Early in his ministry, Jesus’ reputation for healings and wonders attracted huge crowds. “Jesus went up on the mountain, and there he sat down with his disciples. . . . Lifting up his eyes . . . a large crowd was coming toward him” (John 6:3, 5, ESV).
Bible scholars estimate this crowd as being between 10,000 and 15,000 people. The sight of the vast throng must have encouraged the disciples. It confirmed that they were following the right Man and that more great things were going to happen. And it must have delighted Jesus to see their joy because they were learning to anticipate great things from Him.
Yet, as the crowd gathered, the disciples faced an impossible dilemma: “Jesus said to Philip, ‘Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?’” (6:5). No sooner had a dream been realized than hard reality set in.
Is this scenario familiar to you? Think back to the first great job you had. You were excited because it seemed like the first step in fulfilling your calling. But after a few days you learned your boss wasn’t who he appeared to be and you had to work with a colleague who seemed to resent you. The demands on your time were far greater than you were told, causing you to miss precious time with your family. You realized, “I had no idea it would be this difficult.”
That’s how I imagine Philip felt at that moment. Bewildered, he answered Jesus, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread would not be enough for each of them to get a little” (6:7). That was a huge amount of money. In short, even if they had the means and ability to provide food, it still wouldn’t be enough to feed the crowd.
As I read Philip’s response, a phrase leaps out at me: “Would not be enough.” How often does this thought arise in our minds when we face obstacles? How often do we wonder, “I’m not sure I have what it takes. I don’t have the resources, and I doubt I have the ability. Am I strong enough in Christ? Do I have enough of the Holy Spirit? Lord, am I about to derail?”
We can know this for sure: Jesus had called Philip to a great victory that day but Philip just couldn’t see it yet. The same is true for us: God has called us to expect great things in our walk with Him. So, what happens when our situation requires faith? Do we believe Him for the miracle needed? Or are we derailed by our limitations? Jesus’ challenge here had a purpose: “He said this to test [Philip], for he himself knew what he would do” (6:6).