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? And this he said to prove him: for he himself knew what he would do.
— John 6:5,6
After ministering to multitudes for numerous days, Jesus and His disciples privately retreated to the top of a mountainside just outside Jerusalem. It was the time of the feast, and before He and the twelve entered the city, “…Jesus went up into a mountain, and there he sat with his disciples” (John 6:3).
The word “sat” is the Greek word kathemai, implying that they reclined on the slopes of the mountainside. Certainly they must have been tired, because they had been ministering to multitudes of people who were following them for many days. So before Jesus and His men entered Jerusalem to resume their ministry activities, they took a break on top of a mountain apart from the crowd, where they could enjoy a cool, refreshing breeze and a welcome rest.
Suddenly, “…Jesus then lifted up his eyes, and saw a great company come unto him…” (John 6:5). The word “saw” is from the word theaomai, our word for a theater. It means to really look, like a patron who attends a play and carefully watches every act, listening attentively to every word because he doesn’t want to miss anything important in the play. By using this word, John lets us know that Jesus carefully looked out at this crowd in amazement — observing the entire scene, analyzing the size of the crowd, and determining what needed to be done for them.
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The words “great company” in Greek are the words polus ochlos. These are exactly the same words used to describe the massive number of soldiers who came to arrest Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane (see April 4). This was a massive crowd of people.
As that vast crowd marched toward Jesus on the mountainside, Jesus turned to Philip and asked, “…Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat?” (John 6:5). The word “buy” is the Greek word agoradzo, from the word agora, which describes a marketplace. When it becomes the word agoradzo, as it appears in this verse, it means to purchase something at the marketplace. But this was a strange question for Jesus to put to Philip, because they were seated on top of a remote mountain where there were no markets!
In fact, Mark 6:36 tells us the disciples were worried about where to buy food for this crowd. In fact, they pleaded with Jesus, “Send them away, that they may go into the country round about, and into the villages, and buy themselves bread.…”
There was simply no place nearby to purchase bread for the people on that mountaintop. Even if there had been a local shop nearby, it wouldn’t have been possible to purchase enough bread to feed a crowd that size — a crowd of “five thousand men” (John 6:10), plus “women and children” (Matthew 14:21). Yet in spite of the huge crowd and the impossibility of the situation, Jesus asked Philip, “…Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat?”
John 6:6 goes on to tell us the reason Jesus asked this question: “And this he said to prove him: for he himself knew what he would do.” The word “prove” is the word peiradzo, which means to put to the test, to test in order to prove, or to test in order to expose the truth about the quality of a substance. An example of this is how the word peiradzo was used to describe the purifying fires placed under molten metal. The metal may have looked strong, but only a blazing fire could expose all the hidden defects. Once the defects were exposed, they could be scraped off and removed, but without the test of fire they would remain undetectable. This test wasn’t just done for the sake of testing, but to assure that the metal would be purer, finer, and stronger. In other words, the purpose of the test was to make the item better.
Jesus asked Philip this question to expose any deficiency in His disciple’s faith. You see, these disciples had lived in the presence of Jesus and had seen Him perform every kind of creative miracle, including turning water into wine, cleansing lepers, and even raising the dead. Miracles were nothing novel to them. But at this moment, they were being confronted with a problem that was totally different from anything they had faced before — they needed food to feed a multitude!
It is amazing to me that after seeing Jesus perform possibly thousands of miracles, the disciples didn’t immediately say, “Lord, we trust that You can provide for all these people!” Instead, they went on a food search and frantically tried to solve this problem by themselves.
Philip certainly didn’t consider a supernatural solution. In verse 7, he and the other disciples began to “grasp at straws” as they went looking for a way to solve this problem through natural means. Philip told Jesus, “…Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may take a little” (v. 7). Philip didn’t realize God’s stores of supernatural provision are always more than enough!
It is simply a fact that new challenges often expose a deficiency in our faith and accentuate any weak area in our lives. Jesus knew exactly how He was going to meet the need, but He asked Philip the question so Philip’s lack of faith would be exposed — and so the disciples would see that there was still room for improvement in regard to the level of their faith!
Don’t be surprised if Jesus asks you to do something that seems impossible to your natural mind. When He tells you that He expects you to take a leap of faith and accomplish what others say can’t be done, His request may expose the fact that you need to work a little more on your faith! What a blessing that Jesus would ask us to do things that reveal who we really are — for only then will we really discover the areas of our faith that need improvement!
So the next time Jesus gives you a fabulous, impossible-looking job to do, rejoice if it reveals a little shakiness in your ability to believe. Now you know that you have a deficiency in your faith walk — and you can start today to do something about it!
My Prayer for Today
Lord, I want to thank You for allowing me to be a part of Your great plans. You could use someone else, but You have chosen to use me. For this, I am so thankful to You. If there is any faith deficiency in me, please expose it NOW so I can get it fixed and be prepared for any assignment You give to me in the future!
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
My Confession for Today
I confess that I am ready for God to use me! My faith is growing. It’s getting stronger, and the deficiency in my faith is being reduced day by day. There was a time when I was weak, but now God’s Word is making me stronger. There was a time when I would have doubted and feared, but now I am filled with faith. In fact, I’m excited about taking on ANY assignment Jesus Christ wants to give me!
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
Questions to Answer
1. Has Jesus ever asked you to do something that seemed impossible? How did you first react to the Lord when He put the big question to you and asked you to do something that seemed so impossible to do?
2. When you stepped out to do what He asked, what happened? Did you see His miraculous power at work and learn that God can do the impossible?
3. What should you be doing right now to improve the level of your faith so you have no deficiency the next time Jesus asks you to do something that is impossible in the natural?