John 6:3-9, NIV

3 Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down with his
disciples. 4 The Jewish Passover Feast was near. 5 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?"
6 He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what
he was going to do.

7 Philip answered him, "Eight months' wages would not buy
enough bread for each one to have a bite!" 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?"

March 5, 2011
A multitude of people made for a multitudinous problem. The more sick
people he healed, the more appeared on his horizon. Those who were
well and able, went and found others who needed his healing touch.

So Jesus took the disciples and sought refuge on the side of a mountain.
There he sat down. Sitting was the position from which a Rabbi taught
his disciples. Or maybe they all just required some rest. The Passover
was near, possibly they needed quiet time to prepare themselves for that
annual event which would take them back to the Temple in Jerusalem
and all the unresolved controversies left behind after their previous visit.

But when Jesus looked up, he saw a great crowd approaching. Five
thousand men, plus any women and children who could make the trip.
This created a dilemma. The mountainside was isolated and not
travel-friendly. These men, bringing their sick for healing, would be
hungry after walking so far.

Jesus turned to Philip and asked where they could buy food for all
these people! Philip didn't see any reason to be talking about buying
food because they didn't have enough money to purchase food for
50 men, much less 5,000. Andrew had an idea, but as soon as he
voiced it,
he heard how silly it sounded.

Jesus and his disciples were definitely in a pickle. Or so it would seem
to anyone who was watching this scene unfold. But Jesus already
knew what he intended to do.

                                                                                More journal entries


March 8, 2011

Jesus asked a "where" question but Philip heard it as a "how" question.
He thinks out loud about how much money it would cost to feed all these
people. Then quickly concludes there's no way they could pay for that
much bread, not even enough for everyone to get a little bit. Gees, we'd
have to work eight whole months to feed this one crowd! Eight months
is 2/3 of one's annual salary!

I know some people who think like Philip. Everything is a matter of
economics. Each decision begins with a lesson in simple arithmetic.
And most of the time, the discussion ends with the same conclusion:
It can't be done.

Imagine telling Jesus that something can't be done! But don't we do
that all too often!

Eight months wages would provide only "a bite" for everyone. These
people would go away still hungry. In contrast, when Jesus did actually
feed them, they were full and there was food left over.

Andrew's contribution is also interesting. Andrew was a disciple in his
own rite, yet consistently he is introduced as Simon Peter's brother.
In the Gospel accounts, he is portrayed as the approachable disciple.
In this story it is Andrew who met the child who is willing to share his
small lunch.

Was it the child's wish to share his lunch with Jesus? And Andrew's
idea to share it more broadly? The people in the crowd who brought
snacks with them couldn't eat it in front of those who had none unless
they shared, and in their opinion, there wasn't enough to share. Obviously,
two cents can't be stretched into a dollar. At the end of verse 9, the
answer is still: There's nothing we can do to feed all these hungry people.

Philip's response shows what can happen to your hard earned money.
The need and the hunger of the world is so great that what you work so
diligently for can be wiped out in one unforeseen situation or one
awesome act of compassion. Andrew's response shows the limits
of insufficient funds. The sheer number of people in the crowd ensures
there will not be enough to go around.

March 11, 1983
A test, does God test us often? When God tests me, how do I rate?--
Sometimes I escape into sleep, stare, question, make excuses, get
distracted, give in to temptation or doubts. Yes, these are all the negatives.
But there have been some big tests that I have passed and to me those
are the ones that really have made a difference in my life. Is all of life a
test? Or just little parts of it?

Philip, you failed this one. But in later years I know you were strengthened
to pass some big ones.

Philip thought in terms of the minimum amount of bread required, only
enough for everyone to have "a bite". Eight months wages is not what
provides food. God does and God deals in abundance. Philip, your
answer was so calculated, earthly, businesslike, matter-of-fact. None
of these words fit the image of Jesus.

I know some people will identify with working eight months to feed a large
group of people, and think wedding reception! Just yesterday I heard
about a couple who eloped because they wanted to spend the money
on a wedding trip instead.

January 1, 2002
Jesus looked out and saw a multitude of people approaching and the
first thing he thought about was feeding them. I don't know why this
subject came up. Nowhere else are we told anything that would make
us think Jesus routinely fed the crowds.

But the question is on the table. Jesus said to Philip, "Where will we
get food to feed all these people?" And Philip responded-- It would take
more money than we'll ever have to feed all these people, even if we
gave them just one little piece of bread. Which is a stingy amount; he
was thinking small. Andrew butted in that he saw a boy with 5 barley
loaves and 2 small fish. But he quickly added that was nothing among
so many. The situation was hopeless and they were helpless. They
didn't know what to do.

January 2, 2002

Jesus and his disciples had been spending some precious time together
on a hillside, when suddenly they realized they are not alone. There's a
great crowd of people joining them. All good things must end. We move
on. Now with the crowd approaching, there's a problem of feeding
everybody. Nowadays we'd be concerned about bathroom facilities, an
issue ignored by all four of the gospel writers. 

The concern was for food. The crowd was just arriving and Jesus
raised the subject. Mark's account has Jesus feeding them after a day
of teaching. That makes more sense to me. But if you read further
down these verses in John's Gospel, you notice Jesus had much
more in mind than feeding them one meal.

March 10, 1983
Back in the first chapter of John's Gospel, Jesus called Philip to be a
disciple, but he didn't enlist alone, he brought Nathanael with him. Philip
seemed to be easily convinced. He believed without doubting, in contrast
to Nathanael who required more time and experience with Jesus.

In this passage, Philip didn't know how or why they were going to feed
all these people. "Gee I don't know. What do you think? Man, don't lay
that responsibility on me." Philip literally didn't know. It was beyond his
ability to handle or imagine. His was a very human reaction to an
overwhelming problem.

Jesus was in a teaching mode. He had singled out Philip to pay close
attention. Maybe it was about initiative, acting and making things happen,
instead of simply responding with eager belief. Jesus was saying
something like this: Philip your faith needs to go a step further. I have 
a lesson to teach you. You see the crowd coming. Think God, think
possibility, think miracle, think faith. Instead, you're thinking defeat. You
have no answer for my question, no confidence that God is sufficient.
To you this situation is hopeless. The problem can't be solved. As you
think in your mind and as you believe in your heart, so shall it be. So
watch carefully, Philip.

One time Jesus said that if we have faith we can move mountains.
The problem for me is knowing which mountain faith will move and
which mountain reveals a greater blessing by my having to master it
by endurance and hard struggle. Which I should climb, which I should
find a way around, and which I had better ask deliverance from
because of the dangers lurking therein?

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