Would you agree that the better the teacher, the better the students? I would think that is a pretty fair assumption to make. And if there has never been a greater teacher than Jesus, then it would stand to reason that His students had the absolute best education ever. But that being said, it is also true, unfortunately, that His students or disciples were very slow learners. Most of the time they were very slow to catch on to what Jesus was teaching them.
But this is not only true of the disciples. Today we see Jesus teaching a large audience a very important life lesson. And yet, very few caught on to what Jesus was trying to teach them.
As His students today, it is also important that you and I “LEARN FROM JESUS LIFE’S MOST IMPORTANT LESSON”. Learn that Jesus freely gives of Himself to us so that we who freely receive from Him may also freely give to others.
Once in a while a good teacher will give a “pop quiz” to his students. He will “pop” it on them when they are least expecting it. It not only puts the students on the spot but it gives the teacher a good chance to see how his students are progressing in what he is teaching them.
That is what Jesus was doing here in our lesson today. He and his disciples had just sailed across the Sea of Galilee which at that time was also known as the “Sea of Tiberius” in honor of the ruling Roman emperor, Tiberius Caesar. What Jesus and His disciples had in mind was a little R & R. Even a teacher and his students need a break once in a while and this was supposed to be sort of their “spring vacation”.
But it didn’t exactly turn out to be much of a vacation. No sooner had they landed when Jesus saw a large crowd approaching them in the distance. Jesus was at the height of His popularity there in Galilee, primarily because of the miracles He had been performing.
Jesus could have said to His disciples, “Come on, men, we have to get out of here before the crowds get here”. But instead Jesus surprised His disciples with a little “pop quiz”. He directed His question at Philip but it was intended for all the disciples: “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” It says here that Jesus asked this “to test him”.
Philip must have turned around, saw the huge crowd of people approaching, and immediately answered: “Eight months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!” Eight months wages would buy a lot of food, but not nearly enough to feed a crowd like that. John says there were 5,000 men. But the other gospel writers tell us that did not include women and children. The crowd could have numbered as many as 15,000 people or more.
According to Mark’s gospel there was probably an interval now. When the people arrived, Mark tells us that Jesus “had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So He began teaching them many things.” It is very possible that this went on for several hours. I don’t know how well the people, or His disciples for that matter, listened that day but I’m sure Jesus had some very important and very interesting things to teach them – and not about the weather or sports or politics either. He taught them about important spiritual matters.
But once the class had finished, Andrew, the brother of Peter, came up to Jesus. He had been thinking about the question Jesus had asked Philip hours before. He did not have the perfect answer on how to feed all those people, but at least he came up with a suggestion. He says to Jesus: “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish”. But even he had to admit: “How far will they go among so many?” The implied answer, of course, was “not very far”.
Well, how do you think the disciples did on their pop quiz? The truth is, of course, they failed miserably. Here they were already approaching the third year of their theological studies and they still showed a tremendous lack of trust in the Lord. After all that He had taught them and after all the miracles He had performed right before their eyes, they still could not come up with the simple answer Jesus was looking for: “No problem, Master, I know You can provide enough food for all these people”.
But aren’t you and I a lot like those disciples of Jesus? When we face a problem or a situation that seems overwhelming or impossible to solve, we either despair or seek some human solution that is never going to work. And all the while the solution is right in front of us. It’s Jesus, isn’t it? He has the perfect answer to every problem and every situation you and I may face, no matter what it may be. And you know a lot better than I do what particular problem or situation you may be facing right this moment.
Jesus now showed His disciples what the answer is. He took the five barley loaves and two small fish from the boy nearby and then He gave thanks for this food – an important lesson for us. Jesus was teaching us to recognize that our food and all we have come to us as a gift and blessing from our heavenly Father.
And then Jesus instructed His disciples to distribute the food. The crowd was divided into sections and each disciple went around handing out the food to everyone they came to – as much as they wanted. And when everyone had eaten and could not eat another bite because they were so full, Jesus told His disciples to gather up whatever was left. He did this not only in the interest of conservation so as not to waste anything but to demonstrate to His disciples and the crowds what He had just done. There were 12 baskets of leftovers!
Wow! How could anyone conclude anything else but the fact that this was a tremendous miracle? This was another powerful demonstration that Jesus can and does provide for all our needs. But more importantly, this was a demonstration that Jesus is our one and only hope for this life and for the life to come. Only Jesus could do this miracle because only Jesus is the Christ, the Promised Messiah, the Son of God. It was He who came from heaven to earth at His Father’s bidding to serve us – not by giving us a nice, comfortable life here on earth but by giving us the greater hope of a hunger-free, pain-free and sin-free life for all eternity in heaven.
That is why Jesus perfectly obeyed His Father’s will for 33 years and then laid down His life on Calvary’s cross, offering His own precious blood as the sacrificial payment for all our sins. That is why He took up His life again on the third day to assure us that our sins are paid for and death has been defeated.
You see, Jesus has so much to give if we only learn the lesson He is teaching us here. It’s not a matter of bread or food or health or material possessions. Sure, Jesus can and will provide us with all those things as He sees fit. But all those things are only a means to an end – the means that will lead us to a most glorious life with Him in heaven. We only need to learn from Jesus how freely He gives of Himself to us.
But let us also learn that Jesus wants us who freely receive from Him to freely give of ourselves to others.
You and I, of course, are not the only people in the world that Jesus loves and cares for. In deepest love He came to give of Himself for all people. The Bible says that He is “the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world”. Jesus had so much to give and He gave it all for us. And to this very day He keeps on giving more and more, especially to us who are His own. We need only to put our trust and confidence in Him, knowing that “in all things He works for the good of those who love Him”.
But as Jesus used His disciples to freely give to the crowds of Galilee, so now He also wants to use us to freely give to others. Yes, you and I also have so much to give. We all have time that we can devote to helping others in their needs as Jesus did. We all have different gifts and talents that we can use in the interest of serving the Lord with our hearts and hands and voices. We all have been blessed with material things – some more and some less – but all of us have something we can offer and give to support the Lord’s work in whatever way we choose. And just like with Jesus, the greatest good you and I can do while we are still on this earth is to help bring the crowds to know Jesus as their Savior. That will not only help get them to heaven, but it will give them strength and hope and comfort for this life, knowing they have a Savior who loves and cares for them, who promises to bring them through every situation they may face, and who will finally bring them safely home to heaven.
Hopefully, we all have learned our lesson today so well that we will never fail another pop quiz. Amen
O Lord Jesus, we thank You for the important lesson that You have taught us in Your Word. Grant that we may learn well and take to heart this demonstration of Your love and care for all our needs. But especially may we see in this miracle that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who came not only to address our physical and material needs but especially our spiritual and eternal needs. To that end grant that we may always look to You as the Giver of our salvation who lived and died and rose again so that we might have forgiveness of our every sin and the sure and certain hope of the best life of all when You call us from this vale of tears to our eternal home with You in heaven. Amen