Today’s Reading: John 6-8
Today’s Reflection: John 6:11
Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated. So also the fish, as much as they wanted.
What is this text saying?
While Jesus was healing many among a great multitude of people—some 5,000 men plus women and children—the hour drew late and the people were growing hungry. But all that was available to feed the people were five loaves of bread and two fishes, barely a child’s meal. John 6:11 describes what Jesus did next.
Why is it important?
The (first) feeding of the multitude, as it is often called, is one of the most well known of Jesus miracles. At the time food was not conveniently available the way it is now. For all but the rich, a days wages (a ‘denari’) bought that days food. If one didn’t work, or earn, on a given day it was quite possible that they might not eat at all. Under these conditions the miraculous abundance on display here would powerfully and relevantly reveal God’s power and loving provision, and testify that Jesus was in fact sent by God.
But there was something else significant being said here that is easy to miss. I know I missed many times reading this text. The significance is in what made this miracle possible. The text says the food multiplied into enough food for everyone AFTER Jesus ‘had given thanks’.
Giving thanks to God produces miracles.
As further confirmation of this principle, the following day John notes Jesus and the disciples passed by the exact same place, described in John 6:23 as ‘the place where they had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks.’ Why not just the place where they had eaten bread? Or the place where the food was multiplied? Or the place where little food had fed a great many people? Because the importance and power of giving thanks was the significant lesson to be learned here.
How can I apply this?
1) Give thanks because gratitude precedes abundance:
Often we look at what we have and feel it is inadequate to meet our needs. Perhaps we have too much month left at the end of the money. Perhaps we desire a job, a car, a home to call our own, a spouse, a child. And when we are focused on what else we want it can be difficult to appreciate and give thanks for what we already have.
But each of us does have something to be thankful for. Even if it’s just being alive to see another day, we have received a blessing others who did not live to see a new morning have not. When we recognize this, and are truly grateful, we first begin to appreciate all we have and to treat it as preciously as we ought to. Next, we will find we are moved to share God’s generosity towards us with others in need more and more often. Finally as we responsibly care for and share what we have, showing honour to the generous giver of all things, God can begin to trust us with greater abundance.
Matthew 25:21 – His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’
2) Give thanks because whatever God provides is enough:
The story of the feeding of the multitude shows us that we are, as Scotiabank might say, “richer than we think”. We often look at the little we have and say it isn’t enough for the things God calls us to do—both in ministry and in daily life. We don’t have enough money to share with those even needier than us, we don’t have enough education to share the Gospel, we don’t have enough time to devote to ministry, we don’t have a big enough house to host a small group or lunch after church, and so on.
But the truth is God doesn’t call anyone to any task without providing the means to be successful in accomplishing it. When God called Moses to help liberate Israel from Egyptian slavery, he was reluctant and listed his deficiencies and reasons no one would believe him. But God showed Moses how to use the simple and familiar tools of a shepherd—a rod and a cloak—to demonstrate he had received authority from The Lord (Exodus 4:1-8), and we know how that story turned out (Exodus 14:31). Give thanks for whatever you have received from God and you’ll be surprised to find it miraculously stretches to fit His purposes and plans for your life.