John 6:1-13
The Five Loaves And Two Fish

Authored By Rev. Takao Kiyohiro, Tokyo, Japan

1. The story we read today is the one about the astonishing miracle that was done at the Sea of Galilee.  This miracle narrative is recorded in all four gospel accounts, but today we want to turn our attention onto The Gospel According To John.  In particular, let's proceed along in our reading while taking notice of several words that only The Gospel According To John tells us about.

Philip Is Tested

2.  First of all, [let's take notice of] the words in verses six and seven.  "The reason he said this was to test Philip, for he himself knew what he would do.  Philip answered, 'There is not even two hundred denarius worth of bread to feed everyone each a little bit,'" (6:6-7).

3.  Philip clearly grasped the situation.  The amount of money in two hundred denarius was worth two hundred days of wages.  It was Philip's analysis that since there were as many as five thousand males alone, there wouldn't be enough bread for just them alone.  I think he was right.  But, he didn't see something important; he overlooked something.  You might say he didn't hear something in Christ's words; he didn't hear far enough.  We should have seen that the Lord Jesus had already told the meaning of what he was doing.  He said, "My Father is at work now; therefore, I am also at work," (5:19).  He also said this, "Whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise," (5:19).  As we go on to read farther into this gospel, the text says that Philip spoke the following to Jesus in John chapter fourteen and verse eight: "O Lord, please show us your Father.  If you do, we can be satisfied."  Then, the Lord Jesus answered back with this, "O Philip, even though I have been with you such a long while, don't you understand ME?  He who has seen me has seen my Father.  Why do you say, 'Please show us your Father?'  Don't you believe that I am in the Father and that the Father is in me? ... Please believe what I say, that I am in the Father and the Father is in me.  Since you're not believing that, then please believe it by the very deeds themselves [that I have been doing]," (14:9-11).

4.  I have a hunch in understanding why the Lord Jesus had tested Philip on purpose.  The Lord didn't require bread from Philip.  It wasn't bread that he was looking for from him, but it was faith that he wanted from him.  He was looking for a faith that believed that the Lord Jesus and God the Father were one.  If we put that another way, it would mean that God was with [Philip] in a fellowship which was brought together by the Lord Jesus.  It would mean that God the Father was certainly there with [Philip] in the fellowship that comes according to the name of the Lord Jesus.  And the Lord Jesus was supposed to have already taught [him] to pray to God the Father with "May you give us our daily bread."  This is nothing other than a confession in our every day worlds that we depend on the Father for all our needs and that through Him comes our life and support.  The Lord expected him to look with him to God the Father.  He was testing whether he believed that God the Father was with the Lord Jesus and that he was at work through the Lord Jesus.

5.  It is the same for us who are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus.  The Lord Jesus is not looking for our bread.  The important thing is not whether we have enough bread or not, but whether we have faith.  Therefore, the Lord Jesus is also testing us.  He is testing us to make us see whether we are gathered in the name of Christ and the status of our being with Him.  The purpose of his testing is so that we also along with Christ look to God the Father.  If we don't see this and do not turn our eyes on the Father God [that] Christ [belongs to], in the end, we won't be able to avoid finishing with powerless statements like, "This won't be enough."  And how many situations like that there will be!  Since Jesus is showing us this sign, we must nail the fact that he tested Philip deep into our hearts.

The Fellowship Made By The Lord

6.  The Lord knew what he was supposed to do.  The Lord Jesus expressed at this point here that he and God the Father were one.  God the Father abundantly met the needs of the people through Christ.  He gave to them only to overflowing.  God meets our needs the same way.  We're supposed to believe that's the way things are.

7.  However, this is not everything that the Lord Jesus was trying to do.  The Lord knew that a human does not live by bread alone.  A person lives by each single word that comes out of the mouth of God, (Luke 4:4).  The salvation that Christ would give us was not simply the meeting of particular needs.  A person's salvation is not the resolution of his or her immediate problems.  We ought to believe God will meet all our needs and holds the ultimate answers to all our problems.  But, we should not think that that is all God grants us.  God prepares our bread at the necessary time.  But, his preparing of our bread is not all [that he has for us].  That's not all there is, ultimate salvation for us is to be with God for ever.  [Salvation] is not receiving God's gifts for the moment, but living in God for eternity.  [Salvation] is not receiving God's help for an hour, but to become a participant in the blessings of God for ever.  The miracle of the bread that the Lord Jesus made was but that "sign."

8.  Then, secondly, we want to take notice of another word.  It is the words "the Passover was near," (verse four).  This is the setting of a scene that only The Gospel Of John relates.  In short, the meal here is connected to the Passover meal.

9.  The Passover Feast is one of the big three Jewish festivals.  It is the festival that commemorates the event of the exodus from Egypt.  For the details, please look at Exodus chapter twelve.  The people who were slaves in Egypt were set free by the power of God and escaped from Egypt under the command of Moses.  At that time in keeping with the command of God, they dubbed their [doorway] lintels and posts with lamb's blood.  The judgment of God passed over those houses where blood had been dubbed [on their doorways].  And the important point is that the events of Exodus meant "[the inauguration of] the community of those who had taken part in the work of God's grace, the birth of the people of God - Israel - who had taken part in salvation."  It was the Passover Feast that memorialized that day in history, and every year the Israelites celebrated by eating the Passover meal together.

10.  The Lord Jesus stood there as if he were the head of the household leading the Passover meal.  Then after reciting a prayer of thanksgiving as the head of household, he divided the meal.  That scene was as if it were one big family gathering (fellowship).  And that's what it was.  This is what the Lord Jesus was trying to show.  It was that by the grace of God through the Lord a new community would soon be born.  A new fellowship centered on Christ was being born.  What the Lord was about to build was a community made one and centered on the Lord and which loved God and each other.

11.  And what's more it just isn't a temporarily built fellowship for this world.  All the different communities that there are in this world all pass away.  We don't belong to them for ever.  God alone is eternal, but a fellowship with God built on and centered on Christ is an eternal fellowship that will be perfected in the world to come and in the kingdom of God.  We could put that in a biblical way by saying it is a gathering together like a banquet in the kingdom of God.  It is "the church."  It is a fellowship that will be with God for all eternity.

12.  And we must also take notice of the words translated here as "reciting the prayer of thanksgiving."  This is simply the word "give thanks" and John alone makes use of this scene.  Why did he go out and use the word "thanksgiving" I wonder...  It is related to the fact that the Lord's Supper or Holy Communion has been called since the old old days "Thanksgiving or the Eucharist, (h Eucaristia)."  The Gospel According To John clearly records this narrative of the miracle, which the Lord Jesus did, with "The Lord's Supper" in mind.  The miracle of the bread is depicted here as a sign standing for the Lord's Supper.

13.  Today we too are having the Lord's Supper together.  It's not just mere symbolical ceremony.  [As] a fellowship centered on Christ, a fellowship that goes all the way to the eternal kingdom of God, it is built through Holy Communion.  The church is not a community built by a common nationality, race, hobbies or interests and such.  The church is none of that, rather it is a community built by joint participation in the blessings* of Christ.  And so it is for ever.  When our temporary needs are met that is so wonderful, but it is more wonderful when we take part in the eternal fellowship that comes by the eternal blessings* of God.

The Bread And The Fish The Boy Donated

14.  Then, there was something else that happened that added vivid colors to this "sign" of Christ some more.  John was the only one to tell about this.  He said that the bread and the fish that was shared was a little boy's.  It was bread and fish that a boy had presented.  It was bread made from barley at that.  It was cheap stuff.  The fish was probably seen as not much of a thing either.  But, it says the youth offered it up and handed it over to the Lord Jesus, and the assembled people were filled.  Not just that but it says the leftover bread pieces filled up twelve baskets full.  The number twelve is called the perfect number and actually expresses the wholeness of God's grace and blessings.

15.  Of course, as far as this boy undertstood things, he didn't know he was making a presentation out of it.  But, I think this thing that happened shows us something important.  The crowd that gathered there had chased after the Lord Jesus after seeing the signs he did upon the sick. I suppose their heads were filled with all sorts of things for themselves [that Jesus might do for them].  They were seeking for Jesus for their different personal needs.  But, one person there was truly modest and that was the boy who submitted what [he had and was to the Lord].  And the bread and the fish that was offered up was used and it became a sign of salvation and it became a sign to show forth the abundance of God's grace.

16.  Like them in the crowd, we only think about our own stuff and for each other so hard, but we too are called to the fellowship of God's kingdom as centered in Christ and invited to live offering up ourselves to the Lord.  We may certainly be the kind who have but only some barley bread and dried fish like things on hand.  But still, when we turn our modest things that we might be able to do over into the hands of the Lord for his use, it becomes something that reveals the abundance of God's grace and becomes a sign of the kingdom of God.

End Note

*Or "grace."

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