Where Shall We Buy Bread That These May Eat?
The Mystery of the Body and The Blood - Part 1
This is Part 1 of a series from John chapter 6 entitled, "The Mystery Of The Body and The Blood". In this article we will discover why Jesus mysteriously asked the disciples, "Where shall we buy bread that these may eat?". It also explains how Jesus uses the "Feeding of the Five Thousand" to teach the disciples about how God will empower them for their mission to disciple the nations. It is important to note that the disciples did not immediately grasp these teachings (along with many others). The essence of these truths were revealed over time as they contemplated Jesus' words and deeds. This is typified in verses like John 12:16.
Why Did The Multitudes Follow Jesus?
John chapter 6 opens with Jesus crossing the Sea of Galilee. Many thousands of people, who had seen Jesus heal many sick people, are searching for Him.
After these things Jesus went over the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tiberias. Then a great multitude followed Him, because they saw His signs which He performed on those who were diseased. And Jesus went up on the mountain, and there He sat with His disciples. - John 6:1-3
It is noteworthy that these people followed Jesus at great personal risk. They traveled far from their homes and expended great energy to find this "miracle worker".
But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd. - Matthew 9:36
This day is going to be a special "Training Day" for Phillip and the disciples. As we move forward in this lesson, it is important to consider what Jesus was training the 12 disciples to do! His mission was to prepare them to "make disciples of all nations" (Matthew 28:19-20) and to equip them to "feed His lambs" (John 21:15).
This was a mission that could not be fulfilled by human abilities alone. To be successful, the disciples had to learn how to acquire the "bread" needed to "feed" the nations! So, Jesus tested their awareness of this need.
Where Shall We Buy Bread That These May Eat?
Then Jesus lifted up His eyes, and seeing a great multitude coming toward Him, He said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread, that these may eat?” But this He said to test him, for He Himself knew what He would do. Philip answered Him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may have a little.” John 6:5-7
Phillip struggled to answer this question. It is obvious that Jesus did not expect Phillip to go and buy enough bread to feed the thousands of people that were coming. First of all, they did not have enough money and even if they did, what market had enough bread on hand to feed over 10,000 people? Note that some commentators place the crowd at over 25,000! Phillip was being tested. In order to know what Jesus was really talking about, Phillip had to discover what Jesus meant by the term "buy bread". We must do the same to unlock this mysterious question.
Understanding Jesus' Riddle
There is a "Kingdom" truth here waiting to be discovered! Jesus' question is actually a riddle which is also a type of parable. This riddle is difficult or impossible to solve naturally. This is what King Solomon referred to as a "dark saying" (a puzzle not easily understood) in Proverbs 1:6.
Key Study Principle (Read); Proverbs 1:1-6
The wisdom to decipher biblical riddles only comes as we diligently search out and consider God's word and allow His Spirit to speak to our heart.
Whenever a passage of scripture is difficult to understand or explain in a natural sense, there is always a hidden treasure just waiting to be discovered! We must search the scriptures to acquire this treasure. Here are some passages about "bread" and "buying bread" that I found. Certainly, there are many others that confirm what we are about to learn.
We Acquire Bread By "Tilling Our Land"!
He who tills his land will be satisfied with bread, But he who follows frivolity is devoid of understanding. Proverbs 12:111
He who tills his land will be satisfied wit bread, But he who follows frivolity will have poverty enough!. Proverbs 28:19
These two verses echo an important principle. To understand the principle we have to recognize that these are parables and contain a hidden message. Every farmer knows that it is necessary to till the land in order to have a good crop. There is no need to teach anyone this well known truth. So, what is this land we have to till? In order to have "bread", we must till. If we refuse to expend the energy required to till our land, we will remain igmorant and spiritualy impoverished! The word "frivolity" used in the NKJV literally means "empty" or "worthless". A failure to recognize the value of tilling your land, results in the blind pursuit of non-productive activity..
Carefuly consider this passage from the prophet Hosea:
Ephraim is a trained heifer
That loves to thresh grain;
But I harnessed her fair neck,
I will make Ephraim [ride on] a plow.
Judah shall plow;
Jacob shall break his clods.”
Sow for yourselves righteousness;
Reap in mercy;
Break up your fallow ground,
For it is time to seek the Lord,
Till He comes and rains righteousness on you.
You have plowed wickedness;
You have reaped iniquity.
You have eaten the fruit of lies,
Because you trusted in your own way,
In the multitude of your mighty men.
Hosea 10:11-13 (NKJV)
We could spend an entire study on this passage, but the message is clear. Trusting in our "way" produces iniquity. However, if we prepare our heart by "breaking up our fallow ground" (or tilling our land), God will "rain righteousness" on us. He will change and empower us to do His work effectively. In simple terms, we must acknowledge our shortcomings and pursue the One who actually provides the bread that will enrich our soul. Other pursuits are empty and will lead to spiritual poverty! This is why Jesus taught us to pray, "Give us this day our daily bread"! Acquiring bread for the soul begins by humbly asking for it.
Where Do We Buy Bread?
“Ho! Everyone who thirsts,
Come to the waters;
And you who have no money,
Come, buy and eat.
Yes, come, buy wine and milk Without money and without price.
Why do you spend money for what is not bread,
And your wages for what does not satisfy?
Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good,
And let your soul delight itself in abundance.
Incline your ear, and come to Me.
Hear, and your soul shall live;
And I will make an everlasting covenant with you—
The sure mercies of David."
Wow! Here we learn that "buying bread" means humbly coming to God and bending your ear (listening carefully to His wordd)! This is the "bread" that satisfies, strengthens and delights our soul. In this context, The Hebrew term for "delight" means to be soft or pliable. We must be willing to allow God's word to bless and change us. This is one of those passages that we should read several times very slowly.
“For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven,
And do not return there, But water the earth,
And make it bring forth and bud,
That it may give seed to the sower
And bread to the eater,
So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth;
It shall not return to Me [c]void,
But it shall accomplish what I please,
And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.""
This passage speaks to the power and purpose of God's word. Buying bread from the Father changes us and equips us for ministry. When we allow His word to delight us, we are transformed and empowered to fulfill our destiny! Just as rain waters the earth and causes it to bring forth new life, so it is with us! We cannot "disciple the nations" without being empowered by the bread we "buy" from the Father. We lack understanding when we do not recognize our need to "buy bread". We cannot fulfill our destiny in our own strength., we must allow Him to change us.
We Can Do Nothing Without Him!
Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked— I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see."
This is what Jesus was teaching His disciples. They could never feed His sheep in the condition they were in. They needed to be transformed by buying bread from the Father. Jesus is about to demonstrate this truth with a living parable that we call, The Feeding of the Five Thousand.
A Living Parable
Then Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand. 11 And Jesus took the loaves, and when He had given thanks He distributed them to the disciples, and the disciples to those sitting down; and likewise of the fish, as much as they wanted. 12 So when they were filled, He said to His disciples, “Gather up the fragments that remain, so that nothing is lost.” 13 Therefore they gathered them up, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves which were left over by those who had eaten. - John 6:10-13
Let's briefly examine this living parable. Hungry people are sitting and waiting to be fed. Jesus communicates with His Father, gives bread to the disciples and miraculously multitudes are fed and food is left over. Is this not exactly how we make disciples of the nations? God through Jesus (the living word) gives us what we need to sow into the nations. As we feed them, miracles take place. After our labor, there is bread leftover for the sower.
The Blessing Of The Fragments
Gathering the fragments is all about what God does "in" us as we minister to others. Jesus commanded the disciples to "gather the fragments, so that none is lost". When we minister, God's miracles bless others and overflows to us! As we contemplate the glorious things that He does, we too are impacted and grow stronger. When we allow God to use us to bless others, we learn that nothing is impossible with Him.
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Larry is the founder and visionary of the Parable Power Network. His mission is to ignite a passion for God's word and to see the Power in the Parable elevate people to exemplary living.. Larry has served in various Christian ministries for over 40 years; including teaching in Bible Schools and as a Senior Pastor.