Reading in John 6, I found myself struck by an interaction between Jesus and His disciples. Specifically, it was an interaction between Jesus, Phillip, and Andrew. We find Jesus along the Sea of Galilee with a large crowd gathering around Him. Going up onto the mountainside Jesus sits down to talk with His disciples. Let’s take a look at what is said.
John 6:5–9 (NLT) 5 Jesus soon saw a huge crowd of people coming to look for him. Turning to Philip, he asked, “Where can we buy bread to feed all these people?” 6 He was testing Philip, for he already knew what he was going to do.
7 Philip replied, “Even if we worked for months, we wouldn’t have enough money* to feed them!”
8 Then Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up. 9 “There’s a young boy here with five barley loaves and two fish. But what good is that with this huge crowd?”
There was an obvious problem in front of them. The time of the Passover festival was about to start, and they were entertaining a large crowd. Who has a party without plenty of food? So Jesus turns to Phillip for the answer, asking, “Where can we buy bread to feed all these people?” Think about it. Why would Jesus ask Phillip such a question? They all saw the impossibility of the situation. But this is it isn’t what captured me as I read the text.
What caught hold of me in that moment was verse 6, where it says, “He was testing Philip, for he already knew what he was going to do.” I’m not sure that I like this thought… Jesus tests us to see what we are going to do. But it is right there on the page and we, each and every one of us, have to deal with it.
Jesus knew where He was at in this thing; He knew what He was going to do, He knew the answer. The real question being asked had nothing to do with bread to feed a bunch of people. In this moment with His disciples (and I think Jesus could have tossed any of their names into the mix) Jesus was asking about where they placed their faith. He was probing them to see if they could see beyond the circumstances that could serve as blinders or as an opportunity for a miracle. Which way would they see this situation?
Phillip responds with the impossible; it would take 6 months’ wages to take care of this problem. Translated, get feeding them out of your mind because we don’t have that kind of money, and even if we did, we couldn’t get that much bread. It is doubly impossible according to Phillip.
Andrew does a little bit better but then fumbles it in the end. He notices that there is a boy there with a little bit of food. But that is the problem for Andrew: it is a little bit of food, and he can’t see it being of any value. Andrew doesn’t do any better than Phillip did with the question.
This made me think about the many times in my life where Jesus asks me similar questions… where the circumstances either serve as blinders to my spirit or as opportunity providers. And as I thought about this for a little bit it struck me that most of the time my answers sound far too much like Phillip and Andrew rather than the one Jesus offered. Thinking the way that Jesus thinks is not always easy in the context of a real world. You would think that after observing the many times where we see how circumstances provide opportunity that we would naturally think this way. But we don’t, and therein lies the problem.
The reality is that this life provides us with just as many examples where Jesus hasn’t intervened in our circumstances, at least not in a way we took notice of or in a way we liked. These real life situations have a way of eroding all the faith that builds up in those special moments where Christ takes us to the extraordinary. And so we are left with a dilemma each time circumstances arrive where we are given the choice of blinders or opportunity. Is this one of those special moments or not? We ask ourselves over and over, trying to get the answer right. Wanting to hope but fearful of disappointment.
What if we rested in a faith that is focused on Christ as the object of faith rather than what Christ will do as the object of our faith? Would that make facing such circumstances a little easier and less stressful? I propose that it would. It would make it natural to have the faith of a child, which Jesus calls us to. We look at the situation, then we look at Jesus, and we leave the answer up to Him. Instead of trying to figure out how many months’ wages it will take or if the little bit of bread and fish we have can get the job done, we turn our attention to Jesus who doesn’t seem to be limited by these things.
The next time an obvious problem presents itself pause for a moment and remind yourself that this problem can serve to give you blinders or opportunity. The choice is up to you, while the outcome reaches far beyond you. Choose well!
* The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author at the time of writing. They do not reflect in any way those of the organizations to which they belong to or affiliated with.