I find a strange juxtaposition between current events and our next section of John’s Gospel. During this Covid-19 crisis, worry and fear (and perhaps greed) have caused some folks to hoard toilet paper of all things. And yet in John 6:1-14 we how Jesus used someone’s willingness to miraculously multiply five loaves and two fish to feed well over 5000 folks.
The scene is a grassy knoll near the Sea of Galilee. A large crowd, 5000 men, and who knows how many women and children. Easily 10,000 or more souls. So many that it would take 200 days of paid labor to purchase enough bread. John records, “One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to Him, “There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are these for so many people?”” We aren’t told how Andrew discovered the lad’s treasure.
Children don’t see the impossibilities or understand in an adult way how five loaves and two fish fail to even begin to meet the need of the crowd. Perhaps the boy overheard Jesus’ conversation with Phillip and, in child-like ignorance, offered what he had. Just dwell on that for a moment. It’s quite the opposite of the hoarding response people often exhibit in a crisis.
John next reports that Jesus invited the folks to sit. “Jesus then took the loaves, and having given thanks, He distributed to those who were seated; likewise also of the fish as much as they wanted. When they were filled, He said to His disciples, “Gather up the leftover fragments so that nothing will be lost.” So they gathered them up, and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves which were left over by those who had eaten.” (from John 6:1–14, NASB95) Not only did Jesus provide, but there were also plenty of leftovers.
I think that Jesus works this kind of miracle in our lives more than we know. Even in my own testimony, there was a time when we had little as I tried to build a business (and failed miserably). One day we ran short of cooking oil. Looking at the bottle, it couldn’t last until our next paycheck. My wife gave the problem to God. That bottle lasted until the following Sunday when someone gave us a bag of groceries.
On top of everything else was a full bottle of cooking oil. I can also recount times when things lasted longer than usual. Cars that didn’t break down when they should have, things like that.
I don’t think God did those things in our life because we’re unique in some way. Or because we prayed a certain way. I do believe that the door to the miraculous is opened in the same way that we see above. During our poor years, we continued to give to God both financially and through serving. We continued to trust and share generously instead of gathering all we could for ourselves.
In the Lambchow audience, there are those in bone-shattering poverty and those in comfort. Both need to trust God, to be generous, to react to the need as the boy with the five loaves and two fish. Refuse to be shut down by the enormity of the need and the littleness of our supply because God loves multiplication: oil that doesn’t run out, small seeds that grow into large trees, five loaves and two fish which feed well over 5000 souls. Give your need to God, and let’s see what happens next.