31. Five Thousand Fed: When a Little is More than Enough (Jn 6:1-13)

John Chapter 6:1-13
After these things, Jesus went away over the Sea of Galilee, the Tiberian Sea. (2) And a great crowd followed Him, for they saw His miraculous signs which He did on the sick ones. (3) And Jesus went up into the mountain and sat there with His disciples. (4) And the Passover was near, the feast of the Jews. (5) Then Jesus lifting up His eyes and seeing that a great crowd is coming to Him, He said to Philip, From where may we buy loaves that these may eat? (6) But He said this to test him, for He knew what He was about to do. (7) Philip answered Him, Loaves for two hundred denarii are not enough for them, that each of them may receive a little. (8) One of His disciples said to Him, Andrew the brother of Simon Peter, (9) A little boy is here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what are these for so many? (10) And Jesus said, Make the men to recline. And much grass was in the place. Then the men reclined, the number was about five thousand. (11) And Jesus took the loaves, and giving thanks distributed to the disciples, and the disciples to those reclining. And in the same way the fish, as much as they desired. (12) And when they were filled, He said to His disciples, Gather up the fragments left over, that not anything be lost. (13) Then they gathered and filled twelve hand-baskets with fragments of the five barley loaves which were left over to those who had eaten.

Apocalypse Explained 617a
[3] That “to eat” and “to drink” signify in the Word to eat and drink spiritually, which is to be instructed, and by instruction and living to imbue oneself with good and truth and to appropriate this, consequently intelligence and wisdom, can be seen from the following….In Jeremiah

Thy words shall be found, that I may eat them, and Thy Word be to me for joy and for the gladness of my heart (xv. 16).

Here “to eat” manifestly stands for spiritual eating, which is to know, to perceive, and to appropriate to oneself, for it is said, “that I may eat Thy words, and Thy Word be to me for joy and for the gladness of my heart;” the “words of God” signify His precepts or Divine truths….[4] …”to eat” signifies in the spiritual sense to receive in the will and to do, from which is conjunction;


We leave off chapter five having explored the teaching the Word provides concerning the divine nature of the Word and the relationship between the divine love or good called the Father and the divine truth called the Son. We also received teaching regarding the nature of the proprium and the natural mans resistance to heavenly things illustrated in the Jews response to the Lord’s presence and activity. Now because spiritual life involves learning truths and responding to them as if of ourselves we enter chapter 6 with the statement that…

After these things, Jesus went away over the Sea of Galilee, the Tiberian sea.

This single statement sets the scene for what is spiritually involved in what is to follow. If we go back to the Greek and render it into a more literal English translation we can begin to get a better sense of the spiritual meaning being conveyed here. Literally this reads…

From-came the Jesus (to the) other side of the sea of the Galilee of the Tiberius

We have already looked at what Galilee corresponds to previously which is the good of life. Now this state is said to be “of Tiberius” and once we see that Tiberius means “good vision” we begin to get a sense of what contained here. Tiberius is a state of seeing the good in what truth teaches. It is also called the Sea of Galilee because this understanding of truth must become expressed in life which is what Galilee is about. This sea stands as something that needs to be crossed over for things to progress and this crossing occurs internally in our own spiritual states of life every time we move from an understanding of what truth teaches concerning good to its actual application in life. This shift in state from instruction to practice is what is meant by Jesus going to the other side. It’s an appearance of the letter that the Lord moves, he doesn’t for He is unchanging, what shifts is our understanding of the Word. So Jesus crossing to the other side really speaks of a shift in our relationship to the Word from something that instructs our intellect to something that is to be lived.

To live from our understanding of the Word is a more interior state than merely understanding it. To live from it is to love it, whereas to understand and not live from it is to love ones self. This move of the Word into a more interior state due to our desire to live from it elevates it in our lives. This elevation is described in the literal sense as Jesus going into a mountain and sitting with His disciples.

When we begin to look to understand the Word in relation to our life it provides us with truths that bring healing and freedom from the instability the natural mind exerts on our sense of self due to our attachment to the evils and falsities that flow from the loves of self and the world. The natural mind, if not ruled by what is spiritual, is steeped in self reliance and pride in its own intelligence. In the Word this mental condition of the spirit is described by all the diseases and sickness that peoples suffer from and which the Word is able to heal. Spiritually sickness and disease arises from being disconnected from the Lord who is the source of life.

When we first come into contact with truths and begin to give them serious consideration one of the first things that we notice in regard to our inner states of life is that we become more settled within ourselves. Coming to a place of acknowledging the Lord as God and entering into the security of the truth that His Divine Providence is over all things and many of the other basic truths of faith our minds experience a sense of peace and we are healed of various forms of dis-ease. When a person first finds the truths that Spiritual Christianity offers and from these begins to see that their is a deeper meaning in the Word and that this is a level of meaning that directly addresses the inner issues of the inner world of their mind they are excited. There is a kind of honeymoon period as they gather new truths, principles, ideas and concepts. Everything is new and exciting and this brings a sense of peace and relief as they enter into a new sense of purpose and meaning that the opening of a spiritual level to life invariably brings.

This first state of contact with truths and their effect on our mental states are described in the Word as the signs the Lord worked in the multitude. These signs affect us on the level of our intellect and awaken an interest in spiritual truths for they point us to the potential that lies within the Word to bring about spiritual wholeness. But the experience of these signs is external to the person themselves and while powerful and wonderful they don’t bring true inner spiritual transformation.

For inner transformation must occur on the level of the will and for this to occur the signs need to provide us with enough motivation to begin to work on the purification of our affections through the removal of our evils. Even in the historical account we can see that while many witnesses the signs that the Lord performed only a few were affected enough to make a real commitment to following Him. Within us there is a great multitude of natural thoughts and affections which get stirred up as we come into contact with truths from the Word all seeking to be fulfilled but only a few will be able to serve the Lord in a way that can lead to a real and lasting transformation.

As we look to find a closer connection with the Lord through His Word many of the thoughts and affections we have begin to be organised around this new desire. We find that our mental life undergoes a change. Where all our mental energy had previously gone into various external secular pursuits in which our hopes resting in false dreams that the world promises will bring us fulfillment and happiness, we now find ourselves given to thinking about spiritual things. Where we never sought the Lord before we now find an inner prayer life developing as we look to the Word to lead and guide us, we begin to recognise behaviours and thoughts and emotions as standing opposed to spiritual goals and values, things that we never noticed before are drawn to our attention.

As this begins to occur so we see in a new way that we are in need of the Lord, we see we need to better understand the Word not just as ideas but in terms of the application of these ideas. The Word in spiritual matters becomes our eyes through which we can come to see spiritually and because it’s the Word that becomes our spiritual eyes and elevates our in-sight the Scripture says…

Joh 6:5 Then Jesus lifting up His eyes and seeing that a great crowd is coming to Him,

The crowd here represents the multitude of affections and thoughts desires and aspirations in our natural man that seek to be satisfied. How can this great need be met? What follows is instruction concerning the process by which a person can be brought to see that when the Lord is acknowledged then what is perceived to be a little can become much and is well able to meet any need that may arise.

A natural response to any perceived need is to look at the problem we are confronted with. This happens because we are used to being self reliant and the fixer of or own problems and the problems of others. In this story we are seeing the principles involved in moving from being self reliant to becoming reliant on the Lord. Once the honeymoon is over the real spiritual work begins. Therefore in our story today we see that in the Lord directing the disciples’ attention towards the multitude we have illustrated the inner principle of having our attention being directed onto the problem of our life represented in the needs of this multitude coming into view.

There is an important lesson here, and it’s this, we are unable of ourselves to sort out our lives. They are just too complex for us. As long as we remain in an attitude of self reliance, of placing our trust in old habitual ways of responding to issues of life, we remain cut off from the Lord because we live in a belief that we don’t need Him. The external appearance may be such that it looks as thought we have things together, but how are things inwardly. This world places it emphasis in externals as a measure of a successful life. But in the spiritual economy it isn’t about externals, it’s about what is internal. It is only as we look to make the Word our source of life that the Lord is able to come in and lead us to inner wholeness.

That we need to come to this realisation of our dependence on the Word for our life is beautifully captured in the question the Lord asks Philip and Philip’s response…

Joh 6:5-7 …From where may we buy loaves that these may eat? (6) But He said this to test him, for He knew what He was about to do. (7) Philip answered Him, Loaves for two hundred denarii are not enough for them, that each of them may receive a little.

The Word can meet all our needs. This is the truth being taught here. And so the Word looks to stretch our faith to strengthen it which is what it means to test it. To be tested spiritually has nothing to do with passing or failing – it always has to do with strengthening our connection to the Lord, of making this stronger. Here the Lord seeks to move us away from reliance on our own ability to sort out our issues. Philip is the intellectual faculty, his name means, “lover of horses” and horses in the Word correspond to the powers of the intellect.

The Lord elevates our understanding so that we can see the complex needs and desires that stir within the multitude of thoughts and affections that make up and crowd our natural man. How can this be satisfied is the question that the Word seeks to clarify for us here. Philip’s response is as much as an admission that a conventional or natural response to the problem won’t suffice. Two hundred denarii, a large sum of silver, if available wouldn’t be enough to allow each person to receive even a little.

The spiritual issues in our life cannot be addressed by anyone but the Lord and the only way He can do this is by the Word. Only as we give up our own efforts to sort things out and look to the Word and the principles of life it teaches will the way be opened. Giving up on our self reliance is what is expressed in Philips response – for all intensive purposes the task appears impossible.

It is the realisation of this that opens the way for our perception to shift from the problem to connecting with the Lord or Word who is the solution to every human need. It’s a perception that arises out of our willingness to obey the Word as the rule for our life, which is shown in that it is Andrew who speaks next…

Joh 6:8-9 One of His disciples said to Him, Andrew the brother of Simon Peter, (9) A little boy is here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what are these for so many?

Andrew is described as the brother of Simon Peter, and just as Philip represents an inner mental faculty that the Lord uses in our regeneration so too is Andrew the brother of Simon Peter. Simon Peter represents the truths of faith and Andrew as his brother is the love of those truths witnessed to in a life of obedience to them. Thus it is our obedience to the Word that brings to the foreground this little boy who has five barley loaves and two fish; but there is still doubt that arises from appearances for the statement is made by Andrew…

…but what are these for so many?

Who or what is this little boy who has in his possession the solution to the pressing need? This little boy is the newly developing spiritual life in a person. Children in the Word are symbols of innocence and spiritual innocence is with those who follow the Lord or obey His Word. This little boy, who is the innocence of a genuine spiritual life, holds the little goodness and truth that when in the hands of the Lord can feed a multitude. Five barley loaves and two fish. To the natural thought the Word appears to be woefully inadequate to meet the pressing needs of the human heart.

Yet here we see that what the natural mind regards as close to nothing can, in the hands of the Lord, be more than enough to meet our needs. This sustenance is released from the Word as we recognise that the spiritual good represented by the barley loaves, and the truths of the Word represented by the fish, are the Lord’s. This is represented in the act of them being given to Him. All that we have is given from above, and here we see the principle of influx represented in the Lord passing the food to His disciples and they in turn passing what they have received out into the crowd who are said to receive what they desire. This is an important point, for reception is according to state, and so we only receive what we will, no more, no less. The Word can meet our need; the question is always what is the state of our will for what is good?

Amen.

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