As the crowd approached Jesus, he asked Philip where they could get bread to feed all the people. As we mentioned yesterday (I wrote this for Tuesday, but forgot to post it!), Jesus was setting up a test. Was it a trick question? Perhaps you could make that argument. However, Jesus was asking the question, not because he needed help solving the problem, he already knew the answer. He asked the question to see how his disciples would answer it.
So they give it their best shot.
Philip responds, “Eight months wages would not buy enough bread for every one to have a bite.”
Why would he answer this way?
Why would you answer the question this way?
I will speak for myself, but perhaps you can relate.
I naturally look for solutions that are in the realm of my awareness and possibilities. Philip obviously had purchased bread before for himself and perhaps for smaller crowds the disciples used their treasury to buy a bit of bread. So, it’s a natural line of thinking. We have purchased bread in the past. It costs a certain price per loaf. A loaf feeds about “x” number of people. So to get food for about 5000 people it would be at least eight months wages…just to give everyone a bite.
To be fair, the good Lord most often provides natural means to provide for our physical well being. The natural progression to put food on our table would be to a) get a job; b) do your job faithfully; c) get paid for doing your job; d) go to the grocery store and buy food; e) prepare the food and eat it.
So if you had company coming over, you would buy a little bit more. If you were hosting a graduation party, it would take more money to buy enough food. If you were at the Round Rock Express minor league baseball game (in Round Rock, TX) and was asked to feed everyone in the stands, the practical financial person, perhaps like Philip was, you figure out the same solution. Eight months wages wouldn’t even get every person a bite.
Our natural solution would come up short.
Andrew tried by bringing a young boy who was wise enough to bring something to eat. Yet, Andrew also has to acknowledge that two fish and five barley loaves would never even get past the first fifty guests.
Again, I am not faulting Philip or Andrew. They brought forward two answers that seem reasonable to consider. Buy enough or borrow enough. But in this case, neither was enough.
The test put the disciples in a position that they were lacking. What they could do or what they could gather was not enough.
Jesus knew this was the case. He wanted his disciples to realize that there would be situations in life where their resources were not enough to deal with the challenge. He wanted them to reach of their abilities to see the limitations of human possibilities. He wanted them to see that he, Jesus, as the Son of God had resources beyond their limitations and possibilities beyond their abilities.
He wants us to see the same thing.
While the Apostle Paul wasn’t on the mountainside with Jesus, Jesus taught him a similar lesson. He shares his learning with these two verses.
2 Corinthians 1:8-9 We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. 9 Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.
Is it possible that Jesus wanted his disciples to experience a situation where they had to rely on him?
I think so.
And he does the same for us.
Apply: What situation are you facing today that you are working to solve simply with your human possibilities? Perhaps it’s time to admit defeat and rely on the Lord. Ask him for help.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank you for the situations in my life where I am invited and sometimes forced to rely on you instead of myself. AMEN.