"Jesus Feeds the Hungry"
P. G. Mathew | Sunday, September 3, 1995
Copyright © 1995, P. G. Mathew
How do we solve our problems? Jesus is all we need. Jesus meets our every need - every spiritual, physical, mental and social need. We see this in the account of the feeding of the five thousand men. This miracle is the only miracle of Jesus that is reported by all four evangelists, indicating that it is a very important miracle.
Jesus and his apostles desired rest. We are told that Jesus had sent the apostles out to preach and heal the sick, and they returned with great joy, telling Jesus of their success. Jesus had also just been told how Herod Antipas had beheaded John the Baptist. So here we see Jesus inviting his disciples, "Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest." True rest is resting with Jesus.
Jesus and his disciples crossed the Sea of Galilee and went to the northeastern shore to Bethsaida to rest. But as soon as they arrived, over ten thousand people from all the towns of Galilee also arrived there on foot. When Jesus saw the multitude, he refused to rebuke them. He wasn't frustrated. Instead, the text says, his heart went out to them. Jesus said these people were like sheep without a shepherd; like sheep without food, shelter, rest, direction and protection. Their religious leaders had failed them by replacing the word of life with their own deadly traditions.
We see this occurring today in some Christian churches. Some ministers do not preach the true gospel, and so we see sheep without shepherds. But Jesus is the good shepherd sent by the Father, and he will never drive away those who come to him in need. Rather, Jesus meets their need, and he is the only one who can. He came to seek, to save, to minister and to die for our sins that we may live. He alone meets our spiritual, mental, physical and social needs.
So Jesus abandoned his own plan to rest and refresh himself so that he could give rest to the needy who were coming to him. It is he who said, "Come unto me. . . and I will give you rest." (Matthew 11:28)
Jesus Gives Spiritual Rest
Jesus gave these people spiritual rest by preaching the kingdom of God to them. Mark 6:34 says, "When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things." And Luke 9:11 says, "But the crowds learned about it and followed him. He welcomed them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God."
Jesus understood that man's fundamental need is spiritual, so he taught them many things, preaching to them about the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God is the realm of spiritual rest. It is the kingdom of eternal life, righteousness and the rule of God; the realm where people's burdens of guilt are removed, and they experience liberation in their spirits. It is the realm of peace and joy, a realm where there is no fear, no sin, no devil, no disease and no tears. It is a condition of total satisfaction, a realm where no one hungers and thirsts.
But how can sinful man ever come into this realm of true fellowship with God? How can anyone enter this kingdom of happiness? Our actions are evil, our thoughts are evil, our speech is evil and our worship is evil. How can such people enter the kingdom of God? Jesus showed the way. He said, "You must be born again: born of the Holy Spirit. You must receive divine nature to see and enter into this realm. You must repent of all your sins and forsake your sins. You must believe on the One the Father has sent, his only Son, God-Man, Jesus Christ." He said "You must believe in me: I am the living bread. He who comes to me will never hunger and never thirst."
We must realize that our fundamental need is not for physical healing or food. Our fundamental need is spiritual. We need forgiveness of sins, to be raised up spiritually and to be liberated within. So Jesus preached the way of salvation, but it seems that very few people believed what he said. He was not very successful, as we read in John 6.
These people ate the food Jesus provided and were filled, but the next day or so when they came back to Jesus, he said, "I tell you the truth, you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill." (John 6:26). In other words, they did not realize from the miraculous signs that Jesus was the Son of God, the Christ, the living Savior. They did not make the logical connection that this was the great Prophet, Messiah and Deliverer, the King of kings and Lord of lords, the eternal Son of God who came into this world to save us. No, they came to Jesus because they ate physical food and had their fill. They came because they thought he was a political messiah who was able to give them physical things. So he preached again, "Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you."
Oh, how true this is today! People come to church and go through religious formalities, but when you analyze their thoughts and desires you will discover the same idea, that most people are going to church for temporal reasons, whether it is to get well physically, to get money, or to find a husband or a wife. Most people are coming to Jesus Christ, not for the salvation of their souls, which is their fundamental need, but that they may receive temporal blessings. Many people call themselves Christians but they are not saved. They call themselves Christians because they are receiving material benefits.
Look at what Jesus said in John 6:35: "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry and he who believes in me will never be thirsty." He was not saying that he was the bread that gives you physical strength and sustenance, but that he was the bread that gives you spiritual life and entry into the kingdom of heaven. Jesus Christ is the living bread who gives us eternal life. Look at John 6:51: "I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever." What does it mean to eat his flesh and drink his blood? It means to believe in the words of Jesus Christ and to trust in him.
So Jesus did not have much success. John 6:66 says, "From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him." For them this saying was too hard. Very few people at that time believed in Jesus Christ, and even today the preaching of the gospel is not meeting with great success. But all that the Father ordained for eternal life will come and will trust in Jesus Christ alone for their salvation. They will be enabled by God to come. As they hear the gospel with great excitement and understanding, the Spirit of God will minister to them, and they will trust in God and be saved.
Jesus Gives Physical Health
Jesus gives spiritual health, but he also gives physical health. "When Jesus landed and saw the large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick." (Matt. 14:14). Luke 9:11 says, "He welcomed them and spoke to them . . . and healed those who needed healing." This means every single person who wanted healing received it from our Lord Jesus Christ. He is all we need. He is the one who solves our spiritual problems, our physical problems, our food problems and every other problem. Jesus is God, and he is able to heal, so he healed them of all diseases. He healed all who needed healing.
Only Jesus is able to meet every need of man. If Jesus willed, he could heal every person on this planet right now because he alone is omnipotent. If he does not heal you, we know it is because he wants you to receive the grace that is sufficient for you in your situation. PGM He may not heal because he knows the sickness will contribute to your good by humbling you and making you turn to God. If a disease causes me to do that, it is better than being healed of that disease. If God doesn't heal you, it is because he knows your disease will contribute to your increased reliance on him and him alone. What if you die of your disease? If you trusted in Jesus Christ, you will be ushered into the presence of God to be with him forever. Our hope is not in this world or in this life. We are given eternal life, and we shall never thirst nor hunger. So if God doesn't heal you, it is because he wants you to come into greater conformity to the character of Jesus Christ. Never doubt the fact that he is able to heal you physically. I am a living testimony of that. God has healed me all my life, and he will continue to help me until the day he wants me to die.
Jesus Gives Physical Food
Thirdly, Jesus gives physical food. God who created all things also sustains all things. Psalm 145:15-16 tells us: "The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food at the proper time. You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing," whether lions, worms, birds, wicked people or godly people. Who do you think provides physical food to every living being in the whole world? It is the Lord Jesus Christ.
In Paul's first missionary journey, he went to Lystra in southern Galatia and preached to the pagans there. In Acts 14:17 he said to these pagans, "[God] has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food, and fills your hearts with joy." So idols, gurus, religious leaders, or politicians cannot give you food to eat. They can do absolutely nothing. My God sends down rain and causes his sun to shine. My God causes things to grow and produces a harvest so that you and I, whether wicked or godly, may eat, rejoice and have plenty. So God provides physical food.
Jesus Gives Tests
How, then, do we solve our problems? Jesus was on the northeastern shore of the Sea of Galilee and all these people came to him. Abandoning his plan to rest, he turned to Philip, who came from that area, and asked, "Philip, where can we find food to feed them?" (John 6:5). Jesus had decided to feed the people even before he started preaching and healing, so he asked Philip, "Where can we buy bread for these people?" His idea was this: "I want you to chew on this problem for a while and let me know what you can come up with. You have many hours. I am going to preach to them; then I am going to heal the sick; and then we are going to feed them with physical food. So come up with an answer! I want you to solve that problem, Philip. I am giving you time to think about it and I want you to figure out a solution."
The sixth chapter of John says that Jesus was testing Philip. Jesus already knew how he was going to solve the problem, but for us, every problem we face is a test of our faith. Deuteronomy 8:2 says, "Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands." A problem humbles people to see whether they believe in God or not. Every problem we face in life, every piece of bad news, every lack and every pressure is a test of our faith.
Jesus Gives Solutions
There are two ways people try to solve problems. First, we measure the problem. There are ten thousand or more people coming, and we take that fact into our accounting. Next, we notice it is a desolate, solitary place and there are no shops. Third, we look at our purse and there is no money. Next, we look at the time -- it is gone. So our solution is that we cannot feed them. The time is late. We would say, "Jesus, you need to send these people away. Send them away hungry. Let them go while there is still some daylight left. You gave us this problem to solve, we looked at everything, and this is our conclusion: we cannot solve this problem. There is no solution."
So this is the first way people try to solve problems: to calculate and reason and take everything into account except God, who was sitting right there in the person of Jesus Christ. This represents the height of unbelief! Yet this problem-solving method is present even among Christians who believe in the Bible and go to church. Remember the ten spies who came to Moses after spying the land? What was their report? "Oh, it is a good land; it flows with milk and honey. But we cannot go in and defeat the people because they are stronger than we are. Compared to them, we are grasshoppers." These spies reasoned and calculated and came to a conclusion, but human reason always fails because it leaves out God -- the infinite, almighty, omniscient Creator and Sustainer of the universe.
This is our problem. This is why we are anxious, fearful, angry and frustrated. So Philip said, "No, we cannot feed them, and you cannot feed them either, Jesus. No one can do it. And I want to let you know that it is late, so please -- send them away."
This doesn't make any sense. People are supposed to come to Jesus for solutions, but here Philip said the people should go away to solve the problem. What did Andrew say? "Oh, we only have five loaves and two fishes. We cannot do it. We cannot do it at all. Send them away." So here you see the church, the Christians, flunking out. Why? Because of unbelief. It is only when we have faith that we see Christ the Lord ruling and reigning and the one who is the solution to every problem of the universe.
Immanuel: God with Us!
There is a second way to figure this out. We need to bring God into our problem! After the disciples made their recommendation, Jesus said, "They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat." So we see that we still can calculate the problem and use our reason, but in our calculation and discussion and reasoning, we need to make that sure we include the essential factor, which is Jesus Christ our Lord.
Read Romans 4. God had promised Abraham a son, but when Abraham was about one hundred years old, nothing had happened. But look at Romans 4:17-21: "As it is written: 'I have made you a father of many nations.' He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed -- the God who gives life to the dead, and calls things that are not as though they are. Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations. . .Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead. . .Yet he didn't waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had the power to do what he had promised."
There is so much frustration, fear and confusion in the lives of Christians! Even when leaders of churches get together, they don't always bring in Jesus. They plan and circulate literature and talk about raising money, thinking money will solve the problem. Then they have a little prayer -- a little formal, nominal prayer, because they want to be spiritual. But Abraham brought God into his problems. In Genesis 22 God told Abraham, "I want you to sacrifice your son, your only son, the son whom you love, the son I have given you - Isaac - in whom the promises are to be fulfilled." And when Abraham took Isaac for sacrifice, Isaac asked, "Where is the animal?" What did Abraham say? "The Lord will provide." The problem was a dead son - that's okay - but bring God into a dead son. Abraham believed that God was able to raise for Abraham a son out of the ashes, "and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death." (Hebrews 11:19)
David faced the problem of Goliath and a vast army of Philistines. Not even one person was able to face this giant Goliath, but here was a little boy with a sling who said, "You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty." (1 Samuel 17:45) Gideon and his three hundred faced a vast army, but when God was brought into that problem it was solved and a great victory was won. Elijah was fed first by a raven, then by a widow who had nothing, and finally by an angel. God provided him with food and drink. Look at the Israelites. Two million Israelites were in the desert for forty years with no food or water in an extreme climate. It was a place full of enemies and problems, but God took care of them for forty years. That's our God! Bring God into your calculation if you want any kind of divine solution to it.
In Numbers 14:8 Caleb and Joshua said, "We can do it if the Lord is pleased with us." That's the nature of faith! It is living, dynamic, God-conscious and Christ-conscious. But if you don't have faith you will be self-conscious and cosmic-conscious. You'll be conscious of everything but God. It is amazing how Christians can forget about God and talk about everything else in the universe, and then they go about frustrated, confused, quarreling and in discord, misery and wretchedness. So Philip's problem is our problem.
Jesus Gives Competence
Philip could have passed the test. When Jesus said, "Philip, solve the problem," what did he expect Philip to do? He could have come back and said, "Jesus, it is absolutely impossible for us, but you can do it. With men it is impossible, but with God all things are possible. You have done miracles before. You changed water into wine. You healed the sick. You cast out demons. You calmed the storm. We already have drawn the conclusion that you are the Christ, the Son of God, eternal God in human flesh. We know that you are sufficiency, potency, might, power and wisdom. You are God. You can do all things. We can only come up with five loaves and two fish. But if you give me bread, I will give it to these people."
In 2 Corinthians 2:16 Paul asked this profound question, "Who is equal to such a task?" meaning, "Who can preach this gospel that kills people and gives life to other people?" And in 2 Corinthians 3:5 he gives the answer: "Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God." Our competence comes from God! In 2 Corinthians 9:8 Paul says, "And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work." He says, "My God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus," and "I can do all things through Jesus Christ who strengtheneth me." (Philippians 4:19, 13)
Paul is not just exercising the positive thinking that we often hear about. His statements are based on the reality of God who exists, who is infinite and personal, and who is for us. "If God is for us, who can be against us?" (Romans 31b) So the Christian says, "I can do all things through Jesus Christ who strengtheneth me." He is God-conscious. His mind is filled with God. Fix your eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of your faith. Think about God!
Fix Your Eyes on Jesus
Christians should face their problems. Don't be like Christian Scientists or others who deny problems. Problems are real, and sin and sickness are real. As Christians we need to look on problems correctly, but then we need to look at God, in whom we trust.
In Matthew 16 Jesus said something about bread, and panic came into his disciples. "It is because we didn't carry bread," they said. But Jesus said, "Now, come on, think about this. What happened when we fed five thousand people with five loaves? What happened? How many did we feed with five loaves? And how much did we take up? Well, we fed five thousand, and we took twelve basketfuls of leftovers. What about the seven loaves? How many did we feed, and how much did we take? Four thousand and seven." What is Jesus saying? "Don't be ignorant. I am with you. I am your sufficiency." And I could add another question he might have asked: "What about the two million people I fed for forty years in the wilderness with no bread?"
You see? God doesn't need anything from us. He creates out of nothing. The question was, "Where is your faith, Philip, Andrew, John, Matthew? Where is your faith?" meaning, "Do you understand who I am?" And you know the rest of the story, how Jesus multiplied the food and fed the people and they were filled. Ephesians 3:20 says, "Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all that we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us." With God there is always abundance and excess.
Like Philip and Andrew we have failed in our problem-solving assignments. We were problem-conscious and self-conscious, but we didn't believe in God. Let's change our thinking! Let's trust in Jesus Christ, the living bread, who came down that we may never be hungry again. Let me tell you, Jesus meets all our needs, and he alone meets all our needs. He heals our souls and bodies, and feeds us every day.
Let's have vital, dynamic, personal trust in him. Let's receive from him and give to others. That is the charge that God has given us. He did not ask us to produce bread; he asked us to distribute it. He did not ask us to create a gospel; he asked us to preach the gospel, which he produced by his death and resurrection on the cross.
Jesus Is the Bread
Whom are we to feed? The whole world. Our commission is, "Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature," but he has given us the bread. He himself is the bread -- the incarnate God, the one who died and was raised for our justification, who ascended into the heavens and who is seated at the right hand of God the Father, who is making intercession for us, who is coming again. That is the gospel.
We have no excuse not to feed others. We must do it. Do you want to feed others? Then you must feed yourself with Christ. In John 6:53 Jesus said, "'Unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you have no life in you.'" We must trust in him. And all of a sudden we will be filled, and then we are ready to give. We receive and we give. Paul said, "What I received I give unto you."
How do we solve our problems? Whether our problems are spiritual or physical, how do we solve them? We need to go to God and say, "I don't know how, but you know. O God, you solve it," and he does. He will either quench the fire or take you through it. No flood shall destroy you. No storm shall destroy you. No fire shall destroy you. No death shall destroy you. I am persuaded that "neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth nor anything else in all creation, shall separate me from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:38-39) The solution for all our problems is in Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in heavenly places in Christ. "He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all -- will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things" -- in other words, the solution.
May we repent of our sin of unbelief! Oh, how serious we were in analyzing our problems, in looking around. But what did we fail to do? Look up. In their wilderness journey the Israelites were bitten by fiery serpents and they were dying. Moses was instructed to make a brazen serpent and put it on a pole, and then he preached the gospel: Look to him and be saved. In the same way, we must look to Jesus Christ. But Jesus was sent by the Father to feed only the hungry. God sends the rich, the self-satisfied and the self-righteous away, but he always feeds the hungry.
Are you hungry? I have pointed you to Jesus Christ. Tell him that you cannot solve your problem, and that he alone can, because he is the Lord, the King, the Creator, the Sustainer, and the one who feeds every living thing in the whole universe.
Heavenly Father, we pray that you have mercy upon us all. Forgive us our sin of unbelief. Forgive our exaggeration of our problems. Forgive us our lack of looking to you and trusting in you. Forgive us for not bringing you into the equation. Help us to believe and be healed. In Jesus' mighty name. Amen.
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Copyright © 1995, P. G. Mathew
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