Goldenview Baptist Church

Little Is Much When God Is In It
Written by Rev. Zackary Johnson   
Saturday, 12 July 2008 19:00

John 15:1-9

My brothers and sisters, when I hold a basketball in my hands, it’s just a basketball. But when you place that same basketball in the hands of Michael Jordan, it turns into collegiate and professional championships. Put a paintbrush in any of our hands, and it’s just a paintbrush. But put a paintbrush in the hands of Picasso, and you get priceless works of art. If you put a tennis racket in my hands, you may get the ball to go over the net every once and a while.  But put that same tennis racket in the hands of the Williams’s sisters, and you’ll come out with Wimbledon Championships.  The bottom line is that if we put what we have in the right hands, we will get amazing results.

So why can’t we do that with God? Imagine what could happen if we put our limited resources into HIS hands?  Think for a moment what we could do for the Lord if we decided to give him everything we’ve got?  Even if it’s not much?  Even if it’s just a little bit?  Imagine what would happen if we put everything in His hands.

That’s what we’re going to find out in today’s Bible lesson. In this story, Philip is going to be asked to do something that he thinks is impossible. But he’ll find out that when we let Jesus use what we do have, things can happen that we never thought possible.

Let’s pick up the action in the first four verses. Jesus has just finished explaining to the Jewish community in Jerusalem why he chose to heal a man on the Sabbath. And verse one says "Some time after this, Jesus gets on a boat and takes the 13 mile trip north across the sea of Galilee." And then he heads for the hills behind the town of Bethsaida, and sits down with the disciples.  He’s been ministering in Jerusalem for weeks.  He’s probably worn out. And according to Matthew 14:13, he just found out that his good friend John the Baptist was dead.  And on top of all that, the Jewish Passover was just around the corner.  So all things considered, Jesus just wanted some time to recharge his batteries and to be alone with his disciples before the busy holiday season.

But the people of Jerusalem don’t want Jesus to leave. He’s been healing sick people left and right.  People’s lives are being touched and set free.  And they’re so caught up with all of the miracles that they don’t want to be without Him.  So thousands of people follow Jesus to the water.  They get in their boats. And they follow Him all the way across the lake!  And as they start climbing through the mountains, I can imagine that the disciples were looking down at all those people and saying, "When are they ever going to leave Jesus alone? Don’t they realize that he gets tired just like everyone else? Aren’t they sensitive to the fact that he needs some time off?"

But as tired and as somber as he must have been, Jesus never turned anyone away. 


Now before we go any further in talking about this story, I want you to know that the feeding of the five thousand is the only miracle of the Lord that is recorded in all four gospels. This is really unusual when you think of all the miracles that Jesus performed in three and one half years of ministry. The miracle is recorded in Matthew 14, Mark 6, Luke 9 and John 6.

Each of the gospel writers has something to say about this miracle feeding that perhaps the others might have omitted in their telling of the story. When they are all put together, an interesting story begins to unfold before us.  Which brings us to the first response.


And the first response is not in John’s account, but in Mark’s in this


The first response is to attempt to get Rid of the Problem:


The disciples initial response is given in the parallel account in Mark 6:36 in which the Disciples say “send the people away so they could go and buy themselves something to eat”.  The disciples asked Jesus to send the crowd’s home, so that they could obtain food.  On the surface this appears to be a request based upon the disciple’s compassion for the crowds.  It seemed a very reasonable solution. It even seemed to be the only possible solution.

How shocked the disciples must have been to hear Jesus’ response in Luke’s account (Luke 9:13): “You give them something to eat”. The disciples thought that acquiring food was the people’s problem. Jesus told the disciples it was their problem.  He was saying to them, “you meet their needs”.  You see to it that they are provided for.  You use the faith that I have given you to make provisions.


Now let’s go back to John chapter 6 to look at the second response.


The second response of the disciples as seen through Philip, was to approach the problem and search for a human solution.

As we look at verse five, Jesus looks up at the great crowd coming toward him, and he said to Philip, "Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?"  (Pause)

Do you know why he asks Philip this question? (pause)  Two Reasons: First, because Philip grew up just a few miles away in the town of Bethsaida. He knows the north side of the lake as well as anyone. He knows where the bakers make their bread. He knows where they go to sell the bread. He’s the man.

But there’s an even more important reason why Jesus puts this question to Philip. Verse six says that Jesus "asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do." He’s saying, "Philip, I know that feeding all these people looks impossible. But I want to see how you will respond to what seems like a humanly impossible situation.


Philip, will you trust me?  Will you help me to help these people even if you don’t know how it’s going to get done?"

My brothers and sisters, does Jesus still test people with seemingly impossible situations today?  Yes!  Definitely!

And many of us have been through our share of impossible situations.


Maybe we’ve said, "God, why are you testing me like this?  How can you expect me to step out on faith and switch jobs without reassuring me that things are going to work out just fine?"


Or, Lord, ’Why can’t you show me how your call for my life is going to pan out before I make a big mistake and get out there and fall flat on my face?


If you know exactly what’s going to happen, then why can’t you fill ME in?"

If we are the kind of person who has to know how everything’s going to turn out ahead of time before we get involved, we will never know the joy of living by faith. We’ll never know the excitement of what it’s like to completely depend on God.

In retrospect, what Philip should have said was, "Lord, I have no idea how we’re going to come up with the resources to feed 5000 people. But since you’re the Lord and I trust you completely, I’ll show you where we can go to find bread."

That would have been the right answer. But instead, Philip said in verse 7 that, "Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may have a little."

In his answer Philip says that two hundred denari would not be sufficient for this need (the KJV uses the word “penny”) – the denari was a silver coin that was about the normal day’s wage for a working man at that time. So if a denari was the equivalent of a day’s wages then two hundred denari would be about eight month’s wages.


Philip is saying Lord, "What do you mean, ’Where can we go to buy bread?’ Do you think we can afford to buy bread for 5000 people, besides women and children?  That’s impossible! Eight months of a man’s wages wouldn’t be enough to feed this multitude! Just send these people home so that they can eat supper in their own houses."

It’s easy to sit in judgment on Philip over 2000 years later. It’s easy to say, "If I was in his sandals, I never would have said what he said. I would have trusted the Lord!"

But can I say that if someone in this church suggested a new ministry idea today, some of us would probably act just like Philip: "We can’t start this new ministry!  It would be impossible!  Do you have any idea how much money it would cost?  Besides, we’ve never done anything like this before. It will never work!"

My brothers and sisters, we all have a tendency to look in despair at our impossible situations. And throw up our hands and say, "I give up. I don’t see how there’s any way this is going to work." 

But since you are the Lord, and I trust you completely, I know you are going to show up and show out.  (Pause)

Which bring us to our third and final response.


Lastly, The third response was to expect Jesus to do something.


In verse nine, he says, "Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish." "But how far will this go among so many?"

A barley loaf was about the size of one of those little cheddar bay biscuits you get at Red Lobster. And the barley loaf was the cheapest bread on the market. It was considered to be the food of choice for poor people. And the Greek word for fish refers to two little pieces of pickled fish. So we’re not talking about a very big lunch. And Andrew is saying, "Lord, I’m bringing you everything we’ve got. But honestly, I can’t see how this is going to feed 5000 people. In fact, I could probably eat this food by myself and still be hungry!  This is a little boy’s lunch!  This isn’t going to feed people!"

That’s how I felt when I was finalizing my sermon on yesterday. The ideas weren’t coming. The thoughts weren’t generating. And I said, "Lord, I’m supposed to feed people the word of God on Sunday, and I feel like all I got here is a couple of barley loaves! This isn’t going to fill 70 people! I need something substantial. I need your help!"

But it’s not just ministers who work with barley loaves. Many Christians feel that they lack the resources that they need to serve the Lord. They say, "Lord, There have been times when I thought about leading a Bible study, or going on a mission trip. But how am I supposed to do these things?  My time is limited.  My resources are limited.  My experience is limited. All of my gifts and all of my talents and all of my abilities don’t amount to much more than a few barley loaves." (Pause)

But look at verse ten and see what happens when our limited resources get into the hands of God. In verse ten, Jesus says, "Have the people sit down." And everyone sat down on the soft green grass. And then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he passed out the food and gave people as much as they wanted.

Jesus passed out the bread. And every time he reached for more bread, there was more bread to pass out!  Same thing with the fish.  Every time he reached for the fish, there was more fish!

My brothers and sisters, I want us to remember that this story is not about how we can make a little go a long way. This is about how JESUS can make a little go a long way!  It’s about how He uses our gifts and our resources and makes them go a lot further than what we could do by ourselves.  A Little is much when God is in it.

And then after everyone had all the food they could eat, Jesus said, verse 12  "Gather the pieces that are left over.  Let nothing be wasted."  Notice here the liberality and resourcefulness of Jesus.  When he gave the people bread to eat, he gave them as much he wanted.  He was a liberal giver.  But he was also a resourceful giver because he said, "Save the leftovers." And when they had collected all the leftover food, there was enough to fill up twelve small wicker baskets. 

You know why they had so many leftovers?  Because Jesus wants them to see that God is a generous giver. He doesn’t just give us barely enough to scrape by.  He gives us as much as we need and then some.

And when the people saw what Jesus did, they said to themselves, "Moses did this same miracle a long time ago when he gave our forefathers manna from heaven while they were wandering through the wilderness. And now Jesus has given US bread from heaven! He must be the great prophet that Moses talked about in Deuteronomy 18!  Praise God! We want Jesus to be our king."

But there’s a problem with this: Just because Jesus wants to make the little that we have go a long way doesn’t mean that we have him in our hip pocket. It doesn’t mean that we can automatically get him to be whatever we want him to be. And to do whatever we want him to do. And yet that’s what the crowd is trying to do. They wanted to make him king by force. They wanted a Jesus that they could manipulate. They wanted a Jesus they could control. They wanted Him to go back into Jerusalem and kill the Romans and bring in the kingdom.

But Jesus will say later on in John 18:36, "My kingdom is not of this world. My kingdom is not about war and bloodshed and force. It’s about peace and love and righteousness. So no, I’m not going to go along with this."

That’s why he says in John 6:35 "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry. And he who believes in me will never be thirsty."

In other words, "If you thought that it was so wonderful that I gave you bread to eat, imagine what would happen if you ate the REAL bread! Imagine what would happen if you took ME into your life!

And if we do take Jesus into our life, he will take the little bit that we do have and make it go further than we ever thought possible.

Give him our barley loaves. Give him our time, Give him our talents and give him our treasures.

Let’s put our limited resources into the hands of Jesus Christ, and watch him accomplish great things in our life and in our family and in our ministry.

Little Is Much When God Is In It.