Jesus looked up and saw a large crowd coming toward him. So he said to Philip, “Where can we buy bread for these people to eat?” He asked this only to test Philip. He already knew what he was going to do. John 6:5-6 (emphasis mine)
I don't know how I've never caught it. Maybe I've read it before but today the words leapt off the page. We know the story. Thousands had gathered to hear, see, meet Jesus and the miracle of the two fish and five loaves unfolded to feed the masses. But I'm certain I've only focused on the miracle itself and not necessarily the preamble.
There's so many ways this is speaking to me today. So many new ideas and lessons in a story that seems so familiar.
1. Jesus allowed Philip to be a part of the plan.
Jesus was very specific in his question to Philip. "Where can we buy bread for these people to eat?" It wasn't a matter of if the people would eat but a matter of how to get the food. The wording is so intriguing because it allows me to understand that Jesus had a plan, which we'll soon see, but He was allowing Philip to enter into the miracle that was about to unfold.
As I dissect this passage I'm not convinced that Jesus needed to hear from Philip (see point 3) but He was inviting, including, and asking him to be involved. I think too often we perceive Jesus, whether in the flesh or on His throne, as too lofty for us to reach. Too separated from us to be a part of our everyday situations. And yet, right here in this text, we see just the opposite! The black and white proof that He wants to be in our midst - that He invites us into His. He's at work, often with a plan already in mind, yet He wants to include us in what He's doing.
2. Jesus tested Philip.
This stopped me. Because at first it didn't sit well to think that Jesus intentionally tested Philip. I dug deeper. The Hebrew word for "test" is peirazó. It means to try, tempt, test, to make proof of. I found another translation that read "This was said to prove him." I admit it made me feel better to believe Jesus was trying to prove something in and of Philip rather than just test him. I believe this directly correlates with Jesus wanting his disciples to see Him at work but to help them understand what He was about to do.
3. Jesus already knew what He was going to do.
As mentioned, Jesus allowed Philip to be included even though He already knew what He was going to do. There's another truth to be taken from this. What we can imply is the idea that He wants us to seek Him, to ask of Him, and He will answer. I believe that gives us the reality of knowing He not only listens to our prayers but He wants us to approach Him and ask. By no means do I think this strips Him of any Sovereignty but I believe in His infinite wisdom He allows us the opportunities, at times, to bend His ear with our prayers and petitions.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. Philippians 4:6
He gives us the opportunity to present our requests to Him. Even though He may already be working things out and have a plan in mind, let's not miss the fact that we're invited to approach Him and be a part of what He's doing. And when we don't seek Him, He often seeks us out.
What about the test? When I read the word I didn't like it but just this week I faced a massive testing of my faith. The thing about this test was I can tell you most assuredly the Lord already knew what He was going to do. I just had to wait and see. There was nothing I could do, it was completely out of my hands, and the only role I played was to be tested, waiting for God to reveal His answer and will.
Do I need to tell you how I responded?
Philip answered him, "It would take more than half a year's wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!" John 6:7
I'm ashamed to admit the likeness I bear to Philip. Riddled with doubt, essentially pointing in Jesus' face the improbability of how to work things out. There's a certain practicality in Philip's response, much like my own. As if to say, "But Lord, this just doesn't seem humanly possible. I imagine He must have laughed to Himself, maybe even out loud. In my mind He must have wanted to remark, "You're right, silly human, it's not humanly possible. But it is God-possible." Maybe that's my own mind's eye of how this conversation might go but I know with certainty He's inviting us to be a part of His mighty plan. In the same way He demonstrated His Almighty power feeding the thousands on that hillside, He revealed Himself to me in this test. I don't always respond in faith, something I know I am continually learning, but He pursues me and allows me to be a part of His miracles. I know I don't always pass the test but I am so thankful He grades with grace!