John 5:31-47

I do not accept praise from men.”

The religious leaders enjoyed great prestige in Israel, but their stamp of approval meant nothing to Jesus. If even the highest officials in the world approve of our actions but God does not, we should be very concerned and willing to change. Jesus was concerned about God’s approval. This is a good principle for us to test if we are walking in the will of God. If God approves of our actions, even though our family, friends, or work-mates do not, we can be content. God holds them accountable for their attitude, not us.

The religious leaders knew what the Bible said, but failed to apply its words to their lives. They knew the teachings of the scriptures, but failed to see the Messiah to whom the scriptures pointed. They knew the rules but they were entrenched in their own religious system. They had good head-knowledge, but were blinded to what God's word actually meant, so they failed to recognise Jesus as Saviour and refused to let Him, the Son of God, change their lives. Jesus was claiming to be

  • equal with God (John 5:18);
  • to give eternal life (John 5:24);
  • to be the source of life (John 5:26) and
  • to judge sin (John 5:27).

Jesus longed for the people to see who He was, not with head-knowledge, but rather with revelation from God Himself. These statements make it clear that Jesus claimed to be divine and, as we saw in the previous lesson, these claims really upset the Pharisees, who accused Jesus of blasphemy. The Pharisees prided themselves on being the true followers of their ancestor, Moses. They followed every one of his laws to the letter and even added some of their own! Jesus’ warning that Moses would accuse them would have stung them to fury. Moses wrote about Jesus (Genesis 3:15; Numbers 21:8,9; 24:17; Deuteronomy 18:15), yet the religious leaders refused to believe Jesus when He came.

John 6:1-15

Jesus looked up and saw

Jesus’ ministry was really taking off, with a very favourable response from the ordinary people and a threatening response from the religious hierarchy. Jesus knew that John the Baptist (His cousin) had just been beheaded. (Mark 6:14-29) He wanted to spend some time with His Father and recognised who had really caused the death of John. He demonstrated who was the true author of life and health to Satan (the enemy) by healing the sick Himself! He still does both of those things today!

The news about healings that had taken place had spread like wildfire. Large crowds gathered spontaneously wherever Jesus went, anxious to see and hear more about this sensational teacher. When Jesus saw people, He saw their hearts, their thoughts, their motives and He was filled with compassion, "because they were like sheep without a shepherd”. (Mark 6:34) As we see here, He wanted to provide for their every need. He didn’t just see their need for food, but He saw each individual and longed that, as they saw the physical miracles, they would also accept the revelation of who He was as their Saviour and of how much their Father loved them.

Human and heavenly provision

When the disciples expressed concern about where the crowd of thousands (including women and children) would eat, Jesus offered a solution: “You feed them!” They protested, “With what?” They were focusing their attention on what they lacked (food and money). The disciples were still pondering, still unclear, still unbelieving. They did not realise that Jesus could provide for them. They were so preoccupied with the impossibility of the task that they could not see what was possible. If anyone knew where to get food, it was Philip, because he was from Bethsaida, a town about nine miles away. (John 1:44) Philip started assessing the probable cost, but Jesus wanted to teach him that financial resources are not the most important ones. Jesus was testing him to strengthen his faith. By asking for a human solution (knowing that there was none), Jesus highlighted the miraculous act he was about to perform. A situation that seems impossible with human resources is simply an opportunity for God. We limit what God does in our lives when we make assumptions about what is (or is not) possible.

The disciples did everything that they could. They gathered the available food and organised the people into groups. Then, in answer to prayer, God did the impossible. The actions of the disciples are contrasted with the youngster who simply brought what he had. They certainly had more resources than the young lad, but they thought that they didn’t have nearly enough, so they didn’t give anything at all! The youngster gave what little he had and it made all the difference. If we offer nothing to God, He will have nothing to use. But He can take what little we do have and make much more of it. Don’t let your estimate of what cannot be done, keep you from taking on a task. God can do the miraculous. Trust him to provide the resources.

Jesus multiplied five loaves and two fish to feed over five thousand people. What He was originally given seemed insufficient but, in His hands, it became more than enough. We often feel that our contribution to Jesus is meagre, but He can use and multiply whatever we give Him, whether it is talent, time, or treasure. It is when we give these things to Jesus that our resources are multiplied. In performing His miracles, Jesus usually preferred to work through people. Here He used what a young child offered to accomplish one of the greatest miracles recorded in the gospels. Age is no barrier to being used for Christ’s service. Never feel that you are too young or too old to be of service to Him.

Looking after the whole person

Jesus could just as easily have sent these people on their way. But Jesus does not ignore needs. He is concerned with every aspect of our lives - the physical as well as the spiritual. As we work to bring wholeness to people’s lives, we must never ignore the fact that all of us have physical, emotional and spiritual needs. It is impossible to minister effectively to one type of need without considering the others.

There is a big lesson for all of us in the left-overs! God gives in abundance to overflowing. If we give from our small supply and He sees us being faithful, He will trust us with an abundance and we shall be overflowing with resources, so that we can supply others’ needs. That is true prosperity. He takes whatever we can offer Him in time, ability or resources and multiplies its effectiveness beyond our wildest expectations. If we take the first step by making ourselves available to Him, He will show us how greatly we can be used to advance the work of His kingdom.

  • Do you let what seems impossible about Christianity keep you from believing Jesus?
  • Do you think God would ask you to do something that you could not handle? (He may, but only because He wants to do it in and through you.)
  • Do you think financial resources are the most important? (God thinks you are His most important resource.)
  • How do you react when you are given an impossible task? (Remember the little boy and never forget that nothing is impossible with God – everything is possible in Him.)

Is there some impossible task that you believe God wants you to do? Pray, pray, pray!

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