In this fourth and final article we shall look at the remaining pair of signs, recorded by John in his Gospel, commonly known as: the feeding of the five thousand, John 6. 1-14; and walking on the water, John 6. 16-21. These two signs demonstrate the transcendent abilities of the Lord Jesus Christ. They certainly far exceed human powers and abilities. The scenarios depicted further illustrate the poverty of Israel’s condition, her inability to supply the people’s needs or to control the natural elements of the universe.
FEEDING OF THE 5,000 – John 6. 1-14
This is the only sign recorded in all four Gospels and is perhaps the best-loved and most well-known. Most of us will be aware that the total number of people was more like 15,000, when women and children are included!
A great crowd had followed the Lord Jesus – not because He was the Son of God, but because they had witnessed the signs and miracles He had performed for disadvantaged people. However, a faith founded on miracles is never as pleasing to God as a faith founded on His word alone! Everything God says is true and cannot possibly be false, otherwise we make God a liar! That should be enough for anyone. Jesus did not object to the presence of the crowd, even though it had disturbed His rest and the time He had intended to spend with His disciples (a lesson for us, too?). Rather, He perceived their hunger. The Creator of the universe knows that a hungry stomach has no ears. This is something that teachers, preachers, and conference speakers should note.
Philip could not cope with the problem posed to him by the Lord. How could all those folk be fed? Translated into modern quantities and minimum wages, he suggested that a thousand large loaves would be insufficient to give everyone a little! But Jesus knew what He would do – He always does, even in the seemingly impossible predicaments of human life!
Much delightful comment has been passed regarding the boy’s willingness to part with his five barley loaves and two small fish. We cannot but reiterate that it was not much, but he was willing to give it to the Master and little proves to be much when God is in it!
The Lord enlisted the disciples’ help in organizing the crowd and distributing the food – they could not multiply it, but they could serve it. If we do what we can do, the Lord will do what we cannot do. It was Spring-time when He blessed the bread, But Harvest when He brake! All the people ate well – as much as they wanted! The Lord was also concerned about the crumbs left over. Twelve baskets full were collected (one by each of the disciples? – no shirkers?). Everything that Jesus provides is precious, so, in our present ‘throw-away’ society, we, His people, should set an example by not squandering what He has given us. What happened to the twelve baskets full? We are not told, but the Lord did say on another occasion, in a different context, ’The poor always ye have with you’, John 12. 8.
This incident adds weight to David’s simple, yet profound, statement, ‘The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want’, Ps. 23. 1, and exemplifies Paul’s eulogy, ‘Him that is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think’, Eph. 3. 20.
WALKING ON THE SEA – John 6. 16-21
The Lord knows the importance of having a break and told His disciples, ‘Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest a while’, Mark 6. 31. Do we remember to do this in the midst of what is often a frenetic programme for some? Just as David was made to ‘lie down in green pastures’, Ps. 23. 2, so Jesus here made, constrained, His disciples to get into the boat without Him, and to head for Bethsaida and Capernaum on the far shore of Lake Galilee.
Being caught in the sudden, unexpected, boisterous storm was not the result of an act of folly on the disciples’ part, but was in explicit obedience to the Master’s command. The way of His will was the way of the storm! Doing God’s will and walking in God’s way do not guarantee a smooth passage in life, nor does the occurrence of problems necessarily indicate that we have done something wrong. Even some believers can be critically unkind to others when injurious things happen – a bit after the style of Job’s ‘comforters’!.
Although He was some distance from His disciples, Jesus was fully aware of what was happening to them. So He walked to them on the water. Jesus thus proved His own deity, ‘He (God) alone stretches out the heavens and treads on the waves of the sea’, Job 9. 8 NIV. It was as easy for the Lord Jesus to walk on the sea as it is for you and me to walk on the pavement! The storm-tossed sea was the pavement for the victorious steps of the unique Son of God. The disciples thought they saw a ghost coming towards them. ‘They … cried out: for they all saw him and were troubled. And immediately He talked with them, and saith unto them, Be of good cheer: it is I; be not afraid’, Mark 6. 49-50. Two things happened straightaway – the wind died down and they reached their destination.
When we receive the Lord Jesus into our lives, He transforms our situation. He does not remove the problems, but brings those that threaten to inundate us under control. He is the Creator of the universe, Lord of the elements and Master of the uncontrollable. Well might we utilize the words of EDWARD HOPPER, who wrote:
Jesus, Saviour, pilot me, Over life’s
Unknown waves before me roll, Hiding
rock and treacherous shoal.
Chart and compass come from Thee;
Jesus, Saviour, pilot me.
As a mother stills her child, Thou canst
hush the ocean wild;
Boisterous waves obey Thy will,
When Thou sayest to them, ‘Be still’!
Wondrous Sovereign of the sea,
Jesus, Saviour, pilot me.