1 After these things Jesus went away to the other side of the Sea of Galilee (or Tiberias). 2A large crowd followed Him, because they saw the signs which He was performing on those who were sick. 3 Then Jesus went up on the mountain, and there He sat down with His disciples. 4 Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was near. 5 Therefore Jesus, lifting up His eyes and seeing that a large crowd was coming to Him, *said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these may eat?” 6 This He was saying to test him, for He Himself knew what He was intending to do. 7 Philip answered Him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, for everyone to receive a little.” 8 One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, *said to Him, 9 “There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are these for so many people?” 10 Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand.
This story of Jesus’ ministry has become quite popular. He feeds the 5,000 with a little fish and bread and miraculously there is more than enough to eat. That is all fine and good, however I think because it is a common story, even to nonbelievers, we tend to gloss over the details and miss some important elements.
I find it interesting that here, John (the author) details that Jesus’ question was a test. Jesus was testing the disciples to see how they would solve the problem. Would they do it in a Godly way or would they try to solve it in a worldly way? Would they turn to Him for guidance or would they try to figure it out on their own. As we can see here, they were tested and failed. The point, however, was not so much that they failed, but rather that they learned the lesson. We know that tomorrow we will continue to read this story and see that Jesus fed the multitudes.
Philip’s answer was that of one connected to the world. Two hundred dinarii was about 8 months worth of the average wages in that day. Notice how he immediately related it in a worldly way: money? Certainly, we all have to deal with money. It is a basic requirement to function on earth. Regardless of what you call it or what it looks like, currency is the language of the earth. There is nothing wrong with that, however, as we can see here, by looking at situations through that filter, we create for ourselves a stumbling block and limit our view of the possibilities. Now, we certainly don’t know if Philip knew of the bread and fish that Andrew brought up, but that doesn’t really matter.
Andrew pointed out what is available. He saw the resources at hand and wondered what good it would do. I wonder if this story is what originated the saying, “a little bit goes a long way.” Even by assessing the current stock of the situation, however, Andrew was also limited in his scope of what was possible. How often do we do this in our lives? If we truly love and rely on God, then why do we limit our situations or our outlook based on the things of this world? Certainly, we won’t always understand it or even be able to fathom it. We read through the bible of the amazing things God has done: parted the sea, wiped out entire armies, raised the dead, provided manna and quail for an entire people. Yet, even when we know and believe these things, we still try to limit God to our own limitations. Remember this story comes after Jesus healed the crippled man of 38 years!
What situation are you in today that you limit your expectations of God because you are human? How easily do we forget that God is an all powerful and all encompassing God? Look around you today: if God can create ALL this, what can He not do?