The Local Requirements
W. Fraser Naismith, Kilmarnock
There are three basic principles alluded to in chapter 6 of the Gospel by John. Firstly, in verse 51 Christ stated, "I am the living bread which came down from heaven". The emphasis here is on the incarnation of the Son of God. Human nature could not provide a suitable body for that eternal One, so God prepared for Him a body: "when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me", Heb. 10. 5. Dr. Liddon has stated, "The only begotten Son is, in virtue of His Sonship, a partaker of that incommunicable and imperishable essence which is sundered from all created life by an impassable chasm". Everything and everybody had a beginning, and every beginning had its beginning in One who had no beginning!
Secondly, the Lord Jesus Christ affirmed, "my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed", v. 55. The death of Christ is in view in this statement. For this purpose He came into Manhood, not to be ministered unto but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many. The necessity of the Son of man being lifted up on a cross of shame is as absolute as it is for man to be born again. The one factor relates to God, and the other to man. "My flesh" would convey the thought of His humanity; "my blood" would attest His death.
Thirdly, the Man Christ Jesus said, by way of a question in verse 62, "What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before?". This statement attests the ascension of the Lord Jesus to the realms of eternal ecstasy where the lamentations of human failure have never once been heard. The cross no longer bears its victim, nor the grave the body of the Lord, for He vacated it leaving it empty, yet orderly, a fact so significant of His triumph over death. Chosen witnesses saw Him after His resurrection, while the disciples followed Him as far as Bethany, where He lifted up His hands, and blessed them. "And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven", Luke 24. 50, 51. While our human eyes have never gazed on the ascended One, nevertheless faith pierces the blue and "we see Jesus . . . crowned with glory and honour", Heb. 2. 9.
This chapter in John's Gospel presents to us three great food problems. The first is the feeding of about five thousand men. To meet the requirements of such a multitude, there would be required experienced caterers of food. But such were not present on this occasion. Who could satisfy the need of such a mass of humanity?, for Philip had stated, "Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may take a little".
In the company there was a lad who had five barley loaves, and two small fishes, but, said Andrew, "what are they among so many?". The Lord said, "Make the men sit down". This accomplished, He offered thanksgiving and distributed the food to the disciples, who in turn dispensed the food to the people. How true are the words which we often quote, "Little is much if God is in it"! The supply did not exhaust itself during that memorable meal, for the Lord ordered His disciples to "gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost". There were gathered twelve baskets full after all had enjoyed a worthy portion of food and were abundantly satisfied.
What was the reaction of the multitude to this remarkable miracle? They testified, "This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world". There is undoubtedly an allusion to the comment made by Moses many centuries before, and which finds a place in the annals of eternal renown, "The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto Him ye shall hearken", Deut. 18. 15.
It is worthy of note that this miracle is recorded by each of the Gospel narrators. John's record, being the last one written, omits much that is presented by the synoptic writers; nevertheless there is a sufficiency in the record of John to enable us to appreciate the significance of the sign.
The first of the three food problems was satisfactorily solved when the Lord Jesus Christ took things in hand. The seemingly impossible is overcome by the God of impossibilities. The question is being asked, "Is there anything too hard for the Lord?" We answer, "With God all things are possible".