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John 6:5-13

Loaves and Fishes

5 When Jesus then lifted up his eyes, and saw a great company come unto him, he saith unto Philip, Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat? 6 And this he said to prove him: for he himself knew what he would do. 7 Philip answered him, Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may take a little. 8 One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, saith unto him, 9 There is a lad here, which hath five barley loaves, and two small fishes: but what are they among so many? 10 And Jesus said, Make the men sit down. Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand. 11 And Jesus took the loaves; and when he had given thanks, he distributed to the disciples, and the disciples to them that were set down; and likewise of the fishes as much as they would. 12 When they were filled, he said unto his disciples, Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost. 13 Therefore they gathered them together, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves, which remained over and above unto them that had eaten.


Jesus had gone to the mountain to be alone with His disciples, but the crowds of people followed Him. While many people would have been upset by this total lack of privacy, Jesus saw it as an opportunity to serve the people. He saw the needs of the people and had compassion for them.

"Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat?" The question had a twofold purpose. Jesus wanted the needs of the crowd to be met in a miraculous way and He also wanted His disciples to learn how to live by faith. The question was a way of testing them and making them think about the situation. Jesus already knew that He was going to feed the crowds with the loaves and fishes.

(In the other gospels, the disciples begin this conversation and Jesus speaks to all of them, rather than just Phillip and Andrew. However, the four accounts can be perfectly harmonized without any change in meaning.)

As he looked out over the approaching throng of people, Phillip answered that two hundred pennyworth would not be sufficient to feed each person a small portion of bread. Two hundred pennyworth was probably a lot more money than they had in their kitty, and this was Phillip's way of expressing the impossibility of the situation. In the other accounts of this story, the disciples urged Jesus to send the people away to get their own food.

God had, however, provided for these people. There was a small boy with five barley loaves and three fishes, who was willing to give them all for the feeding of the crowd. "But what are they among so many?" Andrew asked.

Andrew's question highlights the focus of this story. God always gives us sufficient means to accomplish His work. There were five thousand men plus their women and children present at this meeting... perhaps a total of fifteen thousand or more people. Those five loaves and two fishes looked very insufficient. The disciples were discouraged, but Jesus never doubted.

Think about the many times that God has given you an opportunity to serve Him, but you declined because you thought that you had insufficient means. Perhaps it was a lack of talent, a lack of knowledge, a lack of money, a lack of help or a lack of some other resources that made you feel like the task was impossible. So, you quit.

Remember this story the next time God asks for the impossible from you. We always think that Jesus fed the five thousand, but He didn't. He prayed, blessed the food, and gave it back to the disciples for the feeding of the crowd. The scripture does not tell us that He gave them more than the five loaves and two fishes. Instead, He gave them an order to feed the people.

Jesus required the disciples to act in faith with the supplies that God had given them. When they did this, they found that there was more than enough... a surplus of food. We can see the innocent faith of a small child, who never doubted that his loaves and fishes were enough. He did not mind giving all that he had in order to help out. Only the adult minds of the disciples were hindered by disbelief, but they learned from this experience. Have you?

Before The Throne:

What impossible task is waiting for you? Pray about it. If God is telling you to do it, trust in His provision. Be like Jesus. Give thanks for what you have and ask God's blessing upon it. Pray that he will give you the faith to do what He asks without wavering. If you still doubt, ask for His assurance. He will guide you.

For Further Study:

(v.5)
** saw. Jn 4:35; Mt 14:14,15; Mr 6:34,35; Luk 9:12; ** Whence. Mt 15:33; Mr 8:2-4; Luk 9:13;

(v.6) ** prove. Gen 22:1; Deut 8:2,16; 13:3; 33:8; 2Chr 32:31;

(v.7) Num 11:21,22; 2Kgs 4:43; Mr 6:37; ** pennyworth. Jn 12:5; Mt 18:28;

(v.8 ) ** Andrew. Jn 1:40-44; Mt 4:18;

(v.9) ** which. Mt 14:17; 16:9; Mr 6:38; 8:19; Luk 9:13; ** barley. Deut 8:8; 32:14; 1Kgs 4:28; 2Kgs 7:1; Ps 81:16; 147:14; Eze 27:17; 2Cor 8:9; Re 6:6; ** but. Jn 11:21,32; 2Kgs 4:42-44; Ps 78:19,41;

(v.10) ** Make. Mt 14:18,19; 15:35,36; Mr 6:39-41; 8:6,7; Luk 9:14-16;

(v.11) ** when. 1Sam 9:13; Luk 24:30; Act 27:35; Rom 14:6; 1Cor 10:31; 1Thes 5:18; 1Tim 4:4,5;

(v.12) ** they. Ne 9:25; Mt 14:20,21; 15:37,38; Mr 6:42-44; 8:8,9; Luk 1:53; 9:17; ** that nothing. Neh 8:10; Pr 18:9; Luk 15:13; 16:1;

(v.13) ** and filled. 1Kgs 7:15,16; 2Kgs 4:2-7; 2Chr 25:9; Pr 11:24,25; 2Cor 9:8,9; Phil 4:19;

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