The past three weeks have focused on the battle between good and evil. Jesus conquers Satan’s temptations in the wilderness with three words, it is written. A Canaanite woman holds her ground when it seems Jesus wants nothing to do with her and her daughter’s demon possession. Jesus heals a mute man possessed with a demon and talks about the battle between the strong man of Satan and the Stronger Man, Himself.
There is a battle of good and evil in the feeding of 5,000 men, but it is not as obvious as it has been the past three weeks. In fact, today might be considered an oasis of refreshment in the middle of Lent. There is a battle still going on and business is about to pick up when it comes to Christ’s suffering, death, and resurrection. However, today there is an island of joy in the middle of sorrow. Jesus provides food for 5,000 men, even when finding food seems a hopeless endeavor.
Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat? A large crowd approaches Jesus on a mountain side. They saw the signs that He was doing on the sick. Perhaps more signs were coming. Perhaps Jesus will preach and teach as well. Right now the task at hand is to find food for at least 5,000 people.
He Himself knew what He would do. Then why doesn’t Jesus let the disciples in on His plan? Jesus is testing them, especially Philip and Andrew, who receive special mention here. Philip’s response, two hundred denarii would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little, is not so much an answer as a cry for help. Jesus is able to help, but Philip wonders about how much it is going to cost to feed them. The Provider is right there, but Philip isn’t paying any attention to Him.
We have a lot of Philip in us. We’re quick to thank God for what we have, but when there is something we don’t have, we forget to ask the One Who provides all things, both earthly and spiritually, for us. Off we go into the marketplace looking for a way to get what we want. We don’t think for a moment whether that item is good for us. We need it. We need it now. When we have it, we give ourselves a pat on the back for how industrious we are for getting what we need so quickly. The cost may be prohibitive, but who cares! You have what you want and you took God along for the ride in order to make sure you got it.
The daily staples never get that sort of attention, especially when you are without them for some time. God gets the first fist shake when you don’t have them. He knows better than to let you go without what you really need. Now, all of a sudden, the stuff you had to have sure looks like nothing compared to what is necessary.
There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many? You have little and, like Andrew, you think there’s no way Jesus could do something big with something little. What are five loaves and two fish among 5,000 men? What’s forgiveness and life when you have sin and death hanging over your head?
Jesus does something big with something little. If that wasn’t enough, John adds five words that put us to shame: as much as they wanted. Everyone received something, but they also received more than something. They received as much as they wanted. No one is hungry, yet no one is underfed or overfed. Jesus satisfies every man’s hunger with exactly what they want.
There’s the note of joy in today’s Holy Gospel. When you trust in the Lord to provide everything you need, you will have exactly what you need, no more and no less. Yes, God blesses some with more and others with less. It would be nice if everyone would be able to afford a Mercedes-Benz automobile. It would also be nice if everyone wouldn’t have to deal with expensive repairs on that model of automobile as well. It would be nice if everyone had merely bread and water for every meal. It would also be nice to have varying food stuffs to eat at each meal so you don’t grow bored with the same thing for every meal.
That’s where the providence of God comes into play. He knows what you need before you ask it, just as He knew what 5,000 men needed in the middle of nowhere. There may come a time when you go without something. That time rips away your need for idols in order to show you what is necessary. You have what God sees is necessary for you. Granted it’s not going to fulfill your wish list of nice things you think you should have, but you will have exactly what God provides for you, whether it is food, drink, clothing, shelter, house, home, or any other physical need.
The Lord God also provides everything for your spiritual needs as well. He sends His only-begotten Son into this world as a man in order to live the perfect life in your place. His perfect life, perfect death, and perfect resurrection are your gift, given by a giving God to a needy people. Your debt is cancelled. Your sin is paid for with the blood of Jesus. You are free. You live because Jesus lives. That’s the one thing needful in this life. Everything else is an extra helping of God’s goodness for you.
This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world! Jesus is the One Who provides every good thing for you, whether it’s eternal life or a breakfast of pancakes with maple syrup. He longs to hear you ask Him for what you need. He gives you what you need in His good time. The Bread of Life provides food for life, both for the stomach and for the eyes, even to life everlasting.