John Message #18 “Lesson of the Loaves” Ed Miller, April 3, 2024

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I want to start with a Bible verse, John 6:45, “They shall all be taught of God.  Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me.”  We’ve mentioned that verse before, but how do you know if it’s God teaching?  Everyone who is taught of God comes to Jesus.  If the teaching doesn’t lead to the Lord, then you might want to hold it in suspicion.  He is not only the Teacher but He’s the curriculum.  We need to always come to Jesus.  With that in mind, let’s pray.

Heavenly Father, we thank you that You are always turning our hearts, the eyes of our spirit, our faith, to the Lord Jesus.  In Your revelation of Yourself to us You have made Christ central in the Godhead.  We just pray, Lord, in a special way this morning that You might meet us where we are and that You would help us to behold the Lord in a fresh way.  We thank You in advance that You’re doing it, and you’re going to continue to do it because we claim it in the matchless name of our Lord Jesus.  Amen.

Welcome again to our mediations from the gospel of John.  We’re in John 6.  I want to quickly review our recent study of chapter 6.  We’re focusing on the first two stories in this chapter.  There are actually four stories in this chapter.  Chapter 7:1 is a clear division.  That’s where it ends.  You notice John 7:1, “After these things, Jesus was walking in Galilee.  He was unwilling to walk in Judea because the Jews were seeking to kill Him.”  Now, the Feast of Booths was near.  Chapter 6 is the Feast of Passover, and now in chapter 7 it’s a different time.

There were four stories in John 6 but they’re all connected.  It’s not really four stories; it’s four parts of one story.  It’s very much like Luke 15:3, “The Lord Jesus spoke this parable,” one parable, and it was the parable of the lost sheep, and the parable of the lost coin and the parable of the lost son—three parts, one parable.  They are not three parables; they’re one parable.  So, John 6, we have these four parts.  The first fifteen verses is the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand men plus women and children, and then in verses 16-21 we have the miracle of the stormy sea.  He walked on the water and calmed the stormy sea.  And then in verses 22-59, a big section, that’s what we call the discourse on the bread of life; He’s now going to explain the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand, so we have that discourse.  Some of His disciples struggled with His explanation.  At the end, John 6:60-71, He has to deal with them.  In His dealing with them, some of them didn’t get it and they walked away, never to return again.  That’s the four parts.

I remind you of our approach.  We didn’t begin at the beginning.  We didn’t begin John 6 looking at the miracle of the loaves.  We began with the stormy sea, the second part.  The reason is because of Mark 6:51 & 52, “He got into the boat with them, and the wind stopped, and they were utterly astonished, for they had not gained any insight from the incident of the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.”  He wanted them to learn something from the miracle of the loaves, and then He tested them.  He brought them out into the storm and said, “Let’s see if you learned it.”  And they failed; they flunked and did not learn.  That’s why we started with the storm.  I don’t know about you, but I did my testimony; much of what I’ve begun to learn about the Lord is when I’ve crawled out of my failures.  I never get it right, and then the Lord shows me, and He’s been so faithful.

We haven’t yet identified the revelation of Christ that they were supposed to learn.  Lord willing, we’ll look at that this morning.  We heard the Lord tell us that the disciples failed, and this morning, if the Lord helps us, we’re going to look a little bit at the miracle.  I’m not going to develop again the way the Holy Spirit divided that story of the storm into three sections.  I’ll mention those three scenes.  The first scene, you remember, He was on the mountain praying with His disciples.  And then in chapter 6:48 in the second scene He was walking on the water toward His disciples.  And in the last scene He was actually in the boat, John 6:21, and He was working miracles.  The first scene, we suggested, requires faith, because they’re out on the water, but He’s not in sight of the natural eye; He’s on the mountain praying.  So, to them, to their human sight, He was absent, and He was gone, and they could not see Him.  That pictures real true faith, trusting a God that we can’t see.

And then the last scene is the opposite of faith because they’re in the boat.  They can see Him now; He’s there, and they can touch Him, and they sit next to Him and they can speak to Him.  In the middle was sort of a mixture; part of it was spiritual because they thought they saw a ghost, and the other part was physical because they did see the Lord.  Those are the three scenes.  I suggested that, as far as the heart of God was concerned, scene one was the scene to be desired, where it’s just pure faith; we trust that the Lord is praying for us, and even though we can’t see Him, we depend upon Him, and we trust Him.  The scene that would most disappoint Him is that we live by sight and not by faith.  Again, in between, they’re just sort of mixed up, they don’t know and they’re scratching their heads, “Is this good, is this bad, is this storm from Satan or is this storm from God?  Is this a friend or is this a foe?”  That’s what the middle scene was.

Anyway, if you missed that discussion, you can get the CD, or it’s online.  Before we look at the miracle, the first fifteen verses of chapter 6, I want to return to the storm one more time to pick up two little details that we mentioned but I don’t think we’ve developed them.  The first I want to mention is Matthew’s account of Peter walking on the water.  I skipped over that when we were looking at Jesus walking on the water, but that’s part of this whole lesson, Peter walking on the water.  We’re actually going to look at this twice: once now, and then toward the end of the study I’m going to bring it up again, because now I want to tie it in with the storm, but at the end I want to tie it in with the miracle of the loaves, because it has to do with both.  Let me just read it, Matthew 4:28 and following, “Peter said to Him, ‘Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water,’ and He said, ‘Come.’  And Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water, and came toward Jesus, but seeing the wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink he cried out, ‘Lord, save me.’  Immediately, Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him and said to him, ‘You of little faith, why did you doubt?’”  That’s the part I left out.  To enter the significance of Peter, we can’t lose the context; you’ve got to remember the miracle of the loaves and the test.  They’re in a test; they’re in a trial.  They’re seeing if they learned it. 

I remind you, in this test, that first scene, Jesus out of sight, Jesus on the mountain praying, true faith, that’s the challenge; that’s the test.  Are you going to live by faith or not?  When we’re in a storm He wants us to trust Him, even though we can’t see Him, even when He’s invisible.  That was part of the test.  So, when you bring Peter up, you’ve got to remember that he’s being tested.  This is part of the test, and Peter and the others are being tested.  When we get to the miracle of loaves we’ll bring him up again and show how closely he’s connected with the test, but did Peter demonstrate faith when he said in verse 28, “Lord, if it’s you, command me to come to You on the water.”  Was that an illustration of faith?  If it was faith, we know from the record that it wasn’t very much because of verse 31, “Immediately, Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him and said to him, ‘You of little faith, why did you doubt?’”  If that were pure faith, He wouldn’t have said, “You of little faith.”  So, somehow I think he had more faith than I had; I wouldn’t step out of that boat.  He walked further on water than anybody else ever did. 

Jesus deals with us as we are and where we are.  So, Jesus said, “Come,” and Peter did, and he stepped out of the boat, and he walked on water.  Now, you’re blind and I’m blind if we don’t see that required a mighty miracle of God.  You don’t walk on water like on pavement, unless it’s frozen.  You just don’t walk on water.  It’s not natural to walk on water.  This is a miracle, but don’t disconnect it from the test of faith.  The great illustration is that faith, real faith, pure faith, the faith that honors the Lord, is trusting Jesus when you can’t see Him.  As Peter walks toward the Lord, he can see Him with the natural eye.  He’s looking at Jesus, and Jesus, in effect, is going to say this, “Peter, you’re seeing a miracle.  If I went out of sight, would you still trust Me?  Would you trust Me if you can’t see Me?”  That’s the idea of this story.  “While I’m visible to your natural eye it’s easy to trust.”  So, Jesus said, in effect, “I will still be here, I’m not going away, but for a moment, as part of your test, I’m going to go out of sight; I’m not going to let you see Me.  For a moment I’m going to hide behind a big wave.  I’ll be there but I’m going to be behind the wave.  Will you trust Me when you can’t see Me?”  Verse 30, “Seeing the wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me.” 

A lot of preachers that I’ve heard have said that while Peter kept his eyes on the Lord he did fine, but when he took his eyes off the Lord and looked at circumstances, that’s when he sunk.”  Peter did not take his eyes off Jesus.  Jesus took Peter’s eyes off Jesus.  Peter didn’t turn his head.  He didn’t turn away from the Lord; he was focused on the Lord, and then a big wave came in between him and the Lord, and that’s what scared him, because in the test, “Can you trust Me when You can’t see Me?”  That was part of the test.  Many accuse Peter of looking away; I don’t think he looked away.  I think the Lord allowed something to come in between them.  That was part of the test. 

When we fail, the Lord is faithful.  The Lord is going to repeat the lesson of the loaves, though we haven’t seen it yet, right now for Peter.  Notice verse 30 & 31, “Seeing the wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, ‘Lord, save me.’”  Now he’s crying to a Lord He can’t see.  He’s out of sight.  “’Lord, save me,’ and immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him and said to him, ‘You of little faith, why did you doubt?’”  I love that word “immediately”.  I don’t know how long it takes when someone is walking on the water, before somebody’s head goes under water and when they’re beginning to sink.  I don’t think it takes too long.  If you are in the water, your head is going to go down pretty quick.  But Jesus immediately reached out His hand and Peter never got his head wet.  Jesus was so fast, so immediate, that He grabs him by the hand and He rescues him, and now He’s going to, in picture form, repeat the lesson. 

He’s going to take Peter by the hand and in union with Christ they’re going to walk back to the boat.  I just think that’s such a wonderful picture, Jesus and Peter hand in hand walking back to the boat.  When we get to the message of the miracle, we’re going to see that repeated.  The question comes, “Did Peter ever learn this lesson?”  I have to tell you, not right away.  Peter, like many of us, was pretty slow.  You know all about his boast and his Gethsemane experience, and all of that.  It took him a while, but we know he learned it.  How do we know?  It’s because thirty years later he wrote an epistle, and he wrote an epistle to Christians who were in a storm.  Listen to 1 Peter 1:6&7, “In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you’ve been distressed by various trials,” and he reminds them it’s a test of faith, “So  that the proof of your faith being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Christ.”  So, in 1 Peter he says, “So, you Christians are going through a storm?  Do you know that’s a test of faith?”  And then what does he say next?  It’s in verse 8, “Though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory.”  So, Peter learned it.  He said, “You’ve got to trust Him, even when you can’t see Him.  You’ve got to love Him, even when you can’t see Him.  You’re in a storm and it’s a test of faith.  Don’t stop loving the Lord, and don’t stop trusting the Lord, even though you can’t see Him.  Finally, praise God, Peter learned the lesson, and the evidence is in his epistle.

I told you there were two things I wanted to mention about the storm.  One was Peter and the other one is from Mark 6:52, “They had not gained any insight from the incident of the loaves, but their heart was hardened.”  I’d like to say a word about the hardened heart; their heart was hardened.  I thought that was a little strong for Jesus to say when these guys are struggling like crazy to obey the Lord, and He just accuses them of having hard hearts.  I think it’s almost automatic when we hear the expression “the heart is hardened”, I know it’s true of me that I think about Pharaoh.  It seems like that’s where our minds go with the hardened heart.  Five times in the Old Testament it says that Pharaoh hardened his heart, and five times it says that God hardened his heart.  So, ten times we read that Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, but are these disciples in the boat accused of the kind of heart Pharaoh had, the hardened heart.  Pharoah’s heart was hardened, and their heart was hardened.  Is there a difference?

Usually, Kenneth Wuest, in his Expand Translation is a great help to me, but this time when he did Mark 6:52 he was a little help, but not a great help.  He translates hardness as, “They had a settled state of callousness.”  That’s a little closer, but it didn’t really help me that much.  I’ll tell you what did help me.  I don’t know if you are familiar with W. E. Vine and his expository dictionary of New Testament word; it’s a wonderful aid, a wonderful help.  Anyway, he points out in his dictionary the different words in the Greek that are used for hardened.  It was interesting for me to discover that the word used for “Pharaoh” was a different word than the word that was used for these disciples.  The first mention of Pharaoh’s hardened heart is in Exodus 7:13&14 and that describes Pharaoh’s heart.  “Pharaoh’s heart was hardened; he did not listen to them as the Lord had said.  Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Pharaoh’s heart is stubborn; he refuses to let the people go.’”  Why was Pharaoh’s heart hard?  The answer is “stubborn”; he absolutely said no to the Lord.  It was a stern, stubborn rejection.  That’s not what the disciples had.  They weren’t rejecting the Lord.  They weren’t stubborn.  They didn’t say, “I refuse to believe You, no matter what You say.”  Vine says that the word for them is the word “dull”, “thick”, not able to penetrate.  Sometimes the word is translated, Vine said, as “blind”.  For example, in Ephesians 4:8 it’s the same word, “Being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that’s in them, because of the hardness of their heart.”  It’s ignorance; they didn’t get it. 

He gave them that great illustration in the miracle of the loaves, but it didn’t sink in.  Sometimes we describe the difference as “head knowledge” and “heart knowledge”.  The hardness that they had was maybe a head knowledge.  They had heard the Lord but it didn’t penetrate, and it didn’t get through.  That’s why he said “calloused” because it couldn’t get through. 

While I’m on this subject of the hard heart, let me just say a word, what does it means that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart?  It’s the idea that’s mentioned three times in Romans 1:24, “God gave them over to the lust of their heart.”  Romans 1:26, “God gave them over to degrading passions.”  Romans 1:28, “God gave them over to a depraved mind.”  The only hope for any sinner is that the Lord has mercy on them.  That’s the hope for me and that’s the hope for you.  God has to have mercy.  But if I’m stubborn and say no, God will withdraw His mercy, and if He withdraws His mercy, I get hard.  My no becomes a bigger no, and my stubbornness becomes more stubborn.  I need the mercy of the Lord.  It’s a terrible thing in Romans 1 to say that God gave them up.  What that means is that He didn’t give them up and say, “You are definitely going to hell.”  He didn’t say that.  He just said, “As long as you’re stubborn, I’m not going to draw you.  If I be lifted up, I’ll draw all men, but if you don’t want it, I won’t force you.  I am not going to give you My mercy.”  It’s a bad day when God withdraws His mercy.

We’re about to see that eclipse where the sun is blocked out and that’s only partial and over certain areas and for a short time, but what if the sun’s rays did not fall on the planet earth?  It would become a glacier; it would become a block of ice; it would become hard.  You can’t blame the sun and you can’t blame God for withdrawing His mercy if someone is stubborn.  That’s what it means when God hardened Pharaoh’s heart and that’s why it says five times Pharaoh hardened his own heart, because when God withdraws His mercy, He leaves you to yourself.  Good luck with that!  We’re in bad shape when He leaves us to ourselves.  So, the disciples weren’t stubborn like Pharaoh.  They weren’t rejecting the Lord, they weren’t resisting the Lord.  They were just ignorant; they didn’t get it; they were dense and they were dull and they were so much like Ed Miller.

Anyway, let’s look at the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand men plus women and children.  I’m quite sure that almost all of us are familiar with this story; it’s a very familiar Bible story.  I want to set the scene, so I’m first going to give you just some of the general facts, so that we’re all on the same page.  Then we’ll home in and see the principle and the revelation of our Lord Jesus.

Jesus did thirty-five miracles, that’s what most people count.  There are some miracles within miracles, but probably about thirty-five.  This is the one miracle, not counting the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus, that is repeated in all four gospels.  Matthew, Mark, Luke and John all repeat this.  It’s called the feeding of the five thousand, but we know from Matthew 14:21, that there were about five thousand men who ate beside women and children.  We don’t know how long their families were.  This could have been the feeding of the ten thousand or the fifteen thousand, if they had a family like mine, it’s a real miracle.   One explanation for the large crowd being there is John 6:4, “The Passover, the feast of the Jews was near.”  That’s one reason.  Josephus, the Jewish historian tells us that the average population of Jerusalem about this time was a hundred thousand, but during the feasts it would swell to about two million.  That’s a huge number.  Another reason for the large crowd, I think, is that the reputation of our Lord Jesus was now growing.  He had done many miracles and many signs and His popularity was growing.  So, the five thousand gathered.

Where did this take place, this miracle?  If you read Mark 35, don’t forget that John the Baptizer had just had his head severed, he was just decapitated, and the disciples came to Jesus all upset because they killed John, and John said, “Go away to a secret, secluded place.”  That’s when this took place.  In Mark 6:35, “It was already quite late, and his disciples came to Him and said, ‘The place is desolate and it’s already quite late.’”  If you have KJV it says, “The place is a desert place.”  Usually, when we think of desolate and a desert place, we think about sand and a desert, but according to Mark 6:39, “He commanded them to sit down by groups on the green grass.”  It’s not sand; it’s green grass there.  If you look at John 6:10, “Now, there was much grass in the place.”  So, we’ve got to picture this feeding of the five thousand and it’s a meadow, and it’s a beautiful green grass.  When it says desert, it just means deserted; they’re in a deserted place, but now they gather. 

The question comes, when it came time for the miracle, who initiated the whole question about food?  Most would say that it was the disciples because of Matthew 14;15, “When it was evening, the disciples came to Him and said, ‘The place is desolate, the hour is already late; send the crowds away, that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.’”  So, they say it’s the disciples’ idea.  Again, in Mark 6:35, “When it was already quite late, his disciples came to Him and said, ‘The place is desolate and it’s already quite late; send them away, so they may go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.’”  Luke says the same thing, Luke 9:12, “Now the day was ending, and the twelve came and said to Him, ‘Send the crowd away, that they may go to the surrounding villages and countryside and find lodging and get something to eat.’” 

Was it the disciples who initiated this talk about food and eating?  The answer is John 6 which sets us straight.  John 6:5, “Therefore, Jesus lifting up His eyes, seeing a large crowd was coming,” this is morning; this is not night.  They’re just coming at this point.  “He said to Philip, ‘Where are we to buy bread that these may eat?’”  Jesus brought it up; the disciples didn’t bring it up.  Jesus brought it up early in the morning.  Then I love verse 6, “He was saying this to test him.  He Himself knew what He intended to do.”  Isn’t that a great expression?  I should get a plaque on my wall, “He knows what He’s intending to do.”  He knew right from the start.  He always knows. 

By the way, brothers and sisters in Christ, just to challenge, do you know, do you believe that?  If something is going on in your life right now, that He knows what He’s going to?  You may not know what He’s going to do, and I may not know.  Long before that multitude got there Jesus knew what He was going to do.  Ten years before they arrived, He already knew what He was going to do.  When He created the universe, He already knew what He was going to do, and we can go beyond that in the unbeginning beginning, in eternity past, He always knew what He was going to do.  You might be going through a storm today or you may soon, or you may already, and you say, “I don’t know how this is going to end, and I don’t know what’s next, but He does.  He knows the end from the beginning; He always know what He’s going to do.

He mentioned it in the morning on purpose because he wanted them to sweat it out during the day, and they did.  They used their carnal reasoning, trying to figure it out.  In verse 7, “Philip answered, ‘Two hundred denari worth of bread is not sufficient for them, for everyone to receive a little.’”  The scholars tell us that two hundred denari is about eight months wages.  They might have figured, “Oh, that’s bad stewardship; we can’t spend eight months wages on one meal.”  They were just trying to figure it out.  So, they say, “Let’s count the people; five thousand, seven thousand, oh my goodness.  Let’s count the supply.”  John 6:9, “There’s a lad here who had five barley loaves and two fish.”  So, they started counting the loaves of bread, and these are just biscuits.  This is a little boy’s lunch; these are sardines and are little tiny fish.  They count the money and they count the people and they count the fish and they count the bread, and they calculated all the day long and when the sun began to set, they had one conclusion, “Send them home; send them out of here.  There’s no way and we figured it out and we talked about it, and we planned it and we had a committee and we talked it over, and it didn’t help, one more fact to visualize the situation.  Mark 6:40, “They sat down in groups of hundreds and fifties.”  The smallest number of groups was approximately fifty and hundreds.

I think that’s enough to bring us to the heart of the miracle; that gives us the background.  What is the revelation of our Lord Jesus in the miracle of the loaves?  I think it has to do with the command that Jesus gave the disciples.  Matthew 14;60, “Jesus said to them, ‘They do not need to go away; you give them something to eat.’”  That’s quite a command, when you think of the situation, all those people, that little supply.  Luke 9:13, “He said to them, ‘You give them something to eat.’”  “You feed them.”  That was a command.  If they didn’t, they disobeyed.  It’s an imperative; it’s a command, “You give them something to eat.”  Do you realize how impossible that command was.  When you look at the number, when you look at the supply, that command was absolutely impossible, and in this miracle, Jesus is going to show how it’s possible to obey an impossible command.  If you must, you may, and He’s going to show you how.  That’s what this miracle is all about.  That command, “Feed them; you do it,” was impossible, and that command represents every command in the word of God.  Everything God has ever commanded me or you is just as impossible as feeding five thousand people with five biscuits and two fish.  Do you realize this?  There is not a command in the whole Bible from Genesis to Revelation that you can obey apart from a miracle?  And there’s none I can obey apart from a miracle.  You can’t love your enemy.  You can’t turn the other cheek and go the second mile.  You can’t give thanks in everything and for everything.  You can’t constantly rejoice; it’s not possible.  You can’t lay aside every falsehood and put aside bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander.  It’s not possible; it’s not in me.  I can’t forgive.  Some say, “Just forgive and forget.”  Yeah, right, you can’t; it’s not possible.  I can’t stop being deceived.  I need a miracle of God.  I can’t abstain from every form of evil.  I can’t stop being proud.  I can’t stop seeking glory from men.  We need to learn how impossible it is to obey the Lord.

All through His miracles He’s going to illustrate this.  He’s going to go up to a man with a paralyzed hand and He’s going to say, “Stretch forth your paralyzed, withered hand.”  The guy will say, “I can’t; it’s withered.”  And He’s going to go up to a man that’s been crippled for thirty-eight years and say, “Get up, take up your bed and walk.”  “I can’t; I’m crippled.  I can’t do that.”  He’s going to go to a woman who had been humped over for eighteen years.  Imagine the atrophy in her muscles and in her back.  He’s going to say, “Stand up straight.”  “I can’t.”  He’s going to go to a little girl, Jairus’ daughter who is dead, and say, “Little girl, I say to you, ‘Arise.’”  You know that’s impossible.  “Lazarus, come forth.”  How are you going to obey that?  That’s impossible.  How about this command.  “Be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect.”  Did you ever try it?  People say, “Just stop sinning; just stop, just quit.”  I cannot; every command that God ever gave is as impossible to obey as feeding five thousand people with a little boy’s lunch.  I can’t strive, I can’t repent, I can’t rejoice, I can’t believe, I can’t come, I can’t receive; I need a miracle of the Lord.  The responsibility to obey belongs to me.  I have to obey, and so do you.  But how do we meet that responsibility?  That’s what this miracle is all about.  He’s going to give us the secret of how to obey the Lord.  That’s what this whole miracle is about.

At first, He demonstrates how foolish it is to try to calculate and use human wisdom.  Human reasoning is death, and it’s not going to help to come up with a program that maybe this will work, or this has three steps or five steps or twelve steps and maybe that’s going to work, or if we go to a counselor that might help us, and figure if we can dig back in our life and come up with some block that’s hindered us, and maybe if we can learn to overcome that block, all that psychology stuff, it’s not going to help.  He shows us how foolish it is to reason, to count money, to count fish, to count bread and to count people.  This is not possible.  But the impossible command in the miracle was, “You feed them.”  After the miracle, the storm, “You row to the other side.”  That was the command that they got.  And now He’s going to see, “I showed you how to obey. Now I’m giving you another command to go to the other side and I’ll meet you over there.”  Let’s see if they obey.

He not only lets us reason and calculate and try to figure things out, but He make us feel it, and makes us sensitive to how insufficient and how inadequate we are.  I want you to use your spiritual imagination and try to get into their shoes and enter into what is going on.  Follow the process because we’re going to see the ways of the Lord.  We’re going to see how God is teaching them.  Matthew 14:18, “And He said, ‘Bring them here to Me,’” that’s the little boy’s lunch.  “Ordering the people to sit down on the grass, He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up toward heaven He blessed the food, and breaking the loaves, He gave them to the disciples and the disciples gave them to the crowd.”  There’s a lot that’s not mentioned, like when did the miracle actually take place?  I think sometimes He leaves that a secret, but here’s what we have. 

We’ve got a little boy’s lunch, and now He’s going to divide it thirteen ways.  He’s going to keep some, and He’s going to give some to each of the disciples.  I don’t know if He gave it to them in their hand.  Baskets are mentioned later, so maybe they each had a little basket.  I don’t know, but when I think of Peter’s hand, this guy could palm a medicine ball; he had arms like legs and legs like people.  He was a big, tough fisherman hauling nets and pulling ropes and rowing, and so on.  Picture that hand and one thirteenth of a little boy’s lunch in that hand or in a basket. 

If that were you, and He said, “You feed them,” you’ve got a choice.  You can go to the group of fifty or you can go to the group of one hundred with your little basket, or with what’s in your hand.  Where would you go?  I want to go to the smallest group.  So, I go to the group of fifty, but now what?  Do you give everything to the first guy?  Do you hand in out?  Do you start breaking it up and giving out little pieces?  Do you give them the basket and say, “Pass it and pass it back and I’ll go get more.”  This is an amazing miracle and it’s an object lesson, and He’s doing this on purpose because He wants them to learn that in that big hand or that basket, that represented all sufficiency of Christ.  He’s enough, that little morsel in that hand, one thirteenth of a little boy’s lunch.  I’ll tell you this, I don’t think it felt like enough to them.  He wants you to not only to know that you can’t do it; He wants you to feel it and He wants you to know that it’s not enough.  They already knew that they couldn’t do it, “Send them away,” but now He’s making them feel it.  Wouldn’t you think that if that little morsel was picturing the all-sufficiency of Christ, that it should feel like the all-sufficiency of Christ?  But it doesn’t feel like that.  If there is an abundance, it should look like a large portion; it should look like that, but there’s only just a little bit.  It never feels like we have enough, so the Lord says to me as a Bible teacher, “You feed them,” and I say, “Yeah, right, I have nothing to give them.”  So, I follow this and I go to the Lord and He gives me that which pictures His fullness, His sufficiency, but it doesn’t feel like enough. 

Every time I show up to teach I say, “I can’t believe the little bit I have.  I don’t have enough.  I want to give you a full Christ, but it doesn’t feel like I have enough Jesus.  I think if you go to the most instructed veteran of the Lord and asked a pilgrim who has gained the most ground in Christ and asked them, “At any given moment does it feel like you have enough Jesus,” and I think they would say, actually, “No.”

So, He shows them their inadequacy, and He makes them feel it, and then in Mark 6:41 here is the process, “He took the five loaves, the two fish, and looking up toward heaven He blessed the food and broke the loaves,” now here’s the part, “and He kept giving them to the disciples to set before them.”  This is the object lesson, “You go and give yourself empty, and then come back and get more, and then go and give yourself empty and then come back and get more.”  That process of continually coming back to Jesus with an empty hand and with empty baskets, “I’ve given everything and I have no more.”  The Lord is saying, “I don’t need you.  I could feed them, and I could make them go like Elijah went, one hundred and fifty miles without having any food.  I could take it away.  I could feed them, but I want to use you; I want to do it through you.  In union with you this can be done.  Paul expressed that mystery about himself many times.  Galatians 2:20, “It’s no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.”  Colossians 1:29, “For this purpose I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me.”  1 Corinthians 15:10, “I labored even more than all of them, yet not I but the grace of God with me.”  That day they were to learn how to obey the Lord by mistrusting myself and by trusting in the Lord, to go as far as I could go until I couldn’t go anymore, and then come back to Jesus for a new supply, this continual coming back to the Lord is the process.

I told you that any time at any moment it doesn’t feel like you’ve got enough.  When I come to teach, poor Lillian, she has to go through it.  I say, “What else can I share?  That’s all I have.  I have no more.”  It never feels like enough in the distributing, but if they had to carry what they distributed, it would have broken their backs.  It would have crushed them, the weight of what they handed out, if they had to carry that all at once.  So, you have to look over your shoulder. 

Right now I’m in the process of down-sizing, and that’s an amazing thing, but for me it started with the ministry, so I had to get rid of files of notes, and throw them in the dump; I couldn’t carry all the boxes.  I say, “Did I have all that teaching?”  Looking back, what I handed out through the years, my notes were from 1975.  Every time I brought a bag of cassette tapes, because I had to get rid of them, in order to dump them you’ve got to pay by the pound.  The least amount of cassette tapes was fifty-six pounds.  That’s what I was throwing away.  I say that it never feels like enough, but when you look back and you see all that the Lord has done and all that He’s given you in the distribution, that’s where you measure the fullness, the sufficiency of the Lord Jesus.

I told you that I’m going to return to Peter, so let’s go back to Peter.  Don’t forget the test, obedience and how to obey.  The way to obey is to realize you can’t do it, keep coming to Jesus and He’ll enable you to do impossible things.  That’s how you obey.  Matthew 14:28, “Peter said to Him, ‘Lord, if it’s You, command me to come to You on the water.’”  I want you to remember what the test is.  It’s a test of obedience; it’s a test of “can you obey My commands”.  Peter thinks the solution is, “Give me another command, and lets see how I do with that.”  Jesus said, “Alright, come,” and he did come, and you saw how he did with that command, as well.  Matthew 14:31&32, “Immediately, Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him and said, ‘You of little faith, why did you doubt?’”  Jesus, again, taught that great lesson of the loaves.  What a picture!  I mentioned it, but I’ve got to say it again.  Can’t you just see this?  What does it mean to obey the Lord?  It means to go hand in hand with Jesus and walk with Him a miracle walk; that’s what He does here and that’s what He did in the miracle of the loaves.  He said, “You can’t do this.”

I want to get ready to close.  What should the disciples have done on the boat, if they had applied the lessons of the loaves?  Some say, “Now that you aren’t a legalist you rest; you lay down the oars and you drift.  It’s passive and you do nothing; you let God do it all.”  Don’t believe that for a lonely moment.  Others say, “You should have given up; you should have not buckled under the rowing; keep rowing and row harder.”  That’s wrong, too.  What should they have done?  They shouldn’t just drift.  He’s called us to act; faith is active, and they shouldn’t have rowed in their own strength. 

What they should have done is row through the storm and then call on the Lord for more ability.  How do I now if I’m trusting the flesh or trusting the Lord.  Luther gave it in his song, “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” in verse 2, “Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing.”  And then George Duffield in his song, “Stand Up Stand Up For Jesus”, in verse 3, “Stand up, stand up for Jesus, stand in His strength alone, the arm of flesh will fail you, you dare not trust your own.”  How do I know that it’s me?  I fail.  That’s how I know if it’s me.  How do I know if it’s Him?  I get to the other side.  I still row.  He wants me to row and trust Him, not row and not trust Him.  It’s not legalism to row and trust Jesus.  It’s legalism to row in my own energy in my own strength until I become exhausted.  They should have depended on the Lord.

God says, “You can’t do it by yourself.”  And He also says, “I won’t do it by myself, but I will do it in union with you.”  That’s the heart of God.  He wants to do it, but He wants to use you, and He wants to use me.  The dead give-away that I’m trusting me is that I fail again and have to get up again.  When I trust Him, the storm doesn’t go away, and the rowing doesn’t go away.  The discouragement will go away, the fear will go away.  I can have peace.  As I said, “If you must, you may.”  If He commanded it, then He’s going to give you an enablement. 

Dear friends in Christ, don’t fear the commands of the Lord, the impossible commands.  This is not new.  Moses in Deuteronomy, and we’ll close with this, talked about it.  Listen to Deuteronomy 30:11, “This commandment which I command you today is not too difficult for you, nor is it out of reach.  It’s not in heaven, that you would say, ‘Who would go up to heaven for us to get it for us, and make us hear it, that we may observe it, nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, “Who would cross the sea for us to get it for us and make us hear it, that we may observe.  The word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may observe it.”’”  You see, Moses doesn’t go all the way; that’s Old Testament, and that’s seed form.  It takes the New Testament to develop this, but what Moses is saying is, “Don’t say the commandments of God are hard, and say that you might as well ask me to jump to heaven, or ask me to swim across the ocean.  Don’t say that.  It’s near you, it’s in your mouth.”  In my mouth?  He’s saying that it’s closer than your teeth, it’s closer than your tongue, it’s closer than your palette.  It’s in your heart.  And then Moses stops.

So, Paul quotes Moses, and what does he say?  Romans 10:8, “The word is near you, in your mouth, in your heart; that is,” and now he defines it, “the word of faith which we are preaching.”  That’s what makes obedience a delight, and that’s what makes obeying God possible.  That’s what makes it easy.  It’s not a contradiction to say, “To obey God is impossible; to obey God is easy.”  Both are true.  It’s impossible for you, but He wants to do it through you.  So, you allow Him.  We’re not done, by the way, with the feeding.  We’ll pick it up again the week after next, Lord willing.  It’s an impossible thing, but through the disciples they were able to obey, “You feed them.”  Colossians 2:6, “As you receive Christ Jesus, the Lord, so walk in Him.”  How did you receive Jesus?  You were a helpless sinner, so walk in Him.  Now you’re a helpless Christian.  Don’t think now that you can do it, just because you’re saved.  No.  You came as a helpless sinner, and now you return as a helpless Christian.  I need Thee every hour.  Moment by moment I need the Lord. 

Father, thank You for Your word, not what we think it means.  Lord, we look at Peter and we sort of admire him, in a sense, and yet he tried to solve the obedience problem by just getting another command, another command that he could fail again.  Teach us, Lord, to trust You even when You’re out of sight.  Teach us to always depend upon You.  Teach us how to obey.  Forgive us for thinking that the Christian life is so impossible, when it’s so easy when we take Your hand and walk in union with You on the stormy sea.  We ask in Jesus’ name.  Amen.