John 6:8-13 : One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are these among so many?” Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in that place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand. Jesus took the loaves; and having given thanks, he distributed to the disciples, and the disciples to those who were sitting down; likewise also of the fish as much as they desired. When they were filled, he said to his disciples, “Gather up the broken pieces which are left over, that nothing be lost.” So they gathered them up, and filled twelve baskets with broken pieces from the five barley loaves, which were left over by those who had eaten.
When you read this passage, you can almost feel the embarrassment of Andrew when he brought the small amount of food to Jesus. There were 5,000 men there and Andrew brought an amount that Peter could probably have eaten by himself. Jesus responded as if to say, “Thank you, Andrew. Now, have the people sit down and we’ll get going.” Even Andrew might have been a surprised at Jesus response.
It wonder if some of the other disciples were chuckling to themselves when Andrew did this. I think that this exchange says a lot about our relationship with Jesus as weak, fallible human beings. We never have enough to do what He demands. Anything we bring to God will be puny compared to what He deserves and what He actually needs. My pastor likes to say that God didn’t choose you because you were so worthy. He wasn’t thinking, “Man, if I could only get Joe to come to Me then I’d really be capable” Actually, God is completely aware of our lack of ability.
All Jesus needs is for us to bring what we have to Him. He will take it, and make it greater than you could ever imagine.
Notice how Jesus involved the disciples in the distribution of the food. This is how Jesus works through us today as well. We bring what we have to Him, then He takes it, improves it, and gives it back to us to take it out and “feed” the people. Also, notice that nothing goes to waste. In fact, they ended up with 12 times more than when they started! This is definitely how God works in us.
I am sure that Jesus cared about feeding people, but I can see here that He really cared about training His disciples and showing them how their relationship works. We know that Jesus never worried about food. He told us not to either, but our relationship with Him was something that was very important to Him. This event reminds us that we should also not worry about the huge task that God places before us. He will work with whatever we bring to Him. It is also yet another reminder that it isn’t what we do for God that makes the difference, but what God does for us.
Science and History: You can find this story repeated in all four gospels in the Bible at Matthew 14:13-21, Mark 6:30-44, and Luke 9:10-17. It is remarkable to read the different perspectives between accounts. In Mark we read that the disciples, themselves hadn’t had time to eat. They were planning a little retreat and the crowds had followed them and the retreat didn’t happen. I get the feeling that they were really out of resources in many ways. Mark also says that Jesus broke the bread and kept giving the pieces to them to distribute. This is a case where something materialized mysterious way. Jesus was able to make more bread appear in the same form as bread they were used to. It violates laws of nature that we depend on. It is an evidence of one greater than nature becoming involved on earth just like at creation. It is clear that we have four obvious historic accounts of the same event and it involves the supernatural. This is very much like the events at the beginning in Genesis that also involve supernatural events.
Mathematics: In Mark and Luke we find out that the 5,000 includes only men, and Matthew tells us that there were women and children besides the 5,000 men. Luke quotes Jesus as saying that they should sit down in groups of about 50. Mark says they sat in 50’s and 100’s. It appears that although Jesus told them to sit in 50’s some of the groups ended merging. Assuming that there were 3 women or children for every man, that makes the number about 20,000 in up to 400 groups on the ground. This was a huge event. Some towns are not as big as this. It’s interesting that there were enough leftovers for each of the disciples to have their own basket for later.