If you were to ask me the names of the Christians who’ve had the greatest influence on me, I wouldn’t list well-known pastors, leaders, or authors, though many have helped shape my thinking on important subjects. No, you wouldn’t recognize the names of those who’ve had the deepest impact on my life. Some are pastors, though most weren’t when I met them. Some are teachers, some homemakers, and others are businessmen. Simply put, the Christians who have influenced me the most are normal, ordinary followers of Jesus who God has used in extraordinary ways.
In today’s reading, we have a beautiful example of how Jesus used an ordinary person and everyday objects to reveal more of Himself. After Jesus healed a man who had been lame for almost forty years, He crossed to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. By this time in His ministry, many had been astounded by Jesus’s works and miracles, and crowds of people had begun to follow Him.
The time of Passover was near and crowds were growing and continuing to follow Him. And so He turned to Philip and asked where they could find bread to feed such a crowd. Philip’s answer? Not even two hundred denarii worth of bread (roughly seven months’ wages) would “be enough for each of them to have a little” (John 6:7).
But then another disciple, Andrew, said, “There’s a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish—but what are they for so many?” (vv.8–9). And he was right; how could so little feed so many? But for Jesus, it was enough. The boy came and gave all he had, what must’ve seemed like a small offering to some, and Jesus multiplied it to feed the massive crowd. John emphasized the completeness of the miracle when he explained that everyone had eaten their fill, and yet there was enough left over to fill up twelve baskets (vv.10–13). Jesus took this boy’s small meal and used it to fill the bellies of a crowd of thousands—plus leftovers.
Jesus’s miracle spoke volumes about who He is, revealing that He is more than enough to satisfy the crowd’s deepest needs. They knew the story of the manna that God had rained down from heaven to feed the Israelites during their flight from Egypt (Exodus 16; John 6:31). Jesus reminded them that the Father gives true bread, and in answer to their desire to receive “this bread always” (v.34), Jesus told them:
“I am the bread of life…
No one who comes to me will ever be hungry,
and no one who believes in me will ever be thirsty again” (v.35).
Jesus’s words were loaded and the people knew it. He had invoked the divine name, “I AM,” which God used to reveal Himself to Moses (Exodus 3:14). He was making the connection for them: the manna in the wilderness was ultimately pointing to Him all along. The people simply wanted full bellies, but Jesus was showing them that He alone could feed their souls.
One of the astonishing features of this narrative is the small sacrifice that led to Jesus’s amazing demonstration of power and the stunning proclamation of His deity. Every Christian who has ever wondered what role they can play in the kingdom of God should be encouraged by this boy’s example. We don’t know his name, but Jesus used this boy’s offering to proclaim His saving power and might to the multitude.
He does the same with us. We bring Jesus our time, talents, and treasures—as small and insignificant as they appear to be—and He multiplies them, impacting and changing the lives of many.
Written by Scott Slayton