What will Jesus do when a hungry crowd is following him? – John 6:1-21, Part 2

We Americans tend to default to thinking that bigger is better.  But is bigger always better? No. Not always.  “More people, more problems,” as the saying goes.  On a mountainside in Galilee, Jesus has a problem…well…5,000+ problems, and he asks his disciples what they should do about it.  What I am referring to is one of Jesus’ most famous miracles, the Feeding of the 5,000.  Look at John 6, verses 1-4,

“Some time after this, Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee (that is, the Sea of Tiberias), and a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the signs he had performed by healing the sick. Then Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down with his disciples. The Jewish Passover Festival was near.”

While chapter 5 took place in Jerusalem, now the scene has shifted back to Jesus’ home area in the north, Galilee.  We don’t know how much time has passed between chapters 5 and 6, but clearly, by now Jesus is extremely popular.  John tells us a great crowd is following him.  We’re about to learn that it is a massive crowd. 

I encourage you to read Matthew’s version of this story in Matthew 14, as Matthew adds some interesting detail about when this happened.  If you read Matthew 14, specifically notice that Jesus has just learned that John the Baptist died. Imagine how Jesus is feeling emotionally about that. Especially as a huge crowd comes to him. I wouldn’t blame him if he was thinking, “Not now…” and wanted to run away. What did he do? Look at verses 5-9,

“When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, ‘Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?’ He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do. Philip answered him, ‘It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!’ Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, ‘Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?’”

Jesus sets the disciples up, doesn’t he?  Jesus knows what he is about to do, but he wants to get the disciples thinking, invested in the situation.  How do you feed a huge crowd?  You need a lot of money. Philip’s response shows he’s the numbers guy.  He’s done some quick math in his head and figures it would take half his annual salary to pay for each person in this multitude to have just one bite. 

What Jesus is asking, in other words, is beyond possibility.  We know from other passages in the Gospels that Jesus and his band of disciples received financial support from patrons.  Jesus and the disciples were missionaries who existed on the benevolence of generous people.  But they didn’t have anywhere near enough to pay for the huge amount of food it would take to feed this crowd. 

Another disciple, Andrew, points out a nearby boy holding the lunch his mom packed him.  Obviously that’s not going to cut it, and Andrew knows it.  But perhaps Andrew wants to leave no stone unturned.  Socially, what Andrew does, just simply mentioning the boy’s packed lunch, is risky, and it makes me appreciate Andrew. 

Here’s what I mean.  Andrew could have thought to himself, “Five small loaves of bread…two small fish…I’m not even going to mention it, because if we want to feed this crowd, we’ll need that lunch times 10,000.  Also there’s no way Jesus is going to be okay with us taking a kid’s meal.  Worse, the rest of the guys would make fun of me if I even mention it.  It’s obviously not the right solution, so I’m not going to mention it.”  At least that’s how I tend to think about things.  Don’t put yourself out there.  You don’t want to be shamed or embarrassed. 

But Andrew does put himself out there.  Yes, he covers for himself by pointing out that the boy’s meal was obviously not going feed many people.  It would feed the boy, which is all it was intended for in the first place.  You can imagine the boy’s mom lovingly throwing a few things together for him as he went out with many others to get a glimpse of the miracle-worker prophet who was causing such a stir.  Now the boy is standing right in front of Jesus, and Jesus’ followers are talking about eating his food.

I wonder if any of the disciples said, “Andrew, stop.  Are you seriously suggesting that we take a kid’s lunch?  Jesus, tell Andrew he’s wrong.”

Will Jesus take his meal?  How will Jesus respond to Philip and Andrew?

We’ll find out in the next post.

Photo by CHUTTERSNAP on Unsplash

Published by joelkime

I love my wife, Michelle, and our four kids and two daughters-in-law. I serve at Faith Church and love our church family. I teach a course online from time to time, and in my free time I love to read and exercise, especially running,

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