In our ongoing study of the Luke gospel, the record of the life and ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ, we come this morning to the 9th chapter and return to verses 10 through 17, a passage and event commonly known as the feeding of the 5,000 and though it was certainly much more than that. We began to look at this passage last Sunday morning and sort of establish this surrounding elements to the actual miracle, and we'll look at that miracle this morning.
Throughout the ministry of Jesus, the sympathy, the compassion, the kindness and the sufficiency of God for every human need was on display. If you studied the Old Testament, of course, you, as we read this morning, find out that God is merciful and God is compassionate and God is kind and the Old Testament is filled with indications of that, both by statement and by illustration. The compassion of God, however clearly illustrated in the Old Testament, was never illustrated as clearly as in the life of Jesus Christ. Never do we see God as clearly as we see Him in Jesus Christ. He brings God to us in ways that we would never otherwise understand. And so when we see Jesus, we see everything that is true about God being manifest: great power, great wisdom, great consistency, and great sympathy and compassion.
This is one of those passages where the compassion and the sympathy of Jesus is manifest on a grand scale, on the biggest possible stage. In fact, this is quantitatively the biggest miracle Jesus did. And it is a miracle of sympathy, a miracle of compassion, feeding the crowd. It is obvious, and only needs to be referred to very briefly, that the gods of the making of men and demons, the false gods of human history both past and present, know nothing of this kind of sympathy, this kind of compassion, this kind of mercy and kindness, tenderness and love. They are either indifferent or violently hostile or something in between those two poles. But the God, the true and living God, the only God, is a God of great love and compassion and that becomes manifest in the life and ministry of Jesus.
As you remember, this miracle, the feeding of the 5,000, as it's called, marks the highpoint of the Galilean ministry. Jesus has been ministering in Galilee for a long time. He is now past the half-way point of His three-year ministry. He's over eighteen months into that ministry. The bulk of that time has been spent in the area of Galilee, or nearly a year of it. And Jesus has had a great opportunity to proclaim the gospel of the kingdom from one end of Galilee to the other. It's not a large area, at its widest point twenty-five miles, at its longest point fifty miles, 204 towns and villages, very densely populated, and Jesus for months has been crisscrossing the Galilee area and proclaiming the truth of salvation. Also doing miracles to attest to the fact that He is the messenger of God, none other than the Messiah, showing that He has the power Messiah must have to conquer disease, to conquer death, to conquer demons, and therefore to establish the promised glorious kingdom that the prophets spoke about. He is the Messiah, He is the Savior, He is God in human flesh and He brings a message of salvation, forgiveness of sins.
Galilee has listened to this message for months and months. But Galilee has not repented and Galilee has not believed. It is a small group that have repented and believed. It is a small group of disciples that will stick with Jesus all the way through. This marks, then, sort of the pinnacle of Jesus' exposure in Galilee. This is His biggest miracle. He has just sent out the twelve for the first time in His entire ministry to preach the message of the kingdom, the gospel of the kingdom, the message of forgiveness and given them power to cast out demons, to conquer disease and even to conquer death. In other words, He delegated His own power to them, multiplied Himself by twelve in order to have a final blitz across Galilee. A little later He'll send another seventy to do a final sweep across Galilee to preach the gospel of the kingdom, giving them an opportunity to believe and to respond and to acknowledge Him as Lord and Savior, to repent and ask God to forgive their sins. This is at that high point. This is the biggest miracle with the most far-reaching impact in terms of quantity.
The opportunity for the Galileans is ending. After this, Jesus starts to leave Galilee, goes to Tyre and Sidon for awhile, comes back across to Decapolis, a Gentile area for awhile, and then He heads south to Jerusalem for His last trip down there where He will die, giving His life for sinners. So this is Galilee's highpoint. It's the highpoint in terms of the exposure of the miracles of Jesus, the highpoint in terms of the display of His power, the highpoint in terms of the proclamation of the gospel. At the same time, it's the low point because it's at this point that the manifest resistance and rebellion and unbelief of Galilee becomes clear. Off of this miracle comes the defining rejection of Jesus in Galilee, and I'll show you how that works in a moment.
Immediately after this miracle, the effect looked like it was good. John tells us in his account... By the way, all four gospels give an account of this miracle. They only give an account of two. Only two of the miracles are in all four gospels, this and the resurrection. But they give an account of this. In John's account he says after Jesus did this miracle of feeding all these people, the people were so convinced that He was the Messiah, that He was the prophet that God had promised who would come, that He was the one to set up the kingdom, that they tried to take Him by force and do a coup, literally overthrow Herod Antipas, who was the ruler of Galilee, and put Jesus on the throne. Jesus never let that happen. It wasn't time for His earthly kingdom. He would be King only in the hearts of those who believed in Him, only in the hearts of those that repented and acknowledged Him as Savior and Lord. He would not become a political king. He would not set up His kingdom at this time, but He would be King in the hearts of those who truly believed in Him. And there will be some out of this whose faith will be crystallized and firmed, but most out of this marvelous miracle will solidify their unbelief and we'll see that toward the end.
Now as we look at the text, starting in verses 10 to 17, we see the sympathy of Jesus, the compassion of God through Him and it shows up in...in all the elements of the story. First of all, you see the compassion of God toward the need for rest. Verse 10 says, "When the apostles returned." They had just come back from their first mission where they had gone out and preached the message of the kingdom and they healed and cast out demons and they came back after this tiring, wearying ministry opportunity. After weeks of doing that, they came back; they ran into a huge crowd at Capernaum. The crowd was so big they couldn't even get a meal. They couldn't eat. They give an account to Jesus of all that they had done. Jesus, recognizing their need for rest, according to Mark 6:31 says, "Come away and rest awhile. You need to be able to rest. You need to be able to eat." And taking them with Him, Luke writes, "He withdrew by Himself to a city called Bethsaida."
They were to get to Bethsaida, about eight miles by land, on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee, four miles by boat. You can cut the corner a little bit, although the boat trip would take longer. It would give them a little distance from the people and so they got in some little boat and took off across the north shore there and Jesus spent that time, probably had stocked food so that they could eat and have some hours of rest. They crossed to a place called Bethsaida. We talked about it last time, outside Galilee. Jesus wanted this miracle outside Galilee because Herod Antipas was the ruler of Galilee. Herod had killed John the Baptist because he was a threat to his throne. He indicted him for his wicked, wretched life. He was now after Jesus; Jesus even being a greater threat to his throne. So Jesus avoids him, goes into the area or the territory of another ruler by the name of Philip the tetrarch and there does this massive miracle. Not in the village of Bethsaida, but nearby, a place where they had intended to go for some rest. The Scripture tells us that, of course, when they arrived, the crowd was already there. It says in verse 11, "The multitudes were aware of this and followed Him." So we read in the other writers that when they got off the little boat and stepped on the shore, the crowd was already there. We know that because Mark 6:30 to 34 says they ran and were there waiting. John 6:2 says the reason they came was because of the healings. They not only wanted to be healed, they loved the fascination of seeing the healings. I mean, it was...It was like the ultimate magic show, you know. Good magic can draw a crowd. You can imagine what real healing would do. And that's, of course, why they came. They came because of healing.
Now, after Jesus feeds them, the next day they come back. They don't come for the healings anymore, they come for the food. Not everybody needed a healing, but everybody had to eat. So that became a bigger draw for the crowd. So we see what happens in verse 11. The need for rest on the part of the disciples was recognized by Jesus, and we talked about the tenderness of God in understanding the weariness of just doing what we do as human beings and how God understands our need for rest. But there's a greater need than the need for physical rest, and that is the need for spiritual rest. And so the need for rest gives way, secondly, to the need for divine truth. Verse 11, "When Jesus saw the crowd there, He welcomed them." We remember that the other writers tell us he saw them like sheep without a shepherd, lost and unprotected. And so He welcomes them and He began speaking to them about the kingdom of God. He began giving them the wonderful message of forgiveness of sin and entrance into the kingdom of God where there is eternal life through faith in Him. He gave the same wonderful gospel that He's given all through His ministry, first noted back in chapter 4 verse 43 and consistently throughout His ministry. He speaks about the kingdom of God which is the spiritual and eternal kingdom, in contrast to the kingdom of men; which is the kingdom of glory and joy and peace and deliverance in contrast to the kingdom of Satan which is the kingdom of wickedness and judgment and punishment in hell. So He preached His kingdom and He talked about how to enter that kingdom through faith in Him, turning from sin to embrace Him as Savior and Lord. And He preached that wonderful kingdom message all the way until He was ascended into heaven for the final time because that was what concerned Him, not the kingdoms of this world, but the kingdom of God.
And then we saw, also, at the end of verse 11, there was sympathy extended toward another human need. Not just the need for divine truth, the need for rest, but the need for healing, the need for healing. It says at the end of verse 11, "He was curing those who had need of healing." Human suffering caused pain to the Lord. God is disturbed over the need for rest that some of us have, and He wants us to be provided with that rest. He's given us sleep. That's a common grace. He understands the need for that. God is even more concerned about our need for the rest of the soul, divine truth, the message of the kingdom, but then we're right back again to the fact that God feels compassion on those that are sick. Matthew 14:14 in Matthew's account of this miracle says Jesus felt compassion and healed their sick. Human suffering causes God to suffer.
There also here is a testimony of the fact that God can not only be concerned about physical rest and physical healing, but God is even more concerned about spiritual rest and spiritual healing. This is the one who has the power to bring kingdom conditions, to bring about a kingdom of temporal rest, to bring about a kingdom of temporal healing and wholeness which will be characteristic of the Millennial Kingdom. This is the one who has the power to bring truth, the great pervasive truth of the kingdom of God. A Messiah has to do all of that. Jesus shows that He has the power to do all that. He can bring the kingdom and He can bring what the soul desperately needs.
Now we talked about all those things, but let's come, fourthly, to the main element of this story and that is the need for daily food. The actual miracle begins to take place in verse 12. There's not a lot of things that are hidden below the surface here. This is pretty straightforward narrative and explains rather simply and clearly this amazing miracle. You have to sort of allow your mind to expand to engulf the greatness of this event and not be sort of caught off guard by the simplicity of the language.
Here we begin the narrative in verse 12 with the disciples recognizing that it's past noon and this crowd is going to get hungry by dinnertime and they're going to need to have some time to get their food. Verse 12 says, "The day began to decline." The day begins to decline...decline at noon. At noon the sun is at the apex. It reaches its highpoint in the sky. Any time after that is the day beginning to decline. And we don't know when it would be, maybe in the middle of the afternoon, maybe early in the afternoon. And the miracles are going on. The preaching of the kingdom is going on. The disciples then, the twelve, came and said to Him... They are caught up with the earthly things, "Send the multitude away." It always interests me that the disciples are prone to command Jesus. I don't know where they get this brashness, whether or not they had a sort of exalted sense of authority, because they had been out on a mission where they had exhibited divine power, or not, but they're a little bit brash at this particular point, maybe overstepping their bounds. And they say to Jesus, "Send the multitude away that they may go into the surrounding villages and countryside and find lodging and get something to eat, for here we are in a desolate place."
Now this is a miracle about feeding people. It's a miracle about feeding people. And it exhibits again this amazing concern of God for the simple things. Why should God care if you miss a meal? Really, why is it a big deal here? But it strikes me that this is an exceptional testimony to the essence of common grace, to the essence of common grace. God has designed the world in such a way to provide ample food to sustain people. Of course that doesn't happen all over the world all the time because the wretchedness of corruption plays havoc with the provision that God has made. But when God created the earth, He designed a common grace into this world just in the realm of eating. He not only made eating a necessity, He made eating a pleasure. He made eating an amazing delight. I mean, it could have been that God so designed the human anatomy that we would eat dirt and nothing more, or the close equivalent, bran cereal, and that basically life would be filled with nothing but that, some tasteless, tedious brown stuff. And we could have survived on that. But God didn't do that. God literally loaded this world with the potential, almost limitless potential for food. This is an amazing common grace. Just remember that the next time you drive along and you see restaurant after restaurant after restaurant of a variety of foods being presented to which there seems to be no end. It's astonishing.
Having just come back from Italy, I have just lived through weeks of that. Italians eat, I'm confident, better than anybody and there is no Italian that I've ever seen that makes a bad meal. I don't know what it is, but they've perfected it. Maybe started it in Roman times, but they have perfected the art of meal preparation. It's amazing. You can go meal after meal and they're either five- or six-course meals. They understand how to balance all that so that you don't become a blimp after a matter of a few weeks. I don't know what it is. Maybe it's the olive oil, but it's pretty amazing. And they can make everything taste good. It's the bounty of it is just staggering to me. One day we climbed Mount Etna, got to as far as we could get to the edge of the volcano, they wouldn't let us get all the way up because it was doing things. So anyway, we got there. We came down from there and, of course, wherever Mount Etna spews out its lava in Sicily, it runs all the way to the water, miles and miles and miles away. But it by virtue of its ash creates some of the most fertile soil in the world to grow food. And so we came down the mountain to this...some man’s house who was a baron who used to belong to the...he was the Italian delegate to the United Nations, or something, and we were to have lunch on his terrace and so forth and so on. And we sat there and we just kept saying, "Oh my, oh, this..." I don't know how many courses there were but it was like three hours worth of delicacies, incredible things. And this went on day after day everywhere we went. I ate things the name of which I don't even know. You know, I just kept thinking to myself, "What a good God we have, all of this amazing variety, all of this wondrous plethora of delights." And that is a common grace. That is a common grace that’s common to every man by the goodness of God. God does care that you have three meals and that you enjoy them, and that you recognize Him as the source.
This is a miracle of common grace. But it was common grace that He healed everybody. It was common grace that He fed everybody. He didn't put out surveys to have people check off whether they believed in Him or not to determine who got fed. He didn't evaluate anybody's motives. He just pitied everybody. He understands human life. He understands human hunger. He understands the delight that food can bring. I think of that, you know, when I sit in a restaurant and watch all these pagans who have no thought for God enjoying the richness of His common grace. His pity, His kindness, His benevolence extends to everybody. And that whole crowd, many of whom would be screaming for His blood in a few months down in Jerusalem, He fed. When they wanted to make Him King, because they could have a perfect welfare state, it would all be well because He could heal them and they'd all come back from the dead and all the demons would be vanquished and they would have free food every day. When they wanted to make...they wanted to take Him and make Him a King by force, He refused and He said, "This is not the time." He would not respond to that shallow kind of homage. And He became the King only in the hearts of those who believed in Him.
But Jesus was also saying to them, and not only do I have the power to feed you now, because I care about you, I have...I am demonstrating the power to bring the millennial glory to the earth and also, that this is an illustration of your real need which is to be fed in your souls. According to Isaiah 25, one of the things the Messiah is going to do — Isaiah 25:6 to 9 — is put on a lavish banquet in the kingdom. Well Jesus could do that. And He does it right here with the simplest of things.
Back to verse 12, the day is beginning to decline, sometime after noon. The twelve come, they said, "You've got to send these people away. We've got them over here near the town of Bethsaida. There is still time in the day for them to scatter to the surrounding villages, countryside." Remember, I told you it’s densely populated area. "They can find some lodging; get something to eat because we're here in a desolate place." Many of them, of course, were local. Some of them could walk or run back to Capernaum. Others could scatter to the various towns and villages in the vicinity. They had time to do this. This isn't a place where they can get food. That's what that last statement means...means. “We're here in a desolate place,” erēmon topon. Some have translated it desert. It's not a desert place at all. In fact, Mark 6:39 says they were sitting down on green grass. And it's a beautiful, beautiful slope on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee overlooking a crystal beautiful blue waters of that Sea of Galilee. It was beautiful in the spring time because everything was blooming. The fields would be blooming and vineyards would be blooming. And this was...this was an erēmon topon, a lonely place. It’s not a desert place, a lonely place. There just wasn't anything there. There wasn't any place to get any food. And so they said, "You know, ‘You've got to get rid of this crowd, they've got to go eat.’"
Well, this is an act that lacks faith. It would have been a...it would have been better for them to come to Jesus and say, "You know, Lord, it's obvious this crowd is glued on You, they're transfixed and they're not going to go anywhere unless You send them somewhere. But You're going to have a problem on Your hands, they're going to get hungry and then they're going to become cantankerous then we're going to have a problem. The kids are going to cry and we've got some issues to deal with. So, Lord, what do You want to do about the obvious need for food?" They knew that Jesus could control natural animals and they knew that He could control anything, wind, waves, fish. He demonstrated all of that. It would have been encouraging if they had not demonstrated this utter lack of faith. But they do. His response is amazing and surprising. Verse 13: "But He said to them, 'You give them something to eat.'"
Had they already forgotten the power that they had? They had just come back from their mission of several weeks, casting out demons, raising dead people, healing sick people, preaching the gospel. Had they forgotten the power that they had? Power that had been demonstrated over nature because it was the same power Jesus had? Had they forgotten that? Had they forgotten 2 Kings 4:42 to 44, where in an Old Testament situation God granted similar kind of power? "A man came from Baal-shalishah, brought the man of God bread of the first fruits, twenty loaves of barley, and fresh ears of corn in his sack, and he said, 'Give them to the people that they may eat.' And his attendants said, 'What shall I set this before a hundred men?' But he said, 'Give them to the people that they may eat for thus says the Lord, they shall eat and have some left over.' So he set it before them and they ate and had some left over, according to the Word of the Lord." Didn't they know about that incident in 2 Kings where God multiplied food? Or maybe they didn't remember the story about the...the widow in Elijah's day, where the oil never was gone even though it was poured out and the barrel of grain was never diminished even though it was used.
So He says, "Why don't you heal them? Why don't you...I mean, why don't you feed them? You provide food." Well if they had the faith they could. But they really struggled with that. Over in verse 37 of chapter 9, they were coming down from the mountain and there was a big crowd at the bottom of the mountain and a man came up who had a son who was in serious problems. Verse 29, there was a demon that grabbed him, seized him. He would scream and the demon would throw him into a convulsion with foaming at the mouth, and mauling him and horrible things. And the man said, "I begged Your disciples to cast it out and they couldn't." Jesus said, "Oh unbelieving and perverted generation."
The disciples had access to the power. It had been delegated to them by Jesus but they, they just had a hard time believing it. They were that little faith association. So what happened? They said, "We have no more than five loaves and two fish, unless perhaps we go and buy food for all these people." Somebody had already anticipated the problem and gone through the crowd to find out if people brought their lunch, or their dinner. They didn't. We've gone through the crowd. We made at least a cursory look at this crowd and all we could find is five loaves and two fish, unless,” and this is sarcastic, “perhaps we go and buy food for all these people.” And, of course, at that point, you know, we can interject what is in John's gospel, John chapter 6. It says that Jesus said to Philip, "Where are we going to buy bread that these may eat?" Well if we were going to buy bread, where would we go and buy it? And He was testing him. And Philip said, "Well, I checked the bag, we've got two hundred denarii, and that isn't enough. So we don't know where we're going to buy it, and if we could find a place to buy it, we haven't got the money to buy it." They're just being tested and failing the test. And Jesus even said that to Philip to test Philip. And Philip was caught up, Philip was a bean counter. Have a whole chapter on him in my new book Twelve Ordinary Men called Philip the bean counter. "I've checked the bag and that's all we've got. We went through the crowd and we checked, they don't have any food. All we found was five loaves and two fish. We've got a problem."
By the way, it was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, who found the little boy with the fish, remember that? Because in John 6:8 and 9 it says, "Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, said, 'There's a lad here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are these among so many people?'" So, first Jesus said to them, "Why don't you give them some food? Why don't you step out on faith and see what mighty work I will do through you." Oh, they didn't... What is He talking about? Is He kidding? We don't... We don't know where they could buy anything because this is a lonely place. We don't have enough money for them to buy anything. We've checked out the crowd, all there is this one boy and he's got five barley loaves and two fish."
I remember as a little kid, I thought what mother in her right mind would ever give a kid that kind of a lunch? That's crazy. What would he do with five loaves of bread and two fish?
And then I understood that “loaves” means “biscuits,” just five little biscuits, like a cracker. And the fish would either be dried fish, or a pickled fish, probably both, pickled and then dried, even dried in salt. So what it was, was five crackers and some dried fish. That made more sense at that time. And that's all they found was that little bit. And, of course, they evidenced their lack of faith because they said, "You know, we don't have enough money and we don't have enough food," verse 14, "for there were about 5,000 men, andrizo, not anthropos, men generic, males. And Matthew 14:21 says, "Besides women and children." So add certainly as many women and you've got 10,000. Add...figure at least two children per family and probably the average was more. You've got twenty to twenty-five thousand people. Matthew does say “besides women and children,” and by the way, the lunch they found was in the hands of a child, proving their children...the children were there. So there's a huge crowd here, massive crowd.
And they don't have enough money. Two hundred denarii is two hundred days’ wages. It wouldn't begin to buy enough food for that crowd. And the food that they found is utterly inadequate. And then in another surprising statement, verse 14, Jesus said to His disciples, "Have them recline to eat." The literal text says, "Have them recline in groups of about fifty each." Take these fifty men and their wives and associated children and sort them into groups of fifty.
What was that all about? Well, it's easier to serve them that way. “Serve them what?” would be the immediate question. Serve them what? But there isn't any skepticism demonstrated, at least not in the text, there's no record that anyone was skeptical. Jesus says, "Just put them in groups of fifty and have them recline." Mark 6:39 says, "They were on green grass." Beautiful afternoon, spring afternoon, couldn't think of a more delightful place to be than on the north coast of Galilee in a spring afternoon, breezes nicely blowing that time of the year, beautiful lake below your feet, nice green grass, going to have a picnic. And they reclined, they just kind of flopped on the grass. Father's there, wife, kids are there and they put them in groups of fifty.
Interesting note: Mark 6:40 says, "The men sat in groups of fifty and 100." Now if you...If you read here, he put them in groups of fifty, but it adds the figure 100 and maybe the best explanation would be that if you had 100 groups of fifty men, you'd have 5,000 men. So that's probably what happened. There were 100 groups of fifty men and their families and it made aisles of orderly serving of dinner to everyone. And I'm sure the curiosity and excitement began to rise as the people were getting organized, wondering how this was all going to happen. And while the disciples are supposed to be doing it and they are doing it, verse 15 says, they did it, and everybody was reclining, ready to eat. And then verse 16 is the miracle. "And He took the five loaves and the two fish," five little biscuits or crackers, a couple of dried fish, and He did what every Jewish father did at every meal, and still today the orthodox would do this, put His hands on the food, in this case held it in His hands and looked up, simply as acknowledgment of where this came from, acknowledging where all food comes from, that God is the source of all of it. That's what a Jewish father did routinely with his family day in and day out. "And then He blessed them." What does that mean? Well it doesn't mean that He infused...that Jesus infused them with some kind of magic. It doesn't mean He zapped them like with a magic wand so that they could multiply somehow. Bless is eulogeō. It means to give thanks. To eulogize someone is to express gratitude for...for them. And John refers to the same thing and uses the verb eucharisteo from which we get “eucharist” which means to give thanks. So the intent of the passage is to give thanks. So He looks to heaven, acknowledging by that posture that this has come down from God, and then He offers thanks. That's what you do when you bless this food. You are thanking God for it.
And then...and that's what every father would do. "And then He broke them." That's what the father would do, he'd take the bread and he would look to heaven to acknowledge the source of it, then he would pray asking God to receive their thanks for it, and then he would break it and pass it to the family, distribute the food. Just very, very typical; it's amazing how commentators want to see in this some hidden eucharist and this is not anything mystical here, this is just an everyday occurrence. Jesus did it the way it was done every meal in His own house when He was growing up. The only difference was, verse 16 says, "He kept giving it to the disciples to set before the multitude."
And how long would it take you to get rid of five crackers and two fish if you were giving it to twelve people? Well if you tore the fish into a few pieces, you might send them on one trip with the fish, and you broke up the biscuits, it might take two trips with the biscuits and everybody would get one tiny thing. But it wouldn't go beyond a couple of dozen people, at the most. But it says there, and this is the miracle, talk about understated, "Kept giving to the disciples to set before the multitude." He just kept giving food to feed this twenty to twenty-five thousand or more people. It just kept coming and coming, coming. From where? This is ex nihilo. This is out of nothing, this is creation. This is divine creation. This is as much creation as the six-day creation of Genesis 1 and 2. This is Jesus, listen, bringing into existence things that don't exist. This is Jesus adding to the amount of matter that exists in the universe. This is the One by whom all things were made and without whom nothing was made that was made making something else. And this isn't, in a sense, unique because every time He healed sick people He had to create a new organ. Every time He healed lame people He had to create new limbs. Every time He healed a blind person He had to create new eyes or new components of the eyes so that the eye which was blind could see. Every time He healed a deaf person He had to create some new element within the framework of the hearing mechanism so that the person could hear. Creative acts He did all the time.
But this one was more visible than anything else because it was just coming out of His hands. Just...it was always there, and there was more, and there was more, and there was more, and there was more, and more, and more. And there never is any skepticism about the miracle. Nobody ever questions this. And yet everybody there knows that there's no food except what He's creating and He's creating it so that it's distributed among the entire crowd. It's little wonder that they said, "This is the prophet." It's little wonder that as John 7 says, "They said, 'This is the Christ. This is the Messiah.'" Even though they struggled with it because they said, "Well how could the Messiah come out of Nazareth? How could He come out of Galilee? Isn't He supposed to come out of Bethlehem?" Sure they were materialistic but it was a convincing thing. This is our materialistic Messiah who is going to bring us our welfare state with healing and free food and etc., etc., etc. It was convincing. There was nothing like it ever in history.
And to show you how...how great is this common grace, "He gave to the disciples to set before the multitude. They went down the aisles, served this, let's say 100 groups of fifty men and their families, and they all ate." And that's so important to put that in there because this was not some kind of symbolic thing. They all ate. Everybody ate, all the 20,000, all the 25,000, however many there were, they all ate. There was enough for everybody to eat.
And somebody might say, "Well yeah, but it was just a...sort of minimal amount." No, they all ate, it says, this is interesting, "And were satisfied." By the way, just as a footnote, no attempt was made to preserve any ritual, Jewish customs about eating. None of the traditions were observed. There was no ceremonial washing. There was no tithing of food to the priest. There was no kosher preparation issues. The Lord just passed out the food. He bypassed all of that stuff. And everybody ate and everybody was satisfied. Let me tell you about the word satisfied. It's the Greek word chortazō. Chortazō is used to fodder an animal. Now animals do not have self-discipline, so an animal will eat till an animal is full. An animal will literally gorge itself as it knows no restraint until it is completely satiated. That's the word used here...to fodder. In fact, in Revelation 20...Revelation 19 and verse 21 it speaks about a feast that is going to take place at the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, a feast that you're familiar with, if you remember the passage in Revelation 19, when it talks about all the slaughter that's going to come and it says, "All the birds...birds," in verse 21 of Revelation 19, "were gorged with their flesh." So here come the scavenger birds at the horrors of Armageddon, the massacre at the end of the age, and they literally gorge themselves on the flesh of the dead on the field of Armageddon, slaughtered by the returning Christ. So it's a word that has to do with being literally filled to the max. “Gorged” is an appropriate translation. They ate like they had never eaten before. And I'll tell you something, you know, I don't know...you know what biscuits taste like in myriad forms and you know what fish taste like, but you don't know what unfallen, uncursed biscuits and fish taste like that never went through the normal process, that never experienced the curse or the Fall, or the effect of it on the world and the earth and animals and plants that make up the components of that, flour and fish. You...This must have been the best fish and the best biscuits that anybody ever, ever ate, and that's why they just kept pouring it in. They ate like they had never eaten before. Husbands were saying, "You never make stuff that tastes this good."
So, this was not a minimal thing. This was...This was a staggering miracle of creation, creating biscuits and fish already prepared for eating without any of the process. And why does He do this? It's a common grace. Oh, it's a display of messianic power and shows His ability to bring about the lavish great feast of the kingdom, but it's a common grace. He cares that people are hungry and God has provided in this world an amazing amount of food, an amazing amount of food. The variety is endless. And I really do believe that those nations which move further and further away from God enjoy less and less of that.
You say, "Well what about all the starving people in India?" The people in India aren't starving because they don't have food. They're starving because they worship rats and cows that eat the food. It's true in other nations where there are terrible famines. Those famines have nothing to do with whether the land has the ability to produce the food. It has to do with whether the people will work the land to produce the food, people who have been slaughtered and dispossessed of everything by revolutions, by conquerors of various sorts, including communists who had come in the past and destroyed the livelihoods of people. There are lots of reasons for that but not because God hasn't given us an earth full and rich of provision. And here is that common grace being demonstrated. Everybody had everything they wanted till they were probably just flat on the grass, trying to help each other get up to go home.
And there's one final little element to the story that shows another sensitivity on the part of the Lord toward the need for provision for His servants. While He's expressing common grace to all, He's certainly not going to forget His own. And it says in verse 17, "And the broken pieces which they had left over were picked up, twelve baskets full."
I read several commentators last week who said, "This is Jesus telling us how important it is not to litter." "We need to be remembering that Jesus was the original environmentalist." This is not about litter. That stuffed wasn't wrapped in paper or plastic. This is about precision. The disciples had to go through the whole crowd, and there were people who still had some left, and they said, "I can't eat another bite." And the disciples said, "Well we're going to collect it," and when they collected every single bit that wasn't eaten, there were exactly twelve baskets full. And the Lord in His grace had provided for the twelve what they needed. Basket is kophinos in the Greek. It has to do with a little Jewish travel basket which they liked to take when they traveled because they didn't want to buy food in a Gentile region. So they would take typically crackers which could survive and salted or dried fish, such as this would be.
The precision of our Lord is staggering. He creates and He creates to the last morsel, exactly what it takes to feed every single person, then have twelve baskets left to feed twelve apostles. And there's nothing left over. Generosity, yes. Precision, staggering, absolutely staggering. He's generous but He's precise. He gives, but He doesn't waste. He has demonstrated His deity in an unmistakable way. Nobody can do this but God. He is the Messiah of God. He is the Son of God. He is the Lord. The crowd that had experienced this, you'd think they'd fall on their faces, you'd think they'd say, "Lord, feed our souls the way You fed our bodies. Lord, take us to the glories of Your kingdom. Heal our spirits the way You healed our...our physical ailments. Lord, we worship You, we bow before You, bring Your kingdom to our hearts."
John gives us the...the postscript on the event. Turn to the 6th chapter of John. After this evening was over and they had all eaten and rolled around the grass for a while, they were able to finally get up. It's unlikely that they ran this time back to Capernaum. And when they arrived in the morning, verse 22 of John 6, "The multitude stood on the other side of the sea, saw that there was no other small boat there except one and that Jesus had not entered with His disciples into the boat, but that His disciples had gone away alone. There came other small boats from Tiberias near to the place where they ate bread after the Lord had given thanks. When the multitude therefore saw that Jesus was not there, nor His disciples, they themselves got into the small boats, came to Capernaum seeking Jesus." So some of the walked, some of them got in other boats, went over to find Jesus in Capernaum. They finally found Him on the other side of the sea. They said to Him, "Rabbi, when did You get here?" Well do you remember the night that He got there was the night that Peter walked on the water, and that great story. Anyway, they were there and Jesus said, "Well here you are again, aren't you? Truly, truly I say to you, you seek Me not because you saw signs.” Last time you showed up over on the Bethsaida side, verse 2 says, because He was performing signs. They were there because they were seeing signs, chapter 6 verse 2. Now, He says, you're not here because you saw the signs, but because you ate the loaves and were filled. You never had such a phenomenal meal in your life, and you're back for breakfast. You're working hard, folks, He says, you're going all over the place, rowing boats, running around, working hard to get this food." Verse 27, He says, "Don't work for the food that perishes. Why don't you make this...why don't you make the effort for what food doesn't perish. Why don't you...Why don't you go for the food that endures to eternal life which the Son of Man will give you? For on Him the Father, even God, has set His seal." Why aren't you looking for the spiritual food? Why aren't you repenting and asking for forgiveness and eternal life?
Well, they weren't going to give up so easily with that speech. So they said to Him, "What shall we do that we may work the works of God? Tell us how to work those works of God." Jesus said to them, "This is the work of God: that you believe in Him who is sent...whom He has sent.” You are to believe in Me as your Savior and Lord.
"Really," they said, "what then do you do for a sign that we may see and believe You?" Are you kidding? You talk about hard-hearted unbelief. That's amazing. You know what they're really saying? We want breakfast. This is a ploy. “What work do you perform? Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness” and remember, they got manna every day. That's what they're saying. Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly I say to you, it's not Moses who has given you the bread out of heaven, but it's My Father who gives you the true bread out of heaven, for the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven and gives life to the world." And they said, "Oh, give us this bread." He said to them in verse 35, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall not hunger, he who believes in Me shall never thirst." Just...Don't you get it? Don't you get it?
Verse 36, "But I said to you, that you have seen Me and yet do not believe." That is so sad. That’s the culmination of the Galilean ministry, seen it all, heard it all, don't believe. But, "All” verse 37 “that the Father gives Me shall come to Me and the one who comes to Me I'll certainly not cast out." There will be a remnant, the elect remnant. "For I've come down from heaven not to do My own will but the will of Him who sent Me, and this is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me, I lose none, raise him up on the last day. This is the will of My Father that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him may have eternal life and I Myself will raise him up on the last day." There will be some who will believe, and they will receive eternal life. The Father will give them to Me. I will keep them. I will raise them to eternal glory.
And you know what their response was? Instead of saying, "Oh Lord Jesus, give us that eternal life. Forget the breakfast, give us eternal life." But instead the Jews were grumbling about Him because He said, "I am the bread that came down out of heaven." They didn't want that kind of bread, they wanted the physical bread. And then they said, "Isn't this Joseph...Isn't this Joseph's son, Jesus, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say I've come down out of heaven?"
Now, you see, they're arguing against what they know to be true because they've just seen His heavenly power displayed. Jesus answered and said to them, "Don't grumble among your selves. No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him and I'll raise him up on the last day." He reiterates in verse 47, "Truly, truly I say to you, he who believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness and they died. This is the bread which comes down out of heaven so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down out of heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he shall live forever and the bread also which I shall give for the life of the world is My flesh.” I'm going to die to make this eternal life available.
Well they wanted little or nothing to do with it. And even disciples, verse 66, "Many of His disciples withdrew and weren't walking with Him anymore.” They said, “That's enough for us.” And Jesus said to the twelve, "You do...You do not want to go away also, do you? Simon Peter answered Him, 'Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life and we have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.'" It was just that small group. The crowd, they were gone. They were so self-righteous they couldn't see themselves as hungering and thirsting. They didn't see their spiritual need. That's what self-righteousness does. That's what religion does to people, puts a veil over reality. They were all caught up in what they needed physically, didn't want to admit that they needed spiritually.
So they ate a meal one evening on the shore of Galilee and went to hell. When the One who fed them the meal would gladly have fed them the bread of heaven, His own life and healed their sick souls and fed their hungry hearts. But Jesus does say, that's all bound up in God's counsel. You're guilty, but God is sovereign.
So what do we see in this whole story? We see the generous, merciful, loving Lord. We see the compassion, the sympathy, the tenderness, the kindness of God even toward those who rejected Christ. He set an example for us that we ought to walk the way He walked. We need to show mercy to people who need rest. We need to provide divine truth for people who need to hear the message of salvation. We need to bring whatever relief we can to those who suffer from the sicknesses and diseases that sin brings into the world. But mostly, we need to tell people of the eternal bread of life, who is Jesus Christ. He takes care of us. He shows us the compassion of God. May we show that same compassion of God to those to whom we serve and minister. Let's pray.
Father, we thank You that You've given us a pattern here to follow and yet one that's way beyond us. And give us the...the understanding of what it means when John said, "If we say we abide in Him, we ought to walk the way He walked." Obviously we can't do miracles but we can show sympathy and we can show kindness and tenderness and sensitivity, compassion. Compassion to those who need rest, compassion toward those who need healing, compassion toward those who are hungry, compassion toward servants of God who need sustaining, and mostly compassion toward those whose hearts are hungry, who are like sheep without a shepherd, compassion that causes us not just to be concerned about physical rest and physical food, but more importantly, about spiritual rest and spiritual food. May we bring the bread of life to the world around us, realizing that many will reject but that there will be many whom the Father will draw, whom He will give to the Son, whom the Son will receive and keep and raise in eternal glory. May we be faithful and useful instruments to that end, to serve that purpose for which Christ came. We pray in His name. Amen.
This article is also available and sold as a booklet.
This sermon series includes the following messages:
Please contact the publisher to obtain copies of this resource.Publisher Information