Of all the miracles Jesus ever did, only the feeding of the 5,000 appears in every one of the gospels. That fact alone demonstrates the importance of this passage of scripture.
We read here that the crowds followed Jesus, because they saw the miracles of healing that He had done. The didn't follow Him out of love, or the conviction that this was the Messiah, but rather selfishly, for the miracles He performed.
Do we ever follow Jesus selfishly? Not out of love, not because He is our Savior, but hoping to gain by it, as these people did?
The Bible tells us there were 5,000 men present; there were also women and children there---some estimate as much as three times as many women and children as men. Jesus was concerned about them, as it was growing late in the day, and He knew they had not eaten since early morning. Jesus asked Philip how could they feed all these people.This was asked only to test Philip, for Jesus already knew what He was going to do. Philip was the logical one to ask in this instance, because he was from that area, and would be familiar with places to buy food.
Jesus had several reasons for asking His disciples how to feed this crowd. First, Jesus wanted them to search for human solutions to the problem, knowing that no human solution could possibly be found. This was to contrast their inability with His capability, and emphasized the powerful and miraculous act. In this way their faith would be increased, by realizing that even when they could not find a solution, He could, and would.
Second, He wanted to get them actively involved in ministry. Prior to this, they had more or less just followed along behind Him. He knew His time was growing short, and His disciples would have to carry on the ministry, and He wanted them to learn to think of serving the needs of others.
Last, Jesus wanted to test these disciples, to see how much they had learned during their time with Him, just as we have tests in school to see if we are ready to move on to the next level. They would have to carry the gospel message after our Lord was crucified, but at this point they still did not fully understand the fullest extent of His power and authority. The crowds came, fully expecting to see Jesus perform miracles; the disciples, even though they had seen so many miracles He had performed, didn't realize that He could meet any and EVERY need they would ever face.
Are you aware of the power and authority of Jesus Christ? Do you trust Him to meet all the needs in your life? Has your faith in His ability to meet all your needs ever been put to the test?
Philip saw the problem only through his human knowledge, saying even two hundred pennyworth of bread would not begin to feed the crowd.
A "pennyworth" was a denarius, the equivalent of a day's wages for a soldier or unskilled laborer; thus, even eight months wages would not be enough to feed this crowd. He undoubtedly also realized that even if they had that kind of money, there was nowhere to buy that much bread. They weren't in a big city, remember, but out in a rural area.
Philip saw the situation as being hopeless.
Do you sometimes look at your limited resources and see your situation as hopeless? Or do you see your limited resources as an opportunity for God to demonstrate His greatness, when you give your all to Him, however meager that may be? Do you have the faith that God can and will provide for your needs?
Andrew, the brother of Peter, told Jesus of a young boy who had two small fishes and five barley loaves. Barley was used for animal fodder, and was the cheapest kind of bread, but all that the poorer people could afford. The dried or pickled fish were probably the size of sardines. Andrew obviously expected Jesus to do something, but he had no idea how these meager bit of food could possibly be of any use when there were so many to feed.
The disciples worried so much about the greatness of the task--- feeding thousands of people--- that they didn't realize what is possible with God. Jesus took this small and inferior lunch, gave thanks, and fed all the people who were gathered there. John emphasizes the the abundance of the supply by stating that everyone ate "as much as they would". Afterwards, Jesus had the disciples collect the leftovers. They were probably dumbfounded and amazed that there were twelve baskets of food left over, after everyone had eaten their fill!
The lunch of one young lad seemed quite insufficient, but in Jesus's hands it became plenty. Even though you may feel that whatever you might contribute to Jesus would be small and useless, Jesus can multiply it and use it today, just as He did that day! Little is much if God is in it!
God does not need much from you to accomplish His work in your life, but you can limit God by assuming what is or is not possible.
Is there any area in your life where you have let a lack of resources blind you to God's power and might? Is there some "impossible" task you believe God wants you to do? Do you think the Lord would ask you to do something that He could not enable you to do?
What are you offering to God? If we offer Him nothing because we think our resources are too meager to be used, then we limit how God can work in our lives. But if we offer Him whatever we have, however inadequate we may think our offering is, then He can use it to do great and miraculous things in our lives and the lives of those around us. God can and will meet all of our needs!
See also Matt. 14:13-21, Mark6:30-44, and Luke 9:10-17.