“After these things Jesus went over the sea of Galilee which is of Tiberias, and a great multitude followed him, because they saw his miracles which he did on them that were diseased. And Jesus went up into a mountain and there he sat with his disciple. And the Passover, a feast of the Jews, was nigh.”
The events preceding the feeding of the five thousand are as important as the event itself. Jesus had called forth the seventy, about the time of the feast of Trumpets, and sent them forth, in pairs, to preach the kingdom of God to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Herod had imprisoned John the Baptists and murdered him for the sake of the daughter of Herodias. The disciples of John had aligned themselves with Jesus and followed Him through the Galilean country side as He healed the sick, raised the dead and preached the Kingdom of God. But now it was near the beginning of the new year for the Passover was nigh. The celebration for this feast began on the new moon following the spring equinox, the same time as the planting of the barley crop, on the tenth day of the month. It is here that Jesus took His disciples from Tiberias, on the south western shore of the sea of Galilee, on a seven mile boat trip to Beth-saida, on the north eastern side of the sea.
Beth-saida was a fishing community that was the birth place of Philip, Peter and Andrew. It was situated along the trade route for the Jews who would not travel the western roads for the led through Samaria. The people of the land of Samaria were considered lower than the Gentiles for they had intermarried with the Assyrians after God “had rejected all the seed of Israel and afflicted them and delivered them into the hand of the spoilers until He had cast them out of His sight” (II Kings 17:20). Let all those who would scoff at the sovereignty of God over sin take note that Samaria was for the sin of Israel; Israel was for the sin of Jereboam; Jereboam was for the sin of Solomon; Solomon was for the sin of David, therefore Samaria is the transgression of Jacob and Jerusalem the high places of Judah (Micah 1:5). Each and every one of these transgressions comes into view here on the mountain of Beth-saida on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. The arrogance of the Jew, the hatred of the Samaritans all brought together as this great multitude was assembled on this hillside.
They came because of the signs that Jesus was doing and while they were gathered together, He healed as many as were in need of healing, made the diseased well and proclaimed the Kingdom of God. But now as the sun began to set and the daylight began to dwindle, His disciples come to Him and tell Him that they must send these people away into the village to buy victuals and seek lodging. Beth-saida means the ‘house of the fish’ of the ‘place of the provision’ so it would make perfect sense that the disciples, some of which grew up in the town, would seek to dismiss the throng and send them along for the night. But “when Jesus the lifted up His eyes and saw the great company come unto Him, He said unto Philip, Whence shall we buy bread that these may eat?”. In other words, Philip, you know the town, the people and the attributes of both, where can we buy food?. This was not because Jesus was ignorant of His surroundings but it was a test to prove Philip. Five thousand people sitting on the grass in a deserted area tired and hungry and He is testing Philip. Drawing upon all of his ability and knowledge Philip says that two hundred pennyworth would not be sufficient to buy enough bread that each one could have a taste let alone feed all five thousand. Philip did not answer as did Ezekiel when God asked him saying, Son of man can these bones live? Ezekiel was give to say, only you know that Lord. But Philip, being a good accountant and businessman, calculated that such an endeavour was impossible. Thus Jesus would teach him that with God, NOTHING is impossible.
Now here comes Andrew, whose name means ‘manly’, with a young lad. What the young lad was doing in a desert place is not revealed and why he has food with him at such a late hour of the day is also not mentioned but what must be obvious is that he was in the right place at the appointed time by the hand of God. He had not wandered off and eaten his provisions or ventured home for the evening, and he had two small fishes, maybe the size of sardines, and five barley loaves.
Passover time is the time of the planting of the barely crop, so the loaves that the lad had must have been from last years crop. They were old and stale and the represented the law of Moses to these hungry, self gratifying, prejudice Jews. Christ had come to the house of Israel and He had sent His disciples to the lost sheep of the house of Israel to continue to demonstrate His long suffering and mercy to these people. He set before them the sign of God’s jealousy for the nation that He had chosen above all nations to shew forth His name. Therefore because of this spirit of jealousy towards His estranged defiled wife, He set before them the offering of memorial, bringing iniquity into remembrance” (Num. 5:15). And they ate their fill.
Just as the children of Israel had complained before Moses and God that they had no meat in the wilderness, and God “gave them their own desire”, Jesus set forth a table to satisfy the desires of the flesh and they ate till they could eat no more. He had destroyed the children in the wilderness because of unbelief and here the testimony of iniquity sounded forth to them once more. He had come into the world to reprove it of sin (Jn 16:8) and they found it pleasing to their flesh.
Now with so great a cloud of witnesses against them, the signs and wonders, the Word in the flesh, the preaching of the Kingdom and the healing of the diseased, could there possibly be anything else that Messiah could have done to convince these people, who were raised on the traditions of Moses and the fathers, that He was the Anointed of God and that they should accept Him as their Savior? Since they could not believe because they were none of His, not being born from above and having the Life within, can the combined labours of the Neo-Missionary groups of the world bring about one convert? “All that the Father has given Me shall come to Me, and whosoever cometh unto Me I shall in n o wise cast him out”. The world has no provisions to satisfy the Sons of God, there is no contentment in the things of this world and there is no safe resting place save in the cleft of the Rock and the palms of His hands.
Lest this be construed as an anti-Semitic rant or Philip bashing, consider that these both are a reflection of Adam and his nature. There is not a child of grace that is not subject to the vanity of the flesh with the fears and doubts that accompany it. Nor is there a child of Adam that does not have the inner desire for superiority and grandeur who does not proclaim, ‘I thank you Lord that I am not like one of these’! The Spirit reveals the standing of the children while in the habitation of flesh before the throne of God as a constant reminder of the corrupt nature in Adam because of the love of the Father. “For whom the Lord loveth, He chasteneth” (Heb.12:6). The trying of the faith within proves the love of God and the worthlessness of the flesh and when the hand of the Lord is heavy upon us, we often, after the nature of Adam would desire that it be removed. We would rather that God not shew us His love than to endure the chastening of Jehovah, which is for good. We would much rather be at ease in the land of Edom rather than be chosen in the furnace of affliction. Remember, Jesus took His disciples up into the mountain and the people followed. The lesson of the Law here is for His children to be the school master to bring them unto Himself. The child of grace can have no comfort but first he is shown the wickedness of the body of this death and the vanity of the things of this world and only one who is born from above has the eyes to see, the ears to hear and the understanding heart to comprehend the love of God.
“Brethren, count it all joy when you fall into diverse temptations, knowing that the trying of your faith worketh patience”
Your servant in Christ,
(Elder) Chet Dirkes
June 26, 2011