The Fourth Sign – Feeding the Five Thousand
Home Church Devotional 5/31/2020
These devotionals were written during the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic when area churches were not allowed to meet for fear of spreading the coronavirus. They were used in place of a full sermon as my family and I gathered for worship and communion.
After these things Jesus went away to the other side of the Sea of Galilee (or Tiberias). A large crowd followed Him, because they saw the signs which He was performing on those who were sick. Then Jesus went up on the mountain, and there He sat down with His disciples. Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was near. 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?” This He was saying to test him, for He Himself knew what He was intending to do. Philip answered Him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, for everyone to receive a little.” One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, *said to Him, “There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are these for so many people?” 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. Jesus then took the loaves, and having given thanks, He distributed to those who were seated; likewise also of the fish as much as they wanted. When they were filled, He *said to His disciples, “Gather up the leftover fragments so that nothing will be lost.” So they gathered them up, and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves which were left over by those who had eaten. Therefore when the people saw the sign which He had performed, they said, “This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world.”John 6:1-14 (NASB)
Hunger. We all feel it. We all experience it. It is truly the one universal experience shared by all living creatures. Men, women and children all experience hunger. All animals experience hunger. Even plant life experiences hunger. Hunger tells us when it is time to find food. Food that will provide energy to sustain us through our daily chores. Food that feeds our bodies to remain strong and healthy. Food the sustainer of our physical body. We feel hunger in stages; the first stage is to feel a little hungry. This is the empty stomach feeling we have in the morning as our body begins to awaken. The next stage we experience is the very hungry stage where our stomachs are growling, and we may be experiencing a slight headache.
If ignored long enough, we enter the third stage of hunger where we are uncomfortably hungry. Here we experience that light-headed feeling that warns us of growing hunger. It is at this stage we also become irritable and grumpy. In today’s language we call this being hangry. Finally, we enter the fourth and most critical stage – starvation. Here we are ravenous and seek to empty the fridge at all cost. Our bodies are beyond fatigued, in fact we have no energy and our body simply wants to lie down. We also experience shakiness and weakness. Hunger works the other way too we can experience stages of fullness when we have ample food available. We can be satisfied, being able to eat more but knowing we shouldn’t. We can reach the stage of being full, here our stomachs are stretched to the point of being slightly uncomfortable. And finally, we come to the stage where we are full to the point of extreme discomfort, think of the Thanksgiving or Christmas Day dinner table!
Like our physical hunger, our spiritual hunger goes through stages as well. Within these stages our faith goes through periods of growth and changes as well. These stages can be seen in the crowd, the disciples and Jesus, Himself. In the first stage of our spiritual hunger we are looking for wisdom and may even have a zeal for more understanding. The crowds in this passage have been following Jesus for several days because they have seen the signs He has performed. Our faith at this point is a materialistic faith. The crowd wants signs to believe that Jesus is the Messiah. Many times, as people are coming to faith, they demand a sign from God, so they know He is real or is talking to them or working on their behalf. These signs most usually come in the form of a material blessing.
The next stage of our spiritual hunger we begin to earnestly seek knowledge and ask for understanding. At this point our faith may be tested to strengthen us and prepare us for the coming journey. Here we have a pessimistic faith, a faith that has forgotten the past glory of God; a faith that fails to think of the power of God. As believers that are still learning and growing, we may think the problem is bigger than God’s power or that God’s power will fail, and our faith will be weakened. A pessimistic faith gives thanks to God for what one has, be it money, food, clothes, health or material things, but does not trust God for the miraculous; this is a faith that looks to others instead of God. This faith is seen in Philip and his trust in money and material resources rather than the power of Christ.
The third stage of our spiritual hunger we study to pursue wisdom and search diligently for wisdom. Here we have an optimistic but questioning faith. This faith lays what it has before the Lord regardless of how little might be offered. This is seen in Peter in our passage. He brings the five loaves and two fishes and lays them before the Lord. At the same time the questioning portion of his faith appears doubting what he has offered is enough. This faith often will deteriorate into complaining about the problem; becoming anxious about the little it has to offer; grumbling over the small amount of provisions and complaining about the quality of the provision.
Finally, we come to the final stage of our spiritual hunger, this is where we understand the meaning of the fear of God and have knowledge of the Holy One. We have a deep respect for God, His position and His power. Our faith is a positive, unswerving faith. This is seen in Jesus as He tests His disciples and performs the miracle of feeding the five thousand on the hill side. This faith offers what it has, does what it can do and then trusts in God to do the rest. All we can do is simply offer what we have in our hands. Our needs can only be met if we offer what we have.
So, where do you find yourself in terms of spiritual hunger? Are you in the first stage listening for the wisdom of God, having a zeal for more understanding? Are you stuck in a materialistic faith that seeks signs, many in the form of material blessings? Or have you moved into the second stage of spiritual hunger, earnestly seeking knowledge and asking for understanding? Is your faith pessimistic having faith in money and other people rather than trusting God to provide? Perhaps you are in the third stage of spiritual hunger, studying to pursue wisdom and searching diligently for wisdom? Your faith is optimistic but questioning. You have laid what you have before the Lord but now you fear what you have to offer isn’t enough. Are you complaining about your problem or doubting what you have is enough?
Maybe you have reached the zenith of faith having an understanding of the fear of God and a knowledge of the Holy One. Your faith is positive and unswerving; you have laid what you have before God, done all that you can do and now you are trusting in God to do the rest. If you have reached this point of faith, praise the Lord! Take what you have learned and chare this with those who are stuck in the first three stages. Regardless of the stage you are currently in, God is with you and working for your benefit and His glory. Lay what you have before the Lord, do what you can and then watch God do the rest. This is not as simple as letting go and letting God. This takes work on our part, trust, faith and, above all, patience.
May God find you resting in His provisions, watching as He works in and through you. To the glory of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Amen.