Read: John 6:1-15
Jesus feeding the 5000 is one of the few miracles that are recorded in all four gospels (Mark 6:35-44, Luke 9:12-17, Matthew 14:14-21). All four gospels record this particular miracle, probably because of the scope of the miracle, as feeding 5000 men (plus their wives and children) is no simple feat. Jesus had gathered a following because he was able to perform signs by healing the sick. John’s account notes that Jesus uses this moment a testable moment: he singles out Philip and asks where there were to buy bread enough to feed them all.
Phillip gives a natural response saying it would take 200 denarii to feed all these people. 200 denarii would probably be the equivalent working wage for about six to ten months of work, which translates into a small fortune if anything. They did note a boy with 5 loaves and 2 fish – not much more than a meager meal. Jesus took the loaves and gave thanks. They distributed the loaves among the people and all ate until they were full, and then the disciples collected 12 baskets full of leftovers. The people recognized Jesus as a “the Prophet” and wanted to make him king – perhaps the prophet Moses referred to in Deuteronomy 18:15, the one Moses wrote about.
The Matthew and Mark note that Jesus was driven by compassion when he fed the 5000 (Matthew 14:14, Mark 6:34). John does not mention this, but does mention a test. John does not mention what the conditions for the test are or if even if Philip passed the test. It would seem that in light of the discourse Jesus gave in John 5:18-47 that he was seeing if Philip understood or believed what Jesus had to say. If he truly believed that Jesus was equal with God then it would seem that Philips reply would have said that Jesus was one with God and was quite capable of feeding 5000. The only other time Philip is mentioned at length in the Scriptures is in John 14:8-11. Here, Philip says for Jesus to show them the Father. Jesus says that if he knew Jesus, then he knew the Father, and that the works testify to this. Philip probably recalled the question Jesus asked while feeding the 5000 when Jesus mentions works. Because Philip had not understood then, he obviously did not understand here either.
James 1:1-4 says that Christians should consider it joy when test come and names the benefits of these tests – endurance and completeness. Tests of faith can come in all shapes and sizes, but generally one knows intuitively when one is being tested. How one responds to the test is key. James says that holding to one’s faith is key without doubting so that he will remain strong, not as one who is tossed about by the wind (James 1:5-8). A key to passing tests according to James is wisdom, and if one is lacking wisdom, one should ask for it, because God gives it generously. For Philip, he lacked the understanding that Jesus was God. For Christians today, it is easy to see Philip’s error, but not so easy to see one’s own lack of understanding. For this reason, it is best that Christians listen to the wisdom of wise people and the wisdom (Proverbs 13:1) of the Lord contained in his word (Proverbs 2:6), so that when the tests come a person can past the test and believe that Jesus can do immeasurably more than we are capable of understanding.
Lord, help me to pass the tests of faith by understanding who you are!