When my son was young, I wore many hats. On any given day, I might have to serve the function of a jungle gym, an elevator, a taxi driver, and a tour guide … and that is just after 5:00 PM! Before you begin to think that I was one of the original Wonder Twins from the 1970’s “Superfriends” television show or a raging lunatic, I need to explain. While I was not actually becoming any of those tasks vocationally, I was performing their functions for my (then) sixteen month old son, Joshua.
Being so small at that time, Joshua found himself in situations of need frequently. If he wanted to climb and swing, he needed someone to climb on or to swing him around. If he wanted to go up one floor (from the floor of our sunken living room to the hallway leading to the rest of the house), he needed someone to lift him. If he wanted to get outside and see the world, I either needed to drive the car or push the stroller. Because of his need, he cried out frequently for help.
Now, as Joshua’s father, I loved wearing the hats he asked me to wear. There has come a day when he no longer wants to wrestle on the floor while watching a basketball game. There will come a day when he will be able to drive himself where he wants to go. There has come a day when climbing the steps to the rest of the house became an after thought. But before those days came, I was all too excited to hear him cry out in need. I loved wearing all those hats to help meet his needs.
Two thousand years ago, as Jesus was living on this earth and was in the process of training His disciples (and by extension, training you and I who read of their experiences in the New Testament), He knew that a necessary component of a vibrant spiritual life would be a child-like sense of need. By virtue of our sinful tendencies and God’s lofty calling, by ourselves—spiritually speaking—we are very small … therefore we frequently find ourselves in situations of great need. Our spiritual need is not partial, it is total. Jesus wanted His disciples to know this, and that is why He led them to a remote place among a hungry crowd to teach them a lesson.
In John 6:1-15, Jesus led His disciples into the countryside among 5,000 men, not counting women and children. When it came time to eat, Jesus asked Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” This is a very funny question for Jesus to ask! Sure, Philip grew up in the area in which John 6 took place and most likely knew the whereabouts of all the grocery stores and restaurants nearby, but buying food for all these people would cost an amount far greater than the disciples had available to them. Even if Philip knew of a grocery store next door, they would not be able to afford the cost of giving everyone even a light snack, much less a full dinner. Jesus asked this question, not because He was unaware of their financial situation, but because He wanted to “test him (Philip), for He (Jesus) already knew what He was going to do (6:6).” Jesus had planned all along to provide the food for the whole crowd in a miraculous way; He just wanted to make sure that Philip and the rest of the disciples recognized their need and thus could recognize God’s supernatural provision. In the end, Jesus blessed a few fish and loaves so that they fed everyone present, with twelve basketfuls of leftovers! Jesus gave each of the twelve disciples their own basket full of reminders that He was able to meet any need.
As adults, we tend to see problems as things we need to fix, pay for, or solve. Since we are grown, we tend to think that we do not need or even deserve any help; therefore we often do not cry out. We think we are supposed to have the resources necessary to meet all of life’s demands all by ourselves. We may fear that any cry for help is a sign of weakness and might even bother God or cause Him to think less of us. If this is you, then remember that Jesus wants us to have child-like faith. This is the kind of faith that caused a small boy to offer a few measly fish and loaves to a hungry mob. Any adult would tell you the boy’s offering was not enough, but any adult who said this would be forgetting the One who would be doing the feeding.
Spiritually speaking, we are like sixteen month olds with many needs requiring someone who wears many hats to come to our rescue. We need someone who can be a doctor, a counselor, and an empowerer every moment of our lives. When we realize this and cry out, Jesus hears our cries and comes to our rescue. In fact, He loves wearing the many hats we ask Him to wear because in this life, we will never grow out of our state of dependence.
The feeding of the 5,000 is the fourth miraculous sign John shares to argue of Jesus’ divinity. Only God could meet such a need!
This devo is a part of the 2022 Wildwood Christmas Daily Devotional, “God with us.” You can find the entire Christmas Devotional here.