When Jesus then lift 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
When Jesus lifted up His eyes and saw the vast crowd coming toward Him on the mountainside, He turned to Philip and asked him a question that Philip may have perceived to be preposterous. Jesus asked him, “…Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat?”
Let’s talk about why this question could have seemed preposterous to Philip and to the rest of the disciples. In John 6:10, we find that there were five thousand men in the crowd that day. This word “men” is not a nonspecific term that includes men, women, and children; rather, it is the Greek word andres, which categorically means male individuals. Matthew 14:21 confirms that there were “…about five thousand men, beside women and children.” Jewish tradition would have forbidden the women and children to sit down to eat with the men; thus, we can know that the women and children were seated separately from the men on the mountainside and were not included in the figure of five thousand.
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If we add to that number of five thousand men all the women and children who accompanied them, we find that this easily could have been a crowd of thirty thousand or more. Just add five thousand husbands, five thousand wives, and approximately five children for each family, and you’ll reach a sum of thirty thousand people.
Remember, the people of Israel believed that children were a blessing from the Lord and tried to have as many children as possible. Therefore, it is very likely that the number of children present in that crowd may have been even higher than this estimate of five per family. This makes the figure of thirty thousand people a very reasonable estimate. In fact, it is most likely an underestimation! The point, however, is this: This was not just a large crowd; a very large multitude of people had walked up that mountainside to see Jesus.
Now do you see why Jesus’ question must have seemed so preposterous to Philip and the other disciples? Not one of them was prepared to throw a banquet for so many thousands of people. To make matters worse, they were out in the wilderness on top of a mountain, far from stores where massive amounts of food could be purchased. In fact, Matthew 14:15,16 tells us the disciples were so concerned about feeding the multitude that they told Jesus, “…This is a desert place, and the time is now past; send the multitude away, that they may go into the villages, and buy themselves victuals. But Jesus said unto them, They need not depart; give ye them to eat.”
Jesus put the challenge to His disciples to quickly find food to feed this massive multitude. John 6:6 tells us that Jesus did this for the explicit purpose to “prove” them. The word “prove” is the Greek word peiradzo, a Greek word that was usually used to denote a test to reveal the quality of a material substance.
For instance, the word peiradzo was used to depict the process of testing metal to discover whether its quality was superb or inferior. As the metal was put through multiple degrees of intense fires, the fire caused the impurities in the metal that were hidden to the natural eye to rise to the surface. If no impurities surfaced, the metal was free of defects. But if impurities rose to the surface, the metal still needed future fires to make it pure and strong. Therefore, this testing by fire was a calculated, premeditated investigation, deliberately designed to expose any deficiency in the metal that would later cause it to fracture or fail.
This positively means that Jesus was deliberately testing the disciples, putting this challenge before them to expose the true level and quality of their faith. As a result, the disciples would discover whether or not they still had room for improvement in the faith realm.
As Jesus looked out at the crowd, John 6:6 tells us that He already knew exactly what He was going to do. He really didn’t need His disciples’ help; He just wanted them to recognize the true level of their own faith. Thus, Jesus asked them this question in order to “prove” them. He knew that there is just something about a new problem that exposes any deficiency in a person’s faith and accentuates any weak area that remains in his life.
In verses 7 through 9, Andrew and Philip began to frantically search high and low through the crowd, rummaging around for whatever food they could find. In other words, they were seeking to solve this problem through natural means rather than to say, “Jesus, I know You can do all things. Speak the word, and this multitude will be fed.”
Finally, Andrew found five loaves of bread and two fish — a tiny portion of food that was certainly not sufficient to feed a crowd of thirty thousand or more! But in this moment, Jesus revealed Himself as the Lord of Multiplication. Taking those five loaves of bread and two fish, Jesus showed His disciples that He was Lord even over impossible situations like this one.
Don’t make the same mistake Philip did when a new problem or challenge arises in your life. Instead of fretting and failing to believe, stop to remember all the supernatural things you’ve already seen Jesus do in your life. Could the solution to this new dilemma possibly be any more difficult than any of the miracles you’ve already seen Him perform on your behalf?
And if the situation you’re facing has exposed the fact that your faith level isn’t what it should be, aren’t you thankful this happened so you could see the true condition of your faith walk? Now you know that your faith still has room for improvement. It is a demonstration of God’s mercy that He lets you find this out now rather than later in a critical moment when your faith might fracture or fail in a moment of great need. Is it possible that God is trying to help by showing you that your faith life still has room for improvement?
My Prayer for Today
Lord, I thank You for loving me so much that You help me discover the genuine level of my faith before I get into a situation where I seriously need it. To realize my need for improvement now is so much better than to find out when a difficult situation arises that my faith isn’t sufficient for the challenge. So I thank You for the tender, loving care You have shown me by placing me in this challenging situation that reveals the true level of my faith. Help me to press forward and to grow in this area of my life!
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
My Confession for Today
I confess that my faith is growing and getting stronger every day. I am thankful for the situations that have exposed my true faith level, for now I can work on improving the capacity of my faith. I know that faith comes by hearing the Word of God, so I purpose to baptize my spirit and soul in the truth of God’s Word until my faith grows to a higher level than I’ve ever attained before! I want to possess mountain-moving faith, so I determine to press forward with my whole heart and soul toward the goal of increasing the capacity of my faith!
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
Questions to Answer
1. What past challenge comes to mind that exposed the true level of your faith and revealed that your faith still had room for improvement?
2. Are you facing a situation right now in your life, ministry, or business that is demanding more of your faith than you’ve ever experienced before?
3. What steps can you take to develop a daily plan to increase the capacity and strength of your faith?