1 Some time after this, Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee (that is, the Sea of Tiberias), 2 and a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the signs he had performed by healing the sick. 3 Then Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down with his disciples. 4 The Jewish Passover Festival 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, “It would take more than half a year’s wages to 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?” 10 Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, and they sat down (about five thousand men were there). 11 Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish. 12 When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” 13 So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten. 14 After the people saw the sign Jesus performed, they began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.” 15 Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.
This story is the fourth out of seven miraculous signs in the book of John. It follows Jesus turning water into wine, Jesus healing the official’s son, and Jesus’ healing on the Sabbath. John was showing the people then, and us now, who Jesus was and what he had come to do. These stories are full of references to the Jewish customs of the time, to help the hearers of the day understand.
This story starts with Jesus crossing the sea with his disciples (vs 1), a reference to the Old Testament story of Moses bringing the Israelites out of exile by crossing the sea (Exodus 14). It is nearly Passover, and Jesus knows that the people will need bread to celebrate (vs 4) so they can give thanks and remember this story of the exodus (Exodus 12). Jesus gives thanks to God and the bread is miraculously provided (vs 11), just as God had done, providing Manna for his people on their journey through the desert, from Egypt to the promised land (Exodus 16). No one goes hungry, there is enough for all. This sign story revealed to many that Jesus was the long awaited for Messiah, the one who could provide for them and save them (vs 14).
I was challenged by one particular part of this story. Verses 12 and13 say that there were lots of leftovers, which were to be gathered up, and that none should be wasted. God is generous, he gives enough for all, and he wants nobody to miss out. Do I live like God provides enough for all? Not only is there enough food, wine, and resources on this planet for all but there is enough salvation for all, and none of it should be wasted. Do I live by this truth? Do I make sure not to waste my salvation? Do I share the hope of salvation with others, so that none of it is wasted?
Dear Jesus, help me to live generously, sharing what I have both materially and spiritually, so that others might know the hope of salvation in you. Amen
Written by Ps. Zoe Stewart