At one of our annual family reunions my cousin, Michael, asked me about my writing. At that time I was writing a book about Jesus’ life and teachings according to the Gospel of Luke. I told him I wished I could retire and devote myself to completing it, but I didn’t think I had enough set aside to do so. He asked me: “What is enough?” I thought about his reply for quite awhile afterward, and Thanksgiving week that same year my company offered me an early retirement. I had to decide by the week before Christmas. It was a very intense month for me, but the long-story-short is: I decided I had enough, put my decision in God’s hands, and never looked back.
In John 6 a multitude of people mourning the death of John the Baptist followed Jesus to a desert place away from the cities of Galilee. After Jesus had taught them many things (Mark 6:34), the disciples asked Jesus to send them away so they could find something to eat in one of the surrounding towns (Mark 6:35-36). Nevertheless, Jesus told Philip that he should buy food for them (John 6:5), but apparently Philip didn’t think they had enough to buy food for such a great crowd of people (John 6:7).
We know the story don’t we? It is one of the few stories that is recorded in all four Gospel narratives. Jesus multiplied the few loaves and fishes until everyone had enough to eat. We know they had enough, because there were a lot of leftovers. In fact, there were more leftovers than there was in the original provision (John 6:9, 12-13).
At first, this story seems a bit odd. Doesn’t it? I don’t mean to cast doubt upon Jesus’ ability to perform miracles. No, the fact is, if God became a man, we should expect the extraordinary to occur. What seems a bit odd to me, at least at first glance, is that Jesus was tempted to make food from stone, and, had he done so, it would have been wrong. Jesus was tempted to provide for the physical needs and desires of the Jewish nation, and have this as the identifying feature of his office of Messiah. In other words, make the Jewish nation great by making it full of the blessings of God. Let the world see God’s people had enough, and no one was lacking in all he desired or needed.
The fact is, once the people realized what Jesus had done in the multiplying of the loaves and fishes, they wanted to crown him King of the Jews on the spot (John 6:14-15)! So, being a great provider was understood as one of the signs of the office of Messiah.
So, what was Jesus doing? Why was it wrong to change the stones into bread, but it was okay to multiply what supplies they had, until everyone had enough to eat? Isn’t what occurred in John 6 just another way of reiterating Satan’s temptation in Matthew 4:3 and Luke 4:3? In a word: “No!” Just prior to this event, Jesus had sent out the Twelve—two by two—into the cities of Galilee (Mark 6:7-13; Luke 9:1-6), and Herod had killed John the Baptist by the time the Apostles returned from this mission (Matthew 14:8-11). John’s disciples buried John’s body and went to tell Jesus (Matthew 14:12) When Jesus heard of John’s death, he went to be alone in a desert place (Matthew 14:13); but this was not only to mourn John’s death, but to give the Twelve rest from their recent mission. There were so many people coming and going that the Twelve didn’t have time even to eat (Mark 6:30-32).
It was here in this desert place where the Apostles sought rest, but the multitude followed. The miracle of the loaves and fishes was not so much to provide a meal for the great crowd of people, but to encourage and show the Twelve what the spiritual meal they had provided for others on their recent mission was an endless supply within them. Not only were they able to sustain the spiritual need of others searching for God, but they would be continually satisfied themselves. As they gave it all away, more and more of the spiritual supply would be added. It is the way of the Kingdom of God to be extravagant, to be more than enough. They had planted a seed in the hearts of many that would grow until it would be enough to satisfy the spiritual hunger of those who longed after God. They may not always be aware of God’s provision, but they can be satisfied in knowing he was taking care of them, and this is enough!