Jesus tests his Disciples
Jesus tests his Disciples
1 After this Jesus went away to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tiberias. 2 And a large crowd was following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing on the sick. 3 Jesus went up on the mountain, and there he sat down with his disciples. 4 Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand. 5 Lifting up his eyes, then, and seeing that a large crowd was coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?” 6 He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he would do. 7 Philip answered him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread would not be enough for each of them to get a little.” 8 One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, 9 “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many?” 10 Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, about five thousand in number. 11 Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated. So also the fish, as much as they wanted. 12 And when they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, “Gather up the leftover fragments, that nothing may be lost.” 13 So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves left by those who had eaten.
Why does Jesus ask his disciples what to do when he already knew what he was going to do?
There is probably more than one reason, just like the Bible is written on more than one level. First, the actual events. Jesus wanted Philip and Andrew to learn something. Second, Jesus wants us to learn something. The best way to understand what Jesus wants us to learn is to understand what he wanted Philip and Andrew to learn.
What does Jesus want Philip and Andrew to learn?
Philip’s response to the question demonstrates that he is still viewing Jesus through a worldly lens. Andrew’s response isn’t any better. He is pointing out the same thing Philip is: We can’t feed these people. We see the same thing in the Old Testament.
2 And you shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not. 3 And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.
God consistently tests us, not so he can learn something about us, but so we can learn something about us. In addition, it is to humble us and remind us to rely on him. Remember this verse as we discuss the bread of life discourse in a little bit.
Knowing this, what does God want you to learn with this question to his disciples?
14 When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!” 15 Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself.
What do you think we can learn from the reaction of the crowd to the miracle and Jesus’ response to that reaction?
The crowd wanted to make Jesus a king so they could rival Rome. There were 5000 men here, a small army. Perhaps they thought Jesus was their liberator in a physical sense. Essentially, they were putting Jesus into a box they understood (the warrior Messiah who would rid them of Rome), which made him less than he was. Compare this to the Golden Calf narrative. The people are afraid of God as he appears on the mountain and so they build an idol, something they understand.
Where in our lives do we make Jesus into something we can better understand, while diminishing who he is?
The Works of God
The Works of God
Summarize the verses in between.
25 When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” 26 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. 27 Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.”
Why doesn’t Jesus answer their question? What is their question, exactly?
They wanted to know how Jesus crossed the sea. Jesus doesn’t answer them because he knows what they want. They are seeking more physical sustenance, more bread. They saw the miracle and believed, but they completely missed what the miracle symbolized and so were not believing in the right thing. This is why, by the end of John 6, so many disciples left him, because Jesus didn’t meet their expectations. Miracles, especially in John where they are called signs, do not often lead to genuine belief. Instead, they are symbolic of something. Here, the symbolism is unpacked in the ensuing discourse.
28 Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”
The people are asking for a checklist to follow. “Tell us what to do and we’ll do it.” How do we do this in our own lives?
I have often fallen for this. I’ve thought, “If I just knew what to do, then I would do it.” However, I’ve also proven time and again to myself that this isn’t the case. I know what sin is and yet I still do it.
18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.
But even if we could meet the checklist, even if we could do the ‘works of God’ on our own, lets go back again to the Old Testament.
4 “Do not say in your heart, after the Lord your God has thrust them out before you, ‘It is because of my righteousness that the Lord has brought me in to possess this land,’ whereas it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the Lord is driving them out before you. 5 Not because of your righteousness or the uprightness of your heart are you going in to possess their land, but because of the wickedness of these nations the Lord your God is driving them out from before you, and that he may confirm the word that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. 6 “Know, therefore, that the Lord your God is not giving you this good land to possess because of your righteousness, for you are a stubborn people.
Remember, we are not where we are in life because we are so awesome. We are gifted these things by God and not of our own works. God gave the Israelites the land because of the wickedness of those that lived there, along with his promise to Abraham.
However, why are we gifted these things? Why do we have eternal life?
18 You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day.
Here, God is reminding the early Israelites that they are only being blessed because of God’s promise to Abraham. They are not blessed because they deserve it. In fact, they don’t deserve it. And they will prove that, just like we all do.
However, remember what the promise was to Abraham.
1 Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
God blessed the Israelites in the desert so that, through Jesus, “all of the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
Knowing this, why do you think God blesses you?
18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
We are blessed to be a blessing. We are blessed so we are better equipped to point people to Jesus. Remember this when the blessings you receive are different than those that others receive. We are all uniquely blessed to bring people to Jesus in our own way.