We all need time to relax, recharge the batteries and take a break. From what we learn in the other Gospels, Jesus and his disciples hadn’t even had a chance to eat and were trying to get away to a quiet place when they were followed by this huge crowd. I can imagine the disciples, desperate for a chance to see Jesus and have some time to themselves. Then they see the crowd. In their position I’d have been tempted to get back in the boat and go somewhere else. It’s a good thing that Jesus isn’t like me. Hallelujah!
“Some time after this, Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee (that is, the Sea of Tiberias)”
The story of Jesus has moved on again back to Galilee and here we see sign number four of seven. This miracle is unique, as it’s the only miracle to be found in all four Gospels. Actually there are comparatively few events that are recorded in all four Gospels and that should tell us something of the importance of today’s reading.
Jesus showed great compassion in his desire to feed the huge crowd. He genuinely cared about individuals. When we think of who he is and that these were just ordinary people it’s extraordinary that he should care. It may be extraordinary but it is consistent, it’s right through the Gospels, right through the Bible and demonstrated in the lives of believers every day.
As well as meeting the physical needs of the crowd, Jesus is using the circumstances as a means of teaching the disciples. Jesus asks Philip; “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” he never asks questions because he doesn’t know the answer; he is challenging their faith and teaching them to rely on him. Philip must have had a good brain to quickly calculate the cost of buying enough bread, apparently his calculations are accurate, but it doesn’t really help. It’s very doubtful whether the disciples between them could have come up with the equivalent of eight months wages and even if they could, where could they buy the bread and how could they transport it? Andrew brought a young boy (the only one with the sense to bring food) to Jesus. It wasn’t much of an offering but then it isn’t the size of our gift that matters; it’s who we give it to that counts.
Jesus showed great wisdom in getting the crowd to sit down, there would be no rush for food, it would be orderly and no one would be missed. Of course, all of this would have been pointless if all they had given out would have been five loaves and two small fish; they needed a miracle and that’s where Jesus comes in. He took what was inadequate and turned it into abundance. It’s astounding what God can do with our meager offerings when his power is working through us. In spite of the abundance, Jesus was determined that there should be no waste (6:12). The spare food was collected and probably to be distributed among the poor later. I’m guessing here but why else would Jesus have insisted that nothing was wasted if he didn’t want it distributed.
The crowd were so thrilled with the obvious demonstration of power they wanted to make Jesus king by force (6:15). But Jesus is working to another plan, to do the Father’s will. That meant avoiding being an earthly king. It meant going to Jerusalem to die on a cross and wearing a crown of thorns.
“Sent of heaven God’s own Son,
To purchase and redeem.
And reconcile the very ones,
Who nailed Him to that tree.
Oh that rugged cross my salvation,
Where Your love poured out over me.
Now my soul cries out Hallelujah,
Praise and honour unto Thee.” (Brooke Fraser, Matt Crocker)