And Jesus took the loaves, and when He had given thanks He distributed them to the disciples, and the disciples to those sitting down; and likewise of the fish, as much as they wanted.
~ John 6:11 (NKJV)
This miracle—of Jesus multiplying five barley loaves and two fish to feed 5,000 men—is one of the few events in Jesus' life which are depicted by all four Gospels.
Each account begins by highlighting a different aspect of the miracle's context. Matthew, Mark and Luke also depict the disciples pointing out to Jesus the problem of feeding a large crowd late in the day, in a deserted place where provisions are unavailable. John gives us a fuller perspective—the disciples were responding to a test:
Jesus said to Philip, "Where shall we buy bread, that these may eat?" But this He said to test him, for He Himself knew what He would do.
~ John 6:5-6 (NKJV)
As a demonstration of Jesus' power as Son of God, all four Gospels show the miracle as a huge success. But John also shows us that for many of Jesus' disciples—people who had indicated their commitment to follow in His footsteps—the miracle results in a dramatic "FAIL":
From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more.
~ John 6:66 (NKJV)
Determining the measure of our belief or identity of His true disciples is never something God proves to Himself, since He already sees a person's heart (verse 64). God's tests serve to continually show us where we do not believe, and then asks if we will persist in unbelief, or will now choose to believe and follow.
Failure lies not in recognizing our lack of faith, but in what we do with that knowledge. Many disciples turn back. Others choose to take a new step of faith:
Then Jesus said to the twelve, "Do you also want to go away?" But Simon Peter answered Him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."
~ John 6:67-69 (NKJV)
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Copyright 2011, Anne Lang Bundy, all rights reserved.
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