At church last Saturday evening, our topic was Jesus feeding the 5,000. We looked at the passage in John chapter 6 that describes this event. Our pastor pointed out that this was a different supernatural event compared to some of Jesus’ others. Many of those dealt with healing the sick or raising the dead in the case of Lazarus. The point is partly obvious and very practical with those acts. Someone or some family was restored. But the case of the 5,000 is different. It wasn’t something that had to be done. It wasn’t a situation that demanded a miracle. Why did he do it?

Paul explained that he believes is was an act of “radical hospitality,” and I think he is right. Jesus has set an example for us and how hospitable we are to be to those around us. He didn’t make sure that there were no homosexuals in the group or that no one was a drug dealer or an alcoholic. He just fed them. He didn’t care if they were pro-life, pro-Obama, anti-Hillary, pro-Iraq, athletes, slobs, hairy, smooth, tall, short, Nazarene, Catholic, Evangelicals, dog-lovers, cat-haters, etc. He just fed them. I don’t see any roll call or statistics gathered about the make up of the group or the type of people that were there. He just fed them. How awesome is that.

But I have been thinking about a different part of the passage that never seems to be included in the discussion. I can’t remember one single time that anything has been taught to me about these words. I can’t even remember being in a discussion about them. They are verses 5 – 8 in John 6. I will reproduce them here so you don’t have to scramble for your bible. From the New Living Translation:

“Jesus soon saw a huge crowd of people coming to look for him. Turning to Philip, he asked, ‘Where can we buy bread to feed all these people?’ He was testing Philip, for he already knew what he was going to do. Philip replied, ‘Even if we worked for months, we wouldn’t have enough money to feed them!’ Then Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up.”

Seems to me like an odd little thing to include in this story. Jesus singles out Philip, as John says, testing him. Philip responds by saying basically that there is no way we can buy bread for all of these people because we wouldn’t have enough money if we saved our wages for months.

So I have so many questions and no answers that really make sense yet. Why Philip? What was the test? Did he pass or not? Why did Andrew butt in? Maybe Philip wasn’t done saying what he wanted to say. Why doesn’t John clarify this for us? It would seem that if Jesus wanted him to say, “Well you are God so just snap your fingers and poof bread out of the air,” then he failed. But what if Jesus was looking for the logical and practical answer? What if he wanted Philip to understand that he was responsible for himself, that God is not just some cosmic genie who we can rub and get a wish granted? If that is what Jesus wanted then maybe he passed. What am I supposed to take from this little blip in the story? Does Jesus intentionally test me like he seemed to be doing to Philip? If so what am I to make of that?

These are honest questions, and I admit that I have no answers yet. What do you all think?

Rock on! 6 weeks left to Ironman Arizona 2008.


5 responses to “5,000

  1. Good questions! I had never thought of them before… I wish I had the answers.

    I do think God intentionally tests us, but since He already knows us better than we know ourselves I suspect that He tests us to help us know ourselves better. I wonder if Philip thought he had some faith in Jesus, and then after supper realized that he was still depending on himself. Maybe the real test was whether he would put more of his faith in Jesus after realizing that.

    I think you’re taking the right approach here, and I’m excited for you! Keep it up!

  2. Maybe Jesus wasn’t testing Philip in a pass or fail kind of way. He was testing as in the sense of examining. And Philip had to examine himself in giving the answer and afterward. So many situations in our lives test us in the sense of examining. Jesus’ intent seems to be our growth and development. Jesus wasn’t dependent on Philip’s answer because John says that he already knew what he was going to do.

  3. I think Larry is on to something here. Perhaps the “test” is more like a push. That is, Jesus is pushing back on Philip, challenging him to work through what he was thinking and feeling, compelling him to a different (or at least more complete) position.

  4. i kind of feel like it was just a couple of guys talking.

    Jesus (with a slight smile on his face) leans over to philip (being the gullable one) and says, “hey phillip, you think quick trip would have enough hogies to fill all these people?”

    “Christ! no way! It would take like 8 months for me to earn enough money to buy everyone one of those nasty-ass dogs!”

  5. Matches, you just made me laugh.

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