Life Together: The Miracle of Abundance

A young pastor, who just graduated from seminary, was invited back to his home congregation to preach a sermon. He wanted to make a good impression so he prepared his sermon and practiced it many times.  When it came to the Sunday he was to preach, he was a little nervous preaching at his home church, and he began his sermon by hitting the pulpit and said, “Jesus took 5,000 fish and 2,000 loaves and he fed five people!”  He paused very dramatically and pointed his finger at the congregation and said, “Could you do that?” Everyone roared with laughter and the poor confused pastor didn’t know what he had said.

          The story of the loaves and fish, as read today in the Gospel of John, appears in all four gospels, which shows its significance.  C.H. Spurgeon wrote that it’s in all four gospels so that we won’t forget how much the Lord can do with little things that are yielded to Him.  The feeding of the 5,000 precedes Jesus’ announcement on being the living Bread that comes down out of heaven to give His life for the world (6:32-58).  So it’s also a miracle that points to salvation.  John wrote this sign “so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.”

          It might better be called the feeding of the 15,000 because there were 5,000 men, plus women and children.  It is a miracle witnessed by thousands of people, as well as the disciples.  It’s also a parable with many lessons about Jesus being able to meet the enormous needs of the world even though he had doubting disciples who thought 5 loaves and 2 fish weren’t enough for a miracle of abundance to happen.

          The other gospels inform us that Jesus had sent out the twelve on a ministry tour.  They have come back and reported their experiences to Him.  Meanwhile, they got world that Herod had beheaded John the Baptist and that is why Jesus needed to go to a quiet place, to grieve the lost of his friend and relative and to rest.

          The people weren’t following Jesus because they recognized Him as the Son of God who could save them from their sins.  Some were fascinated just seeing the miracles.  Others needed miraculous healing for themselves or their loved ones.  Overall the reasons for following Jesus were misguided and superficial.

          John wants us to see a parallel between Moses and Jesus.  Moses went up the mountain to receive the Ten Commandments and Jesus went up on the mountain and was there with his disciples.  The Passover was near, it says in John, and Moses led the people out of Egypt after the Passover.  God gave Moses Manna to the people in the wilderness when they had no food to eat and Jesus is giving bread to the hungry people.  John wants us to see Jesus as the fulfillment of what Moses was for the Israelites in the wilderness.  Jesus was the Passover Lamb and Jesus gave himself as the permanent Manna or Bread of Life to all people. 

          Bread is the basic diet of people all over the world in some form or another because it is cheap and accessible for the poor and wealthy alike.  Second it satisfies you and fills you up when you don’ have anything else. Bread in many parts of the world is very sacred and isn’t to be thrown away, like we do in our country.  When we lived in Central Asia any unwanted bread would be put in a plastic bag and tied to a tree for anyone who was hungry and needed something to eat.

          Psychologist, Charles Allen tells a story in one of his books about orphans in Europe, during WWII, who had been gathered up and placed into camps where they would be safe and well-fed.  Yet despite the excellent care they received, the orphans slept poorly.  They seemed nervous and afraid.  Finally, a psychologist came up with a solution.  Each child was given a piece of bread to hold after he or she was put to bed.  This particular piece of bread was just to be held—not eaten.  This extra piece of bread produced wonderful results.  The children started to sleep undisturbed through out the night because they instinctively knew they would have food to eat the next day.

          In the same way that each of us has physical appetites that need satisfying, we also have spiritual appetites that need satisfying, and Jesus demonstrates in this passage that He alone can meet those appetites.  Jesus sees our real need individually and by the thousands.

          The Manna provided by God for the Israelites was for their physical life, but also to know that the Lord will provide abundantly for your needs.  The Israelites didn’t starve.

          Jesus, as the Bread of Life, is providing for the people’s physical needs that day they followed him but also proclaiming, for generations to come, that He provides for our spiritual needs, so that we would not be separated from God.  Jesus is the one who gives us life.

          Remember, death is separation from God if we don’t believe in Him as our Savior and Lord.  There will not be a spiritual thirst or hunger for the person who comes to know Jesus through his abundant miracle of forgiveness and new life.

          The name “God Provides” in Hebrew is “Jehoveh-jireh”.   God is willing to provide all that we need daily when we ask.  God provides abundantly in his grace and mercy and the forgiveness of our sins.    God has provided Jesus to give our life purpose and the Holy Spirit to abide within and give us the Fruit of the Spirit to fill us and guide us. 

          Jesus performed this miracle of abundance after facing great grief at the death of John the Baptist, and here he has great compassion on the people who had followed him, and he had abundant love for them in their hunger and need.  Jesus was never too busy or tired to care for the people, and he isn’t today either.  He knows the pain and struggles we face.  He knows the grief we may feel because he felt it too.  Psalm 34:18 says, “He is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”

          In verse 5 of John, Jesus asks Philip where they could buy enough food to feed the crowd.   Jesus was testing Philip’s faith by asking for a human solution.  The nearest town was approximately nine miles away (Bethsaida).  Philip looked at the cost.  How many of us would have responded like Philip? 

          There is a financial cost to inviting several thousand people for lunch.  We doubt God’s provision and ability to turn what looks impossible into the possible.  We should not let our view of the situation stop us from moving forward with the task God wants us to do.  We need to trust God to provide whatever the resources are needed to get the job done so that ministry can take place.

          The disciple Andrew noticed a boy had brought his lunch with him, but it was not enough—only 5 loaves and 2 fish.  They knew that what they had could not feed so many.  It was also a miracle that a hungry boy would willingly give up his lunch.  The boy gave what he had because of Jesus’ miracle of abundance it turned out to be more than enough.  Have you ever had a party or dinner and you were afraid that you didn’t have enough food but in the end it was enough and you even had leftovers?  Well, Jesus knew how to feed his guests.  After all, they were like sheep and he was the shepherd.  The thousands sat in the grass that day to eat and they were satisfied.  As it says in Psalm 23: “The Lord is my Shepherd I shall not want.  He makes me lie down in green pastures and he leads me beside the still waters.  He restores my soul.” 

          We need to see what is in our hands and offer what we have to God so that he can work miracles through us. Jesus took what the boy had to offer and performed one of the greatest miracles.  Jesus, the worker of miracles, loving provider, took the bread and blessed it and broke it and it was passed around and everyone shared it. 

          It reminds us of the last time Jesus was with His disciples, and He took bread and blessed it and broke it and said, “Take and eat. This is my body that is broken for you.”

          There was an abundance of food that day. There was so much that the baskets of food never ran out.   Just imagine the doubting, practical disciples that said, “Send the people away we have nothing to feed them.”  Now they are looking at the never empty baskets of bread and fish being passed around to the thousands. The disciples were obedient to Jesus and did what he asked amidst their concerns, but I’m sure they doubted there would be enough to go around. Jesus looked at the people with compassion, and the disciples looked at the people with complaints. Wouldn’t you doubt? We can see ourselves in these disciples. But what a party it was for all!  What would we do today if we saw that miracle happen?

          Listen to this miracle story: It was 1989 and Hurricane Hugo hit North Carolina. Trees were uprooted, power lines were down, homes and stores were destroyed.  Reb and Jackay hurried to their new restaurant they were about to open.  They had electricity but no permit to open their restaurant that day after the hurricane. So, with a refrigerator stocked with 300 pounds of bacon, beef, tomatoes, lettuce and bread, there was only one thing to do, give the food away.

          They told the deputy, “Tell your coworkers and other emergency people you see that we’ll have free BLT’s and coffee for anybody who wants to drop by.” Soon firemen, policemen, linemen, and other workers were filing into the restaurant. When the owners heard that another restaurant was charging $10.00 for breakfast, they placed a sign in their window: FREE BLT’s –FREE COFFEE.  Families, travelers, and anyone were welcomed.  Then something began to happen.  People started to clean counters and sweep floors.  Volunteers took over the dish washing from the owners and helped at the grill. Having heard about what was going on at the restaurant from the local radio station, people from a neighboring town brought food from their freezers. Stores and dairies sent over chicken, milk and food of all kinds.  And so the long day went.  Those first cups of coffee and BLT’s had somehow stretched to 16,000 meals.  The restaurant’s small stock increased by 500 loaves of bread, cases of mayonnaise, 350 pots of coffee and bushels of produce.

            The miracle of abundance happened because people reached out and shared what they had until there was abundance for the whole community.  Sometimes out of our need comes abundance.

          Jesus didn’t ask Philip to collect money to buy food to feed all the people that were gathered.  No, Jesus asked what do you have?  What can you do?   When we respond with what we can do, sometimes miracles happen, and people are fed literally and spiritually.

          Obedience paves the way for great things to happen. Jesus desires our trust and our hearts to be fully yielded to Him, and great miracles can occur as a result today.

          This miracle captures the very essence of God’s abundant and extravagant care of those around him.  Don’t worry about what little you have to give.  Whatever it is, God will bless it and spread it to all who are in need.

          What little thing can you do?  A word of hope?  A helping hand? Though it may seem useless to you against the needs of the world, use what you have in your hand.  A little boy’s lunch fed thousands with Jesus Miracle of Abundance.  Bring to God what you have and let him create the miracle. 

          “Seek first the Kingdom and God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33)

Jesus took the bread.  Have you allowed him to take hold of you?

Jesus blessed the bread.  He wants to bless our lives.

Jesus broke the bread and he shared it with those around him.

Jesus blesses us abundantly with miracles so that we might be a blessing to those around us.

          Ephesians 3:20 “He is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.”   Our Lord of miracles is more than able.  Just watch and see what He can do.

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