Intro – A mother put some carrots on her daughter’s plate, telling her they would good for her eyes and would help her see in the dark. The little girl pushed the carrots onto Mom’s plate and said, “You eat them, Mommy. I’ll just use a flashlight.” In other words, if it’s going to cost me, I’ll pass! That could often describe our relationship with Christ. If only we would see that the gain of God’s blessing is always worth the pain of the surrender to get there.
The disciples are back from their first solo ministry reporting “all that they had done” (v. 10). They had semi-forgotten the power was Christ’s. It wasn’t what they did; it was what He did through them. So Jesus sets up this test to remind them – You need me! The disciples, without food or resource, have urged Jesus to send this great crowd home. But Jesus challenges them “You give them something to eat.” (13). He knows they can’t. It’s impossible – except thru Him! Which is what happens in the end. So, to see how He makes much out of little, we are looking at What They Did ( 1. Recognized their insufficiency. 2. Gave all they had. 3. Obeyed ) and today What He Did.
II.What He Did
A.Received What They Had
V. 16: “And taking the five loaves and the two fish.” took it all. Think how this boy felt. It was a poor lunch – but it was plenty for him. Except – Jesus took it – the whole thing! Not just 1 loaf and 1 fish. Jesus took it all!
Did Jesus need more than one loaf and one fish? Of course, not. The starting amount didn’t matter. This miracle is an act of creation. Jesus’ creative power is shown by one profoundly simple statement in John 1:3, “All things were made through him.” Jesus didn’t need a lunch to start with. So what’s the point? The point is there is a cost to having Jesus’ power invade your life – not because He needs it, but because He requires it. He doesn’t need our ability. He could make a thousand more just like us in an instant, but He wants us. And if we want Him, it will cost – not just part of us, it will cost all of us!
Jesus doesn’t do half measures. He doesn’t multiply half a person. We can’t say, “You’re welcome in my family, but stay out of my finances!” We miss out because we hold back! Jesus demands all of us. He doesn’t do it viciously. He does it for our good and His glory. He does it to multiply us.
Turn to Joshua 7. God gave Jericho to Israel just by marching around it? No sweat. Then came Ai – conventional warfare. Spies told Joshua in 7:3, “Do not have all the people go up, but let about two or three thousand men go up and attack Ai. Do not make the whole people toil up there, for they are few.” 4 So about three thousand men went up there from the people. And they fled before the men of Ai.” Whoa! What happened?!
V. 10: “ 10 The LORD said to Joshua, “Get up! Why have you fallen on your face? 11 Israel has sinned; they have transgressed my covenant that I commanded them; they have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen and lied and put them among their own belongings.” Someone held back - kept for himself. A search leads to Achan. “19 Then Joshua said to Achan, “My son, give glory to the LORD God of Israel and give praise to him. And tell me now what you have done; do not hide it from me.” 20 And Achan answered Joshua, “Truly I have sinned against the LORD God of Israel, and this is what I did: 21 when I saw among the spoil a beautiful cloak from Shinar, and 200 shekels of silver, and a bar of gold weighing 50 shekels, then I coveted them and took them. And see, they are hidden in the earth inside my tent, with the silver underneath.” It doesn’t pay to hold back.
So, what are we holding back this morning? Some habit; some secret compartment no one else knows about. Holding back brings discipline. But to give in is to get back! Deut 4: 29) But from there you will seek the LORD your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul.” God is not a half-way God. He deserves all that we are or ever hope to be. How would you like to propose to a girl and have her say, “Okay. I’ll marry you. And I’ll give you every other week, and the whole month of May.” Would that do it for you? No? But somehow we think it works for God! “Lord, I’ll give you Sunday morning. And I’ll even give you some money. But my temper? That’s mine. That grudge against Charlie? That’s mine. Working late to avoid my wife and kids? That’s mine. Don’t think you’re going to get that!” How can God work with that? Look, what we have may not be much – it isn’t much. But He wants it all. Once He got all that the disciples had, look what He did with it! But He has to be Lord of all.
B.Blessed What They Had
V. 16, “And taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing over them.” Okay, so Jesus prayed over the meal. But the word “blessing” is more than that. It carries two complimentary but nuanced emphases. All 3 synoptic gospels tell us Jesus blessed what they gave Him. John 6:11 differs: “Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated.” I love that. Two reasons! First, was Jesus giving thanks because He needed these disciples or their food? No. Was what they gave sufficient? Not even close. Yet He gave thanks! He gave thanks for what He didn’t need, and He gave thanks for what was not enough. Why? Because He loves us and wants us. He wants to take our little and make it much. This gives incredible visibility into the God’s heart. Next time you think you’re insignificant to God – nothing to offer -- think of Jesus giving thanks for 5 loaves and 2 fish. He gave thanks for little, and I tell you– He gives thanks for you, too. Isn’t that something?! Jesus is thankful for you!
A young lady came home from school and threw herself on the couch, wallowing in self-pity. She said to her mother and brother, “Nobody loves me – the whole world hates me!” He brother said, “That’s not true, Mary. Some people don’t even know you!” There’s an encouraging word! But I know one Person who wants you. Jesus wants you. Not because He needs you or is hard up for help, but simply because -- He loves you. He will never diminish you; He will multiply you and you will glorify Him. That’s a pretty good deal.
But what about the other nuance of the word “blessed”. What does it mean He blessed it? “Blessed” translates ευλογεω. Sound familiar? We get our word eulogy from it. When we eulogize someone we speak highly of them, praise them, right? That’s the root meaning here. Think on that. Jesus took those 5 loaves and 2 fish and He eulogized them. He eulogized them to heaven. He spoke highly of them to the Father. An amazing picture!
If you had to feed 15,000 people would you eulogize 5 small loaves and a couple of sardines?! Not if you’re me! I would not be extoling so little when the need is so great. Complaining is more like it. We may overdo the eulogy at funerals occasionally. But we are not likely to over-exalt 5 loaves and 2 fish – not even for a family dinner. Not Jesus. He eulogizes what He’s been given. He loves the gift, values it, declares its worth, and in the process, guess what? That which is not worthy becomes more than worthy. It becomes sufficient. It is multiplied beyond the need! You think the car is not enough; you think your money is not enough; you think your spouse is not enough; you think your house is not enough. So when did you last eulogize “not enough” like Jesus did? When did you last give thanks for what He has given you?
Listen, you can’t get this anywhere else in the world. You and I are worth a billion times more in the hands of God than we ever will be on our own. Because He eulogizes what He receives and in the process turns little into much and ordinary into great. This amazing multiplication principle runs all the way through the Bible.
Regarding the first created people, Gen 1:22, “And God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” God blessed; they multiplied. Gen 9:1, “And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.” God blessed; they multiplied. God told Abraham in Gen 22:17, “I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies.” God blessed, and though Abraham had to wait 25 years for the promise, God multiplied him into the worldwide figure that he is today. In Deut 7:13, Moses told the Israelites if they kept faith with God “He will love you, bless you, and multiply you.” Do you see a trend here? 14 times in the Bible the words “blessing” and “multiply” are used in the same verse.
Look in Judges 6. Israel cries for help against the Midianites. God calls young Gideon. Jud 6:13, “And the angel of the LORD appeared to him and said to him, “The LORD is with you, O mighty man of valor.” One of my favorite Bible verses, both for its humor and its message. The “angel of the Lord” is a term used in the OT for a pre-birth appearance of Jesus. He’s appearing to Gideon. And the humor?! Jesus calls Him – “mighty man of valor.” Is he? Not by any stretch of the most active imagination. Not close. He’s a timid young farmer -- he’s 5 loaves and 2 fish. He says in v. 15, “Behold, my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.” Read on. You’ll see he doubts God, is scared to death of the Midianites, scared of responsibility, scared of his countrymen and scared of his own family! Mighty man of valor!?? Not even in his own dreams.
So, what is going on here? Why address him as O mighty man of valor? Why? Because Jesus sees what Gideon is going to be – after God blesses him. Gideon says in v. 15, “Please, Lord, how can I save Israel? Behold, my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.” 16 And the LORD said to him, “But I will be with you [that’s God’s blessing, do you see?], and you shall strike the Midianites as one man.” Jesus multiplied Gideon to go out and win one of the greatest military victories in the history of the world.
The reason most of us don’t experience that power in our lives is simply that we hold back. We fear; we rebel; we go half way; we renege; we play at Christianity; our affluence grabs us by the neck and we hold back. God will bless us, Beloved, but we have to give Him the whole lunch. No holdbacks.
C.Broke What They Had
Look what comes next. V. 16, “And taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing over them. Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd.” He broke the loaves. Why not just duplicate them? Why break them? Why? To symbolize what He does with what we give to Him. We come with very rough edges, don’t we? Phil 1:6 promises: “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” That’s great to know, isn’t it? Christ is going to complete, to perfect us. But what does that imply? It implies that we come less than perfect, doesn’t it? We need shaping. We need to be broken. And graciously but firmly, God breaks us.
And guess what the tool for shaping is, Beloved. Adversity is the gool. Adversity is God shaping us, and it is the norm in the Christian life, not the exception. If you don’t experience some difficulty, you might ask, “What’s wrong?” Christ has to break us, like a cowboy has to break a young horse. Only difference is, our shaping, breaking process goes on lifelong. That’s why the message of the prosperity gospel preachers is so devastating. It teaches people the Christian life is easy, comfortable, affluent and pain-free. When reality hits, disillusionment sets in. Christian living is joyful, but it is joy in adversity, not for lack of adversity. God planned it that way. The world knows all about ease, comfort and affluence, but they don’t even begin to understand joy in the midst of suffering. That brings them face-to-face with God, and we are the messengers as God shapes and breaks us.
Charles Swindoll tells of a businessman he knew who held out for years. He feared the cost and would not submit to the Lordship of Christ. But one day God caught up to him. He gave his life to Christ along with his family, his business, all that he had and was and hoped to be – committed unequivocally to Christ. That very night his business caught fire. He was called and went down to watch as his career went up in flames. The irony of it brought a small smile. A colleague said, “Don! What’s wrong with you, man! Don’t you see happening?! Your life is burning up before your eyes!” Don looked at his friend and said , “I know, Fred. I know. But I was thinking it’s a good thing I gave it to God this very morning – lock, stock and barrel. It belongs to Him now, and if He wants to burn it up, that’s His business.” He might have said, “Okay, God. I give it to you, and look what happens.” He might have done that, but instead, he showed the reality of his faith and the genuineness of his commitment. And as God broke him, you can bet He was multiplying him even as he watched the flames. That’s just the way it is with Christ.
Why could God trust Joseph as #2 in Egypt, the world’s superpower at that time? I’ll tell you why. Because He could trust him in the bottom of the well where his brothers threw him. Because He could trust Him in the middle of the licentious temptations of Potiphar’s house. Because He could trust him in the depths of degradation in an Egyptian prison. God could trust Joseph in power because He could trust Him anywhere! Can God trust you - anywhere or are you holding out, keeping back, harboring doubt, grudges, despair? If God is breaking you, shaping you, don’t despair and don’t rebel. Hold on. Look forward. Watch him multiply you beyond your wildest expectations.
D.Returned What He Had Made of What They Had
Look at v. 16 and wonder all over again. “Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd.” Turn on your imagination. Jesus prays then takes those loaves and begins to break them. He fills a container and gives it to Peter who takes it to the crowd. Jesus continues to break bread, puts it in a container with a few fish, gives to John and away he goes. 5,000 times He does this – and the food just keeps on coming. Now we know why He had the crowd sit and distributes through the disciples. They are seeing firsthand the sufficiency of Christ. The bread and the fish just keep on coming. The theological term is creation ex nihilo, out of nothing. Who can do that? God can do that. No one else can do that. That’s why Jesus can multiply us! He takes the little the disciples have, and gives it back to them, multiplied many times over to fill the need and beyond – 12 baskets full left over – enough for each of the apostles if they haven’t already eaten. Reminds me of Paul in Eph 3:20, “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us.”
Conc -- So what are you withholding from this God who gave His very own Self for you? He will never diminish you? He will multiply you, grow you, shape you, make you sufficient for the purpose for which He created you. You will never find your true self until you give Him all that you have to bless, break and give back ready for His use. Give Him the habit you are hanging on to, see what He returns. Give Him the time you think you don’t have and see what He returns. Give Him your family, your career, your secret ambitions, your self and see what He returns.
Abraham Lincoln liked to tell the story of a Kentuckian who enlisted for the War of 1812. His sweetheart said she was embroidering a bullet pouch and belt for him with the words, "Victory or Death." He asked her, "Don’t that seem a little strong? S’pose you put ’Victory of Be Crippled’!" Half in, half out. Giving Jesus what doesn’t cost much; holding back is what costs. Half-hearted religion will not suffice. Are you in? I pray you are. Let’s pray.