(Mt. 14:14-21; Mk. 6:31-44; Lk. 9:11-17)
In John 6 Jesus and His disciples were followed into the wilderness by a crowd of people who wanted to hear Jesus. After a while the people naturally became hungry. The disciples came to Jesus and said “the people are hungry”, seemingly expecting Jesus to handle the situation.
Interestingly, it would be easy to assume that the apostles were expecting Jesus to perform a miracle, as He had done with the water into wine. But this is proven false by the responses of Philip and Andrew.
Jesus had told the apostles, “give ye them to eat” (i.e., “You feed them”). This is almost humorous. How would you have answered Jesus? John records that He asked Philip, “Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat?” He was looking to the apostles for their input and involvement. Could they do anything about this enormous need? Did they not recognize that certainly Jesus could?
The next verse confirms for us that Jesus was testing Philip with this question, “this he said to prove him: for he himself knew what he would do.” Philip’s failure is evident in his doubt-filled response: “Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient….” Andrew similarly displayed a lack of faith when he said “There is a lad here which hath five barley loaves and two small fishes: but what are they among so many?”
We all know that Jesus fed this multitude of people miraculously. But let’s consider the apostles’ doubt and the application for us today.
The church is surrounded by a multitude of hungry people. Most don’t know they’re hungry, but they are spiritually starving. Who will help them? Jesus answers, “You feed them!”
But there are too many! I have a little food, but it’s nothing amongst so many people! What can my feeble efforts really accomplish? After all, people don’t want the truth!
Jesus had given the apostles every resource they needed for this test. With everything they’d seen from Jesus, why should they have doubted? Why should five loaves of bread and two fish be insufficient?
Do we not have enough to accomplish the task of feeding the world around us? Why do we doubt? Simply because people don’t want what we offer? This is true, but it has nothing to do with what we can and should be doing. The apostles had the ability, through Jesus, to provide physical food for all the thousands of people there, and it was totally irrelevant whether or not the people chose to accept it and eat. Likewise for us, we have the gospel, complete and sufficient to provide spiritual food for the entire world. What should we be doing with it?
“You feed them!” says Jesus to us. Set the table and ring the dinner bell. Whether or not anyone shows up to eat is up to them. Talk to people lovingly about Jesus, the truth, their lost condition and the opportunity they have for salvation in Him and His church. Study the Scriptures with them if they’re willing. If they choose to obey the gospel then we are accomplishing exponentially more than feeding five thousand (plus) with an insignificant amount of bread and fish, all of whom would need to eat again a few hours later. We’re providing eternal salvation in Christ. One physical meal, even though provided miraculously by the Son of God Himself, pales in comparison to what we can do!
So, you feed them!