Matthew 14:13-21; Mark 6:30-44; Luke 9:10-17; John 6:1-13
The Lord Provides
We have before us today one of the key events in Jesus’ ministry, so important in fact that all four of the gospels report it. The disciples return from their preaching tour which we read about last Thursday. We do not know how long they were gone, but surely several weeks or more. When they return they tell Jesus all they had done and taught in his name. Jesus insists that they come away with him to a “desolate place” to rest awhile. But that won’t happen.
The people see them leave in a boat to cross the Sea of Galilee – and run ahead to beat them to the other side. When Jesus lands and sees the crowd, rather than moaning about his lost time of R&R with his disciples, “he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd.” What a terrible indictment on the ministry regardless of time or place, that God’s people would be like sheep without a shepherd. After teaching and healing them, John says that he tests Philip (and the rest of the disciples), asking him, “`Where are we to buy bread so that these people may eat,’…for he himself knew what he would do.” Each gospel reports that there were five-thousand men besides women and children, and that two-hundred denarii (a denarius was a day’s wage) would not be enough that each of them might receive a little. But Jesus took five loaves and two fish, which a boy supplied, fed the multitude so that all were satisfied, and even had leftovers to spare.
The children of Israel ate manna in the wilderness for forty years, bread right off the desert floor. It is written that the Lord gave them this manna that they might know that “man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD” (Deuteronomy 8:3; Matthew 4:4; Luke 4:4). This is the purpose of all the bread we eat, of everything we eat: to remind us of the Bread of Life who came down from heaven that we may not die (John 6:49-50). These are the words Jesus said to the people the very day after he fed them. They wanted more bread, they wanted more healings, they wanted more of what Jesus had to offer. But they did not want Jesus himself. The Messiah is a wonderful person who fulfills all of our wants and needs, and heaven is a wonderful place where we can do anything we want to do. Actually, no. We live for the Messiah and his Father, not the other way around, and heaven is where we worship Him forever, not float on clouds. Jesus said, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent me” (John 4:34). May it ever be the same with us.