Luke’s Gospel very much prepares us to understand the significance of the Lord Jesus Christ and his coming to this Earth, to teach us the way to God, to be reconciled to God. That’s exclusively through Jesus Christ. And we find in this story, this feeding of the five thousand, in Luke chapter 9, we find yet another, more evidence that he is only way, in truth and life, to come to the Father.
So go ahead and turn in your Bibles to Luke chapter 9, we’re in Luke 9, verse 10. And we’re gonna finish this miraculous account. Last week we actually didn’t look very much at the miraculous at all. We looked instead at the paucity of the disciples and their resources. We saw the, the fact that, in us, well as Paul puts it, dwelleth no good thing. In us, there is no sufficiency. In us, there, we find, insufficient resources and power to deal with need, to deal with significant need. Or even insignificant need, we find very little in ourselves.
In this account, we’re going to see, as we saw last week, we saw the starving multitude of the five thousand. And today we’re going to see Jesus feed them all. I’m going to start by reading what we covered last week and then I’ll make, stop and make a brief comment at that point. We’ll start in Luke 9, verse 10.
“On their return, that is their return from an itinerant gospel preaching, kingdom preaching, and healing ministry, on their return, the apostles told Jesus all that they had done. And he took them and withdrew apart to a town called Bethsaida. And the crowds heard it, they followed him, and he welcomed them. And spoke to them of the Kingdom of God and cured those who had need of healing. And the day began to wear away and the twelve came and said to Him, ‘Send the crowd away to go to the surrounding villages and countryside to find lodging and get provisions, for we are here in a desolate place.’ And He said to them, ‘You give them something to eat.’ And they said, ‘We have no more than five loaves and two fish; unless we’re to go and buy food for all these people, for there were about 5000 men.’”
As we said last week, that does not count the women and the children that were there besides. Five thousand to feed and Jesus has just laid this burden upon his 12 disciples. He’s taken the disciples as we said last week, out into, really, the middle of nowhere. It says there in verse 10 they went “to a town called Bethsaida,” but they were actually not in Bethsaida proper, they were outside the city. They were near the city, but not close enough to use, really, any of its resources. And Jesus did that on purpose; he went there to seek solitude and privacy, because he intended to teach the twelve a very vital lesson in Christian discipleship. And that is this lesson: To see the all-sufficiency of God, in Christ Jesus. For them to see, that all sufficient power and provision and resources come from God, and they come exclusively through Jesus Christ.
That’s really the point of this miracle, actually. The feeding of the five thousand. It’s here to teach us the exclusive, all-sufficiency of God, in Christ Jesus. Apart from Christ Jesus, we can do nothing. We have no power. We have no strength. But in Christ all things are possible. According to the perfect will of God. So out here in the middle of nowhere, with the sun beginning to descend to the horizon, there are about 10,000 plus who are hungry and weary, lacking resources.
The disciples see the need. They see the multitudes, the masses. They understand what practically needs to happen. They come to Jesus insisting that he send the crowds away to take care of their needs. And how did Jesus respond? He put the responsibility for feeding this hungry, massive multitude of people on them. Verse 13, “You give them something to eat.”
I want you to imagine for a moment that you are standing there. You’re there among the twelve. And you’ve, you’ve come to Jesus, along with your buddies, and you alert him of the problem. You’re a good deacon board. You’re saying, “Look, there’s some issues here, practically, that we need to solve. Thousands of hungry folks need to go home now. They need to take care of their families.”
You believe here, along with 11 compadres, that you’ve been responsible. You’ve actually discharged your responsibility, you’ve come up with a good idea, a good solution to the problem. And then Jesus looks at you and tells you, “No, feeding these dear people, it’s on you. It’s your responsibility.”
Look, you can offer any complaint you want to. You may protest, be it politely and respectively, respectfully. You can protest to him, insisting that the care of an overwhelming number of people can’t possibly rest on your shoulders. I mean, we’re only human, right? We’re not miracle workers. But that really doesn’t matter, does it? Doesn’t matter. If the Lord has told you, “You give them something to eat,” it doesn’t really matter how you feel about it. It doesn’t matter if you feel inadequate, insufficient, not up to the task. It doesn’t even matter that you have nothing to feed them with. Because after all, the Lord has spoken.
Do you count him Lord? Or do you just think, well, he doesn’t, surely he doesn’t mean me feed them. I’m going to reinterpret his words to make it more favorable for myself. He has commanded you. He is your Lord. You must do what? Obey.
OK, now what? What are you gonna do about it? Christian, do you feel, that weight of responsibility, for the starving and the weary world around you. Living here, your neighbors, your coworkers, your family, your friends, strangers. Do you feel the burden of the spiritual paucity and bankruptcy of your neighbors? Are you heavy-hearted over the bankruptcy, spiritually speaking, of the lost souls, a family member, a friends? Because there is a place that Jesus has commanded us, hasn’t he? Go and make disciples of all nations? What does that, but another way of saying, “You give them something to eat. You feed them”. Jesus said that to his 12 apostles on this occasion. “You give them something to eat,” and he says that to us as well.
Providing for the world. I’ll put in air quotes, but you might talk about seeing an end to world hunger. It’s a good cause. He’s made that our responsibility, beloved. And so we had better own it. We’d better embrace it. We should not find a way to shuffle out from underneath the responsibility. Tap dance our way away from it. We need to find out exactly how he wants us to accomplish this task. Because it is overwhelming. It is a huge burden.
There is a weight of responsibility on us, and like the 12 disciples on this occasion, we might look and take a moment to assess our own resources. We may find ourselves in a desolate place, no help from anything in our surroundings, no help in our natural environment, no help from the world around us. In fact, the world around us is altogether unfriendly, un, inhospitable, unforgiving, hostile. And we look within and we see a long, long list of limitations. Whole lot of reasons we can find why we shouldn’t be about the task. Nowhere near enough food or money, but still. There the need sits. Looking at us. Every single day, watching us.
Look, that’s how the disciples felt on this occasion. Surrounded by thousands, all looking at them. Jesus is, “You give them something.” They had already shared their one idea with Jesus in verse 12. Now they’re out of ideas, they’re out of options. They’re in a place of desolation. Having no source, resources of their own, they’re despairing of any sense of self-sufficiency. And now they look to Jesus. Exactly right. And now, folks, we’re ready to see the miracle. We’re ready, now, to see Jesus act.
Look at the rest of verse 14, “He said to his disciples. Have them sit down in groups of about 50 each. They did so, and had them all sit down and taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing over them. And then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd, and they all ate and were satisfied, and what was leftover was picked up, 12 baskets of broken pieces.” J.C. Ryle said, and he said well, “The whole miracle is a picture.”
We see a striking sign, that’s what John calls it, and his gospel. This is a sign. A striking sign of Christ’s ability to supply spiritual food for mankind. In fact, it is in fact a great acted parable of the glorious Gospel. The whole miracle, a parable, the whole miracle is a picture of the central truths of Christianity.
The lack of resources among humanity, and all provision coming from God through Jesus Christ, that’s it. That’s the Christian message. Every other world religion, it’s climbing our way up to God. Not here. Not here. As we go through these verses and walk through the text. You need to think here about what God has provided in Christ Jesus on two levels. OK, two, two levels. Two ways, perspectives to look at this and first I want you to think about this as we walk through the different points here, all the different sub-points and everything we’re going to talk about and fill it in.
I want you to think about this on two levels. First, think about this for yourself. As a Christian disciple. You need to see the all-sufficiency of Christ, for you. For yourself. You need to find in him the only food that you need. You need to find in him the only food that satisfies. He is the only one who nourishes. He’s all sufficient, and he is only sufficient. In other words, he’s all sufficient and he is exclusively so. Don’t look anywhere else. Second, as we go through the text. Again, I want you to feel the weight of responsibility that God has given you, to lift the spiritual burden of the nations.
In a very individualistic American culture that we’ve all grown up in, that we deeply imbibe, that we breathe in and out, you know how self-centered we tend to be? Christianity and this, we, we like the first part. Jesus is my nourishment, my personal savior. We love to use the word about personal relationship, personal savior. We love the personal aspect. We’re not so keen about going out, are we? We’re not so keen about the collective people of God. We’re not so keen even on being bound in accountability to the local church, are we? We are spiritual. Oh, but that local church membership stuff, that’s, that’s religion. I’m not into religion, I’m spiritual. I hear that over and over and over again.
We have a spiritual duty that God has given us, that Jesus has commissioned us with. And that is to not sit in our own private, individual, devotional experience before God. And just soak it all in. We’re to take this to the nations. We’re not to be a cul-de-sac beloved. We’re to be a conduit. A conduit of blessing, as Jesus is a conduit of God’s power and provision and salvation and resources and everything coming down through him to us. That’s what we’re to be to the nations as well. That means we must love them. Love God, love our neighbors. That’s what we’re to do.
Just know that if it ever feels overwhelming, that you’re looking too much at yourself and your own resources. The need is great. The harvest is plentiful and the workers are few. But listen, God does not intend for you to lift this burden alone. Having discovered all sufficient provision and all joy and all satisfaction and all contentment in Christ Jesus for yourself, you know what? You’ve got the answer. It’s him. You point people to him. He is the conduit of God’s provision, saving power, not just for you, but for everybody else, too. Don’t you want them to know that? Absolutely you do.
So with that in mind, let’s get into our first point in our outline this morning. First point, the exclusivity and all sufficiency of God’s provision in Jesus Christ. The word is provision. I love this in verse 14. Faced with an overwhelming need here. A scarcity of any kind of natural human resources. What does Jesus do? He takes charge. He takes full charge and command of the situation. He says to his, he knows exactly what he’s gonna do. Even from the very beginning, before he said one word about them needing to do anything, Jesus knew. He knew.
“So he said to his disciples, ‘Have them sit down in groups of about 50 each.’ They did so, and they, had them all sit down. And taking the five loaves and two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing over them. And then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd.” We could simply talk about this in terms of what Jesus did here with the crowd and the miracle, namely, preparing the crowd, feeding the crowd.
But we want to see this through the lens of Jesus developing his disciples, because that’s what he’s doing here. This is discipleship, at work. We watched the master discipler training his disciples. Listen, watch him, and learn. He is a good discipler. You get that. Let’s do, let’s follow his pattern. Let’s follow his pattern. That’s what we need to see here. Jesus is central. But notice how the disciples feature in this too. Jesus directs them, verse 14. They follow his directions, verse 15. And then in verse 16, they have a role in distribution. That is discipleship. Jesus establishes a pattern for them. He’s discipling them to accomplish future ministry. That’s what we can do too.
Listen, let me give you a few sub-points here. Sub-point A, you can jot down that God has provided the gospel of the Kingdom here, which is infinitely sufficient. I’ll repeat that. You can write it down however you want to. God has provided the gospel of the Kingdom. Which is infinitely sufficient. The disciples, when they took stock of their own resources, the disciples completely missed this, didn’t they? Look back at verse 11 and notice there that Jesus, what has he been doing? He’s been preaching the gospel and he’s been demonstrating the Kingdom power. That should not have been lost on the disciples, but it was.
In verses 1 and 2 of this chapter, when Jesus empowered and equipped them, it was to do what? It was to proclaim the God, the Kingdom of God, and to heal. And then what? Verse6, when they went out, they went out preaching his Kingdom gospel and demonstrating his Kingdom power. When they returned to him and reported in verse 10, what was it about? That’s what they talked about, the success in Kingdom preaching and in Kingdom power. Look, the gospel of the Kingdom was absolutely sufficient. The power that he delegated, Jesus delegated to them, was incredible. Healing the sick, casting out demons, even, as Mark tells us, raising the dead.
And now here. In this desolate place, they watched Jesus engaged in the same Kingdom ministry, verse 11. And yet, the infinitely sufficient resources of the Kingdom that they preached, when faced with just a slightly different kind of need, that is a mundane need, a, a routine aspect of daily life, like eating a meal. That power doesn’t seem to factor in, does it? It’s as if the power of God and Christ delegated to them, oh yeah, it was enough to save souls from eternal damnation, it was enough to raise dead bodies. But make 10,000 fish sandwiches? Nah, I don’t think we can handle it.
“If we belong to God, we are not to worry at all or be anxious at all about physical provision.”Travis Allen
Folks, can you see the same tendency in yourself? How many times do we worry and fret and become anxious and become afraid in comparison to, to, the need to be rescued from the outpouring of divine wrath for our sins against a Holy God? In comparison with the eternal salvation of our souls. We’re all knotted up in anxiety over such petty, petty things, aren’t we? Paying the bills, keeping our jobs. Raising our children in a, you know, admittedly a perplexing age, but, really, if you can trust God to do the greater, can you trust him to do the lesser?
It’s Romans 8:32, right, “He who did not spare his own son, but gave him up for us all. How will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” Well, the disciples missed it. And they failed to connect what they’d witnessed and verse 11. With what they faced in verse 12. They failed to connect what they’ve been practicing. Verses 1 to 6. With now the need that they’re commanded to do in verse 13, they believed the gospel was sufficient for some things, for really important things, but not all things. Not this thing. Oh, how often we do the same thing, don’t we? Oh, how often we fail to see the all sufficiency, of the Gospel of God in Jesus Christ.
Next sub-point B, sub-point B. Notice how Jesus prepared for God’s provision. He prepared for God’s provision which demonstrates faith at work. It demonstrates a faith at work, a faith that works. A faith that does not work, that’s no faith. That’s useless faith, James. Demonic faith, James 2, right. A faith that doesn’t work. It’s not faith. It’s just, that’s just a bunch of words.
Here this is a faith at work. Jesus prepares the people here to receive God’s provision. He also prepares his disciples here for their future ministry. And when you trust God as Jesus did, you start by preparing to receive his provision. You prepare in faith. Let me show you what I mean by that.
Two ways that Jesus here prepared to feed the thousands of hungry guests in front of him. There was a logistical or organizational preparation that was required. And then there was a spiritual preparation, a mental preparation that was required. So he got them ready organizationally, but he also got them ready mentally. He’s preparing everyone.
First, let’s talk about the, the easy to see logistical preparation, easy to see. Verse 14. To feed this huge crowd, multitude in an orderly manner, Jesus needed to organize the crowd. You got thousands milling about. I mean, I find it difficult to extract my family from the, the church on Sundays, right? Do you? It’s like I’m herding cats. Where’d he go? Where’d she, where’s she? She’s running off over there. She’s running around the building. I can’t find her. You know exactly what I mean.
So here’s this multitude, thousands of people, and Jesus has to get them organized. So he says to his disciples, have them sit down in groups of about 50 each. Just some basic grouping, little structure for this huge crowd. Incidentally, this organizational exercise allowed some counting to take place right, which we find consistent all through the Gospels, 5000 men and women and children besides.
But they have to organize. Mark 6:40 gives additional insight. They sat down in groups by hundreds and by fifties, so we can kind of picture some sort of symmetrical grouping going on. John MacArthur says in his notes, he says, “Possibly there were 50 semicircles of about 100 people each, and the semi circles one behind the other in ranks.” Interesting, isn’t it? Oh, there, you could imagine with the groupings you have aisles or lanes separating the groups. Jesus is there in the center, standing there with his disciples and around him in semicircles are these groups of fifties or a hundreds or whatever it is going out, extending from them around them. And allows for the disciples to move back and forth with facility from him to the waiting crowds of people waiting to be fed.
So the disciples, verse 15, they run around and do that. They get the multitude organized, get them seated. Just just this logistical preparation, it had to have taken time, right? Had taken some level of leadership on the part of the disciples. Communication. Direction. Probably took a good bit of explanation. And you can imagine. Maybe even some persuasion was involved here as well. Parents of young children concerned here to feed their families and disciples to tell them, don’t worry, food’s coming. Trust. Trust Jesus. Trust us. Food’s coming.
Eventually 12 disciples accomplished the necessary logistical preparation, necessary organization, crowd of 10,000 people. They’re all sitting down. Looking up, ready to receive. With all the crowd seated lower, they could see Jesus, see his disciples.
Now they’re ready, secondly for the spiritual preparation. Jesus took “the five loaves, the two fish,” verse 16. And before distributing the food, “he looked up to heaven, and he said a blessing over them.” They all had to be sitting down to see that, didn’t they? Organizational preparation came first they had to sit down, and then they could see. And what do they see? They see Jesus looking up to heaven and saying a blessing over the bread. What’s he doing? He is doing what all of us should be doing before every single meal. He is honoring God and giving thanks.
Look, Jesus is not going to think of proceeding without first giving glory to God in heaven. He wants the crowd to know the food did not come from the disciples. It doesn’t come through Jesus acting alone here. The food comes through the disciples, from the hand of Jesus. But the source of all provision is God in heaven. That’s the spiritual preparation that needed to take place.
Now, preparing for God’s provision like this, as I said, it demonstrates faith at work. How so? Well, simply this notice that it’s before the miracle that Jesus prepared the people. He does not conduct this miracle and then stockpile and store the food and then start organizing the people into groups. No. He prepared them first. Can you imagine, after all that work, to get all these people seated, arranged, arranged into groups, the time it took leadership, communication, all that stuff, and even some persuasion to say, no, no, trust us. Foods coming, foods coming. And then Jesus looks up to heaven, blesses the bread. Can you imagine the effect on everyone if nothing happened?
No, no, we cannot imagine that. We can’t imagine that at all, and neither could Jesus. Neither could his disciples. Nor, frankly, after a full day of hearing his teaching and watching him heal and heal and heal and heal, neither could the crowd imagine that nothing would happen. Everyone believed. The crowds, disciples, Jesus himself. They believed that God would indeed provide through Jesus Christ, and so should we, beloved. So should we.
Don’t lose the simple point. Before the miracle happened. Jesus believed, and he got to work. As if it would happen. He put the disciples to work. He enlisted them to ready the people to receive blessing from God. Order was required, organization was needful. They prepared the people for God’s provision, and they acted in faith. And then God provided for them. Look, that’s Jesus pattern. That became the Apostolic pattern. I don’t have time right now, but if you walk through the entire story of the Book of Acts and all through the Epistles, you can see that same pattern through the New Testament. Organization order. Spiritual preparation and then God provides.
That’s the pattern that we try to follow too here in this church as leadership. We prepare the church today logistically, spiritually, for what God will provide tomorrow. We believe, we prepare, and then we watch God abundantly provide. That’s the pattern. Alright, sub-point A, God has provided an all sufficient Kingdom. Sub-point B, Jesus prepared for God’s provision, which is a demonstration of faith at work.
Third sub-point. Sub-point C, Jesus prepared his disciples. Which is the blessing of God in providing competent leadership. Jesus prepared his disciples. It’s the, it’s a manifestation of the blessing of God in providing them, providing the people with competent leadership. Notice you just didn’t run around doing everything he delegated. He delegated. He instructed the disciples to organize the people and groups. He stood at the center, breaking up the food into portions. He gave them to his disciples to distribute, and they went out and distributed.
What’s he doing? He is working within his own human limitations. He is one man in one place at one time. What does he do? He multiplies himself by 12. Sends them out. He enlists the disciples to help him puts them to work. What does this do for us? It models for us the necessity of dividing tasks, of delegating work, of working within our limitations, which enables us to enable and mobilize and equip others to go out. This sets the pattern for all future spiritual leadership. Jesus instructs, and notice how those in spiritual leadership like his disciples, they follow his instruction, they do what he says. Jesus provides, and those in spiritual leadership simply deliver what he has already provided.
Listen, that’s what essentially, that’s essentially what I am as a pastor. I’m just a glorified waiter. I take the food of God’s word. I deliver it to you, God’s people. My job is to make sure that I don’t make a mess in the kitchen and that I don’t spill the food on the way to the table. Very, very simple orders, very simple commands for me. And that’s what’s modeled here. Disciples take from Jesus’ hands what God has provided. They delivered to the people without messing it up.
And when all is said and done, disciples discover something. Marvelous here. Come to realize. That the command that Jesus gave them back in verse 13, “You give them something to eat.” They’re obeying, aren’t they? By looking to Jesus, by following his direction, by obeying his instruction, by just delivering what he’s provided. He’s enabled them to obey what he has commanded. Is that not the Christian life?
What they could never do in their own power, with their own resources, he has done, he has done for them. Providing God’s resources, sending the resources through them. Jesus provides everything. And they simply turn around and deliver to others what God provided for them through him. Listen, beloved. If we can get this lesson down. If we can deeply drink this in, imbibe it, let it become a part of our, saturate our whole being, if we can cement this in our hearts and minds as an unshakeable conviction.
Come to understand, and then walk in the all sufficiency of God’s provision in Jesus Christ. Then we are going to come to realize the exclusivity of God’s provision in Jesus Christ. In other words, we’re not going to look anywhere else. Come to realize, we we will come to realize. As we learn this more, as we really walk in it, and we’re consistent with this truth, we come to realize it’s actually a sin to look elsewhere for help. It’s like leaving your meal. Of all expenses paid meal at a 3-Michelin-star-rated restaurant. It’s like leaving a meal like that, to go dumpster diving for some thrown away fast food. Cold fries and a partially eaten burger; that listen, I so often find Christians leaving behind the rich infinite treasures of God’s word to dip into the trash bins of the world.
They go and rustle around, and they find up some theory and philosophy that the world has discarded. And what do they do? They, they heat it up in the microwave, and then they sprinkle it with some Bible verses for seasoning to make sure it’s palatable to a gullible evangelical community. And soon they have everyone swallowing a bunch of rotten garbage. Folks, it’s not only foolish. But in light of the all sufficient provision of God in Jesus Christ, it is sinful wickedness.
So we need to see the exclusivity and all sufficiency of God’s provision for us in Jesus Christ. We need to see it for us and for everyone. Same provision. It’s perfect. So abundantly provisioned we are. So abundantly provisioned as the whole world in what God has revealed that we should not look anywhere else. We should rejoice in our luxury, our wealth, all the treasures of heaven opened to us. And through us, distributed to anyone who will repent and believe.
Let’s look at a second point #2. The exclusivity and all sufficiency of God’s power in Jesus Christ. So first is provision and obviously closely accompanying this, his power, his power. Let’s take a few minutes to see the creation level of power that’s at work in this miracle. It’s incredible. Look at verse 16 again. Taking the five loaves and two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing over them. And as we said, by a glorifying God here prior to the miraculous provision of food from God, Jesus is teaching. That is the thousands of people here, and not to, you know, not to set aside the disciples, are, are paramount in his concern. He’s teaching them by looking up to heaven and blessing before the miracle comes. He’s teaching them where the power is coming from. This is God’s power. And then verse 16, “He broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd.”
All the verbs in this verse, step one, these verbs are static verbs. They simply look to the past and describe what Jesus did. They’re giving a snapshot, a picture. Of what Jesus did, he looked up, said blessing, broke the loaves. Just stating the fact. One verb, though. It’s the verb that, he gave. That verb is in the imperfect tense, showing here that, Jesus, in a very vivid way, he’s giving, and then he’s giving, and he’s giving, and he’s giving over and over and over again. That’s the tense of the verb, a continual flow here.
It’s, it’s, as if, a, a faucet has been opened up in the heavens, and Jesus is the pipe through which the water flows. The picture of the scene. You got thousands of people. Men, women and children, they’re all encircling Jesus. And his disciples there at the center of the circle. Sitting down, they’re watching Jesus as he looks up to heaven, as he gives thanks there and if they’re watching, they’re gonna see him do that. And then Jesus, he keeps on handing out pieces of broken bread, bits of broken pieces of fish. And disciples keep taking the bread and fish from Jesus hands, and they run up and down those rows of seeded groups, distributing the bread and the fish to this, this symmetrically organized groups of multitudes.
You could kind of observe the scene from above. Maybe you’re watching some drone footage coming over. You’ll see those multitudes, all neatly organized and symmetric concentric semicircles fanning out from Jesus in the center. And against the bright green backdrop of the spring grasses that they’re sitting upon, the people are clothed and the long, flowing outer garments, probably variously colored. But it’s this dazzling dynamic scene that portrays life. Provision. Power flowing back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, taking care of everybody.
What’s coming forth from Jesus hand we can only imagine. This is bread made from barley that was never planted. Never grew up in a cursed soil of the earth. It’s barley that was never cut. Harvested, threshed barley grains that were never crushed into flour. Barley flour never mixed into a batter. A batter that had never been baked in an oven. I just have to wonder what the fresh, pieces of those loaves of barley bread tasted like.
And the fish, never spawned or hatched from fish that, like all creation Romans 8:20, was subjected to futility. No sickness, no disease, no weakness. The fish that Jesus served never swam in any body of water. Ocean, sea, lake, never hatched, never grown into maturity, never caught in nets, killed by suffocation in the hull of a fishing boat. Never dried out, cooked up, pickled with salt to be sold and bought in the open markets of Bethsaida.
The miracle here is a supernatural act, of creation power. To produce instantaneously, fully mature baked bread and fully cooked and pickled fish. What begins here as a poor boy’s lunch becomes a banquet for multitudes, and it had to taste like no other food they’d ever eaten or would ever eat. Incredible power from God flowing through Jesus Christ.
Listen whether the power of God is manifest in this kind of immediate, spontaneous production of food, or whether the power in producing food is mediated through natural, observable means like the growth of plant life or the maturation of fish and animals. The mystery, the power, of divine energy is incomprehensible to us. It fills us with wonder and marvel, whether we take a, the most powerful telescope and look up to the heavens to see the power there, or whether we look through the, the most powerful precision microscope and we see the power there. The energy, the power, is a mystery to us beyond comprehension. Split an atom, and it destroys multitudes.
Incredible power, in the natural world that we can see every single day. Mystery of natural power is no more or no less awesome than supernatural power. God has just speed things up a bit. In the supernatural and the miraculous. So that whether natural and slow, or supernatural and fast, instantaneous, the manifest power to God, of God, to us in this world, it’s utterly incomprehensible. That’s why we have to stop here. We have to stop and ponder. We have to stop and wonder. And like Jesus did before, we, let’s just look at lunchtime coming up. Before we mindlessly consume the food that he provides for us, let’s take a moment. To honor God as God, give thanks. To teach your family about that. The, the mystery of what they hold in their hands, is divine power beyond comprehension.
We take it for granted every single day because it’s mundane, it’s routine. Well, we’ve seen the exclusivity and all sufficiency of God’s provision and his power in Jesus Christ. Let’s turn our attention to a final point, number three. The exclusivity and all sufficiency of God’s salvation in Jesus Christ. God’s salvation in Jesus Christ. The provision of God in Christ, the power of God in Christ, it all leads here, verse 17. They all ate, were satisfied. What was leftover was picked up, 12 baskets of broken pieces.
Now, what strikes us, even though it comes across in kind of an understated way, is the immediate physical sustenance that Jesus provided for this crowd of 10,000 plus. It’s completely sufficient, not just to stave off their, their hunger, but to gorge them all, completely satisfy them. That’s the meaning of the verb here, Chortazo. It’s a verb that’s used even in like Revelation 19:21, where the birds at the Battle of Armageddon, after Jesus Christ has come and slain the entire armies of the Earth, coming and assembling against him. The birds are there having a feast. And the word Chortazo is used there as they gorge themselves. Crows. Vultures. You watch them. They do not stop eating until they’re gorged and fully satisfied.
I don’t know if you’ve seen a crow eating some roadkill on the road, and you’re driving. That crow waits there until he’s certain you’re going to hit him, and then he flies away, and then you can see in the rearview mirror how he comes right back. John adds some detail. John 6:11, “They ate as much as they wanted.” Verse 12, he says, “They’d eaten their fill.” Is hungry, hungry, eating, eating, eating. The people here are stuffed with food. They’re stuffed, which is one of the reasons I believe Jesus did the miracle.
They went way beyond the normal natural tastes of barley and fish. This was not the barley loaves and the, the, the, the, the fish jerky that the boy’s mother packed into his lunch that day. This is the best bread they’ve ever tasted, the most savory, most delicious pickled fish they’d ever eaten. A caviar. They ate it, they wanted more, they only stopped and they’re completely satisfied when they can’t put anymore in, they’re filled up with food.
It’s a graphic illustration here, isn’t it? Of what Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount, Luke 6:21, “Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you shall be ‘Chortazo’ satisfied.” This is why, folks, John tells us, “Don’t work for the food that perishes,” John 6:27, “but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you.”
If we belong to God, we are not to worry at all or be anxious at all about physical provision. In fact, just turn a few pages to your right to Luke Chapter 12 and land on verse 22. Let me read a few verses out of that section. This is a part of what Matthew includes in the Sermon on the Mount, but here he spoke in another context. Another occasion, same principles, Luke 12:22, “He said to his disciples, ‘Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you’ll eat, nor about your body, what you’ll put on. For life is more than food, and the body is more than clothing. Consider the Ravens. They don’t sew or reap. They have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Oh, of how much more value are you than the birds?’”
Skip down to verse 29, “And don’t seek what you’re to eat or what you’re to drink, nor be worried, for all the nations of the world seek after these things. Your father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his Kingdom, and these things will be added to you. Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom.”
It’s what we pointed out earlier. This emphasis on the sufficiency of God’s Kingdom. If God’s provided you with the Kingdom, which is infinitely sufficient, then the resources of the Kingdom are going to provide for all your needs according to God’s will for you in Christ. You just need to trust him. You just need to believe him.
Turn back to Luke 9:17. We need to see something. Deeper here in the spiritual lesson, God’s teaching through this incredible miracle. Picture of this abundant, of this super abundant, this, completely magnanimous provision of physical food. It is a sign that points us to God’s provision of spiritual food, of full sufficient salvation in Jesus Christ. In fact, Luke has dropped a couple of textual clues into the verse which helps us to look deeper than merely physical provision on this one occasion.
First of all, notice in verse 17 the word, all. “They all ate and were satisfied.” That’s the message, yes, but Luke puts the emphasis on the word all, placing it at the end of the sentence. So it sounds like this literally translated, they ate and were satisfied, all. That’s how he wants you to hear it too, with emphasis.
Secondly, notice the word 12. At the end, what was leftover was picked up 12 baskets of broken pieces, a couple of words in Greek for basket. There’s the large basket that Paul was let down over a wall in the Book of Acts. This is not that basket. This is a smaller basket, something that they probably actually used in the distribution of food.
So they had the baskets they gathered them from. The crowds of people would have these baskets to hold personal items and things like that, but they’re smaller, manageable, and they handed them out 12 baskets leftover. What’s the number 12 signifying here? It’s at the end of the sentence. Here’s how it’s translated. What was leftover was picked up, baskets of broken pieces, 12. Very last word in the Greek sentence. So as the final word in this account, Luke is emphasizing it. He’s dropping yet another narrative clue for us of something more deeply, spiritually profound for us that we need to see here.
The emphasis on the number 12, for any Jewish reader is going to be a reminder of the 12 Tribes of Israel immediately. The picture is of, of abundant provision of food, out in a desolate wilderness place. Number 12, that’s going to recall for any Jewish reader the provision of God, through Moses, of manna and the wilderness. That’s the same conclusion actually these crowds came to, on this occasion as they reflected on what Jesus had been doing. So they surmised, John 6:14, “When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said this is indeed the prophet who’s to come into the world.” They’re so certain, so excited, that John 6:15 says right after this miracle, they’re intent on coming to make Jesus king, immediately, by force if necessary. Later on they’re saying, “Moses provided manna in the wilderness for us. What are you gonna do?” So they’re connecting it. Number 12 is a reminder and a point of connection for them.
The same way that God provided for Israel in the wilderness, Jesus now provides for Israel’s needs, and that is part of the lesson here. Jesus told the crowds, John 6:32 to 33, “Truly I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” Who is he talking about? He’s very self-referential there, himself.
But the number 12 in Luke 9:17? It describes the baskets, the number of baskets of broken pieces, pieces that are first distributed through the hands of the 12 apostles, and then gathered and collected by the 12 apostles. So yes, the number 12 points backward as a testimony to Israel. But also forward to the all sufficiency of Jesus Christ for the church. His 12 apostles are the foundation stones of the church, with Jesus himself being the cornerstone.
Jesus is the progenitor here of a new people, an assembly of Jew and Gentile alike, which brings us back to the word all in verse 17. At the beginning they are ate. They ate and were satisfied, all. All is significant. It includes everyone, everyone, everyone. They ate and were satisfied all. According to one commentator, “You can see in this account the Jewish kosher laws. That in in normal homes they were fastidiously observed to ensure the proper foods, properly prepared, were properly eaten, and unclean foods and unclean persons were necessarily excluded.”
But you don’t find that here, do you? Nothing about hand washing in the preparation. Nothing about excluding certain people, no, full inclusion. Another writer says about this, “All who ate and were filled. The thousands. Here’s thousands of people. An undifferentiated mass of people. Some undoubtedly clean, others clean, some more faithful regarding the law, others less so. The food itself. Is it clean? Is it properly prepared? Have ties been paid on it? Where’s the water for washing and preparation for the table? Such concerns,” as the commentator says, “are so lacking from this scene.”
They are so completely absent. No attempt has been made by Jesus and the 12 to preserve the social boundaries that characterize 1st century Jewish life. What were those boundaries for? To keep people like me and you Gentiles away from the table? But with the advent of Jesus Christ, there’s a new day dawning, as God throws open the doors of the Kingdom.
Yes, salvation is from the Jews. It’s provided by God, based solely on the work of Jesus Christ, who is a Jew, and it’s administered through the 12, Jewish apostles. It’s a salvation open to all alike. The Jew and Gentile, slave and free, male and female, all united, finding their identity in Jesus Christ and in Christ alone. In Christ, in Christ alone, God has given perpetual spiritual provision, in eternal salvation.
In fact, I wanted you to turn over to John’s Gospel, John chapter 6, where we see a theological understanding and interpretation of this historic event. He records the historical circumstances, but he really does camp on and expound upon the theological significance, the full theological significance of this feeding of the 5000. Go to John 6 and then land your eyes on verse 35. Jesus said there in John 6:35, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me shall not hunger. Whoever believes in me shall never thirst.”
Look, that’s the significance of this miracle. Instead of seeing the bread and the fish that God provided through Jesus as the sustenance merely for physical provision, people need to see that Jesus is the one who sustained them. We too need to see that it is Jesus who is the bread of life. And so Jesus repeated himself to make sure they got the point. Look at verse 48, “I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness. What happened? They died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die”. “I am the living bread that came down from heaven,” verse 51.
So what does Jesus saying? To these people he had just fed. People who the day before were starving in the desolate wilderness, without food, weary, without resources, without sustenance, no way to provide for their families. What’s Jesus saying? He’s saying you’re starving. You have no resources, but I will feed you. You don’t just need the food, you need me. You need me more than you need food. Because I’m the food that God has prepared for you. I’m the food that God has provided for you, coming down from heaven.
Verse 35, verse 48, verse 51, “I am the bread.” Full satisfaction from God’s complete, perfect provision from God, that is, don’t seek satisfaction anywhere else, not even in the food itself, for, “I am the bread of life,” Jesus said. How can he say that? What is he talking about here?
He’s talking about spiritual provision. He’s talking about divine salvation, which he rescues us from the death due for our sins, through the perfect sacrificial substitutionary death of Jesus Christ. Life through the perfect resurrected life of Christ. And that’s why in verse 51 the rest of it, Jesus said, “If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. The bread that I give for the life of the world.”
The world here in John’s gospel is inclusive, both Jew and Gentile alike. The bread that I will give for the life of the world is what? My flesh. Jesus laid down his life as a sacrifice for us to pay the penalty of death due for our sins, in his own body on the cross, and God accepted that sacrifice, and he raised him from the dead, showing his approval. So that all who believe in him, that is in his sacrificial death for their sins against God, God will reward them with life eternal.
Beloved, we can look nowhere else. Nowhere else. To do so, is a sin against God’s provision, against God’s power, against God’s salvation. It’s in Jesus Christ that we find the exclusive, all sufficient provision, power, and salvation of God. And that’s what we celebrate, really, every time we come here, before the Lord’s table. As we turn our attention to a time of communion, I want you to see the spiritual significance of what we’re celebrating.
So one more time, turn back to Luke 9. And put your eyes again on verse 16. I don’t know if you noticed, but the language, from which the Lord’s Supper comes, comes from this verse. I think that’s probably why all four gospel writers included it. It’s so significant, this miracle is. Look again, verse 16, Luke, Chapter 9, “Taking the five loaves, the two fish, he looked up to Heaven, said a blessing over them. Then he broke the loaves, gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd.” See that?
Now look at Luke 22:19. Luke 22:19, you’ll find the same language employed there Jesus is with his disciples. He’s there in the upper room. It’s on the night, he was betrayed. And it says there Luke 22:19, “He took bread. And when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, this is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”
What do you see there? Same verbs, right? Jesus took, Jesus gave thanks, Jesus broke, and Jesus gave. First he did it in Luke 9. Also Mark 6, Matthew 14, John 6. He did that with the bread. Then he did it with his own body when he died for our sins. He took, gave thanks, broke, gave. That’s the pattern. Taking, giving thanks, breaking, and giving, that is the telltale sign that identifies this savior as completely different than any other so-called savior. He took it himself, he gave thanks to God, he broke his own body and he then gives it out to us.
End of Luke’s Gospel, Luke 24, verse 30. Notice this is the identifying mark that Jesus gives to any of his disciples. He’s walking with the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. They don’t recognize him there. His, his identity is for, for, for some reason probably in themselves hidden from them. Kind of doubting, feeling, un, perplexed, and unbelieving. But they invite him to eat, still not knowing he was, and Luke 24:30 says, “When he was at the table with them, he took the bread, he blessed it, he broke it, and he” did what? “Gave it to them.” See the significance of this, Jesus feeding the 5000, as J.C. Ryle said, as an acted out parable.
Now the message of the parable it doesn’t point us directly to the Lord’s Supper. It points us to the cross. Because that is where Jesus, he took himself. His spirit and an attitude of Thanksgiving. He was broken and offered up a sacrifice given for us. We celebrate the Lord’s supper, we look back to the cross. God’s exclusive all sufficient provision, power, and salvation in Jesus Christ.
“Find in Jesus Christ the exclusive satisfaction for your souls.”Travis Allen
Beloved, take this lesson deep down inside of you. Or in Jesus’ language, take, eat, this is his body broken for you. Find in Jesus Christ the exclusive satisfaction for your souls. See in him the provision of God Almighty, to care for your every need, physical and spiritual.
If he could do the greater thing, he could do all lesser things besides. Look, nowhere else but to Jesus Christ. Find in him your soul’s delight. Then, as you think about the needs of the world around you, consider what Jesus says to all of us. So he said to his disciples, you give them something to eat. This isn’t somebody else’s responsibility. It’s yours, beloved. It’s mine. It’s ours. We do this together. You give them something to eat.
What do we have to give them? Certainly nothing of ourselves, certainly nothing of our own resources. Nothing in my hand I bring, only to thy cross I cling. And that’s what we can do, is we could pull them to that cross to which we cling. We have Christ. We have all the resources he’s provided from the Father, distributed to us. We have the abundant provision by the spirit and the word of God, everything for their souls, delight and satisfaction. It’s our job to feed them. Amen.
Let’s pray. Our God and our Father, we thank you for sending us, the Lord Jesus Christ, who is nothing less but the bread of heaven. Moses fed millions of people in the wilderness, manna from heaven and they died because of unbelief. Our Father, you have provided us with Jesus Christ. And if we deeply take him in and find in him our soul satisfaction, seeing him as all sufficient and exclusively so, if we believe upon him, we will never die. We will live forever.
And every other need on this earth that we have besides, you’ll take care of. In your own way, in your own time, for your own glory. We’re grateful to come before this table now with hearts prepared by the text, by you. We thank you so much for this recording this in scripture, for our edification, for our rejoicing, for our salvation. Now let us learn. As we celebrate the Lord’s Supper, let us rejoice with hearts, fully informed minds, understanding, and our consciousness’s prepared and in Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.