Daily Words of God: Knowing God | Excerpt 75
Jesus Feeds the Five Thousand
Jhn 6:8–13 One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to Him, There is a lad here, which has five barley loaves, and two small fishes: but what are they among so many? And Jesus said, Make the men sit down. Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand. And Jesus took the loaves; and when He had given thanks, He distributed to the disciples, and the disciples to them that were set down; and likewise of the fishes as much as they would. When they were filled, He said to His disciples, Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost. Therefore they gathered them together, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves, which remained over and above to them that had eaten.
What is the idea of “five loaves and two fish”? Ordinarily, how many people could be sufficiently fed with five loaves of bread and two fish? If you base your measurement on the appetite of an average person, this would only be enough for two people. This is the idea of “five loaves and two fish” at its most basic. However, in this passage, how many people were fed by five loaves and two fish? The following is what is recorded in the Scripture: “Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand.” Compared to five loaves and two fish, is five thousand a large number? What does it show that this number is so large? From a human perspective, dividing five loaves and two fish between five thousand people would be impossible, because the difference between people and food is too great. Even if every person only had one tiny bite, it still would not be enough for five thousand people. But here, theperformed a miracle—He not only ensured that five thousand people could eat their fill, but there was even food left over. The Scripture reads: “When they were filled, He said to His disciples, Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost. Therefore they gathered them together, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves, which remained over and above to them that had eaten.” This miracle enabled people to see the identity and status of the Lord Jesus, and to see that nothing is impossible for God—in this way, they saw the truth of God’s omnipotence. Five loaves and two fish were enough to feed five thousand, but if there had not been any food, would God have been able to feed five thousand people? Of course He could have! This was a miracle, so inevitably people felt it was incomprehensible, incredible and mysterious, but for God, doing such a thing was nothing. Since this was something ordinary for God, why should it be singled out now for interpretation? Because what lies behind this miracle is the Lord Jesus’ will, which has never before been perceived by mankind.
First, let us try to understand what type of people these five thousand were. Were they followers of the Lord Jesus? From the Scripture, we know that they were not His followers. Did they know who the Lord Jesus was? Certainly not! At the very least, they did not know that the person standing in front of them was Christ, or maybe some people only knew what His name was and knew or had heard something about things He had done. Their curiosity about the Lord Jesus had merely been roused when they heard stories about Him, but you certainly could not say that they followed Him, much less understood Him. When the Lord Jesus saw these five thousand people, they were hungry and could only think of filling their stomachs, so it was in this context that the Lord Jesus satisfied their desire. When He satisfied their desire, what was in His heart? What was His attitude toward these people that only wanted to eat their fill? At this time, the Lord Jesus’ thoughts and His attitude were in relation to God’s disposition and essence. Facing these five thousand people with empty stomachs who only wanted to eat a full meal, facing these people full of curiosity and hope for Him, the Lord Jesus only thought of utilizing this miracle to bestow grace upon them. However, He did not raise His hopes that they would become His followers, for He knew that they just wanted to join the fun and to eat their fill, so He made the best of what He had there, and used five loaves of bread and two fish to feed five thousand people. He opened the eyes of these people who enjoyed seeing exciting things, who wanted to witness miracles, and they saw with their own eyes the things that God incarnate could accomplish. Although the Lord Jesus used something tangible to satisfy their curiosity, He already knew in His heart that these five thousand people just wanted to have a good meal, so He did not preach to them or say anything at all—He just let them see this miracle as it happened. He absolutely could not treat these people in the same way as He treated His disciples who truly followed Him, but in God’s heart, all creatures are under His rule, and He would allow all creatures in His sight to enjoy the grace of God when it was necessary. Even though these people did not know who He was and did not understand Him or have any particular impression of Him or gratitude toward Him even after they had eaten the loaves and fish, this was not something that God took issue with—He gave these people a wonderful opportunity to enjoy the grace of God. Some people say that God is principled in what He does, that He does not watch over or protect nonbelievers, and that, in particular, He does not allow them to enjoy His grace. Is that actually the case? In God’s eyes, as long as they are living creatures that He Himself created, He will manage and care for them, and in manifold ways He will treat them, plan for them, and rule them. These are the thoughts and attitude of God toward all things.
Although the five thousand people who ate the loaves of bread and the fish did not plan to follow the Lord Jesus, He made no exacting demands of them; once they had eaten their fill, do you know what the Lord Jesus did? Did He preach to them at all? Where did He go after doing this? The scriptures do not record that the Lord Jesus said anything to them, just that He left quietly when He had performed His miracle. So did He make any requirements of these people? Was there any hatred? No, here were none of these. He simply no longer wanted to pay any mind to these people who could not follow Him, and at this time His heart was in pain. Because He had seen the depravity of mankind and He had felt mankind’s rejection of Him, when He saw these people and He was with them, He was saddened by human obtuseness and ignorance, and His heart was in pain, all He wanted was to leave these people as quickly as possible. The Lord did not make any requirements of them in His heart, He did not want to pay them any mind, and even more, He did not want to expend His energy on them. He knew that they could not follow Him, but in spite of all this, His attitude toward them was still very clear. He just wanted to treat them kindly, to bestow grace upon them, and indeed this was God’s attitude toward every creature under His rule—to treat every creature kindly, to provide for them and nourish them. For the very reason that the Lord Jesus was God incarnate, He very naturally revealed God’s own essence and treated these people kindly. He treated them with a heart of benevolence and tolerance, and with such a heart He showed them kindness. No matter how these people saw the Lord Jesus, and no matter what kind of outcome there would be, He treated every creature based on His position as the Lord of all creation. Everything that He revealed was, without exception, God’s disposition, and what He has and is. The Lord Jesus quietly did this thing, and then quietly left—what aspect of God’s disposition is this? Could you say that this is God’s lovingkindness? Could you say that this is God’s selflessness? Is this something that a regular person is capable of? Definitely not! In essence, who were these five thousand people that the Lord Jesus fed with five loaves and two fish? Could you say that they were people who were compatible with Him? Could you say that they were all hostile to God? It can be said with certainty that they absolutely were not compatible with the Lord, and their essence was absolutely hostile to God. But how did God treat them? He used a method to defuse people’s hostility toward God—this method is called “kindness.” That is, although the Lord Jesus saw these people as sinners, in God’s eyes they were nevertheless His creation, so He still treated these sinners kindly. This is God’s tolerance, and this tolerance is determined by God’s own identity and essence. So, this is something of which no human created by God is capable—only God can do this.
—The Word, Vol. 2. On Knowing God. God’s Work, God’s Disposition, and God Himself III