of Life. Just after this episode in John’s Gospel, Jesus called the crowd out on out on their reason for following Him. Look at what He said in John 6:26: 26 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. 27 Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.”
The crowd had experienced the mass miracle that left them feeling full physically and so they knew Jesus was a supplier, a producer, a provider. Jesus said, however, there is more. Believe for more.
28 Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” 29 Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” 30 So they asked him, “What sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? 31 Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’[c]”
32 Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
34 “Sir,” they said, “always give us this bread.” 35 Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.
You guys, the little boy’s willingness to give his lunch up “for the cause” created the opportunity for Jesus to invite people to believe in Him for more than lunch! God used that little boy to feed the people, yes, but he also used what happened to teach them He had more to offer than physical bread. The miracle of the multiplication of food became an invitation to trust Jesus for every spiritual blessing He had to offer.
Let me tell the young people here today that little is much when God is in it! You don’t have to wait until you grow up to do big things for Jesus. When you step up, when you answer His question, “How many loaves do you have?” and you surrender those to Him, you will be amazed at what He can do!
Point 4. You can willingly surrender your resources in full confidence that God will take care of you. When the little boy gave up his lunch, what did he lose? NOTHING! He didn’t go without lunch. The little boy surrendered his lunch, but he got to eat. He didn’t go hungry. Sometimes we think, “We can’t give. We need that money for ourselves. We can’t sponsor a child for Christmas. We’ve got to make sure our own children are taken care of. We can’t surrender something, even if it is an extra something we have in a closet, because, well, one day, we might need it.” Listen, God will never ask from you without also supplying for you.
Well, the Scripture says they all ate and were satisfied. When we answer the question, “How many loaves do you have?” and bring whatever resources we have to God for Him to bless, He will do the impossible in our midst. Those who experience it will be satisfied and will be invited into a deeper walk with Jesus, the Bread of Life, who satisfies our every longing.