16 April 2010

John 6:1-15

"There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?" (v.9)


The account of the feeding of the 5,000 is a familiar one to most readers of the New Testament. The different Gospel writers tell the story in different ways and interestingly it is only John who actually mentions the young boy who offers the loaves and the fish - although in our mind's eye it is easy to transport that detail into the accounts found in the other Gospels.

John is also keen to note the fact that these are "barley" loaves. Such loaves formed the cheap bread of the poorer classes and so John emphasises the humble and relatively insignificant background of the boy who makes the loaves and fish available to Jesus. Some scholars make the link between the barley loaves of this incident and the use of barley loves in the Communion services of the early Church. John may or may not have intended to make that connection here by recording that detail.

What is clear is that this incident demonstrates in a powerful and dramatic way the fact that God can take what we offer, and that God uses it in the work of the kingdom in ways beyond our imagination.

At times most of us feel that we have little to offer. For some people this may be a result of having received little affirmation and encouragement in their childhood years. For others, a particular event of rejection (perhaps even from the Church) can lead to a sense of being unvalued and unappreciated.

This incident on the shore of Lake Galilee 2,000 years ago reminds us today that, whatever our opinion of ourselves, and whatever our feeling of having little to offer, Jesus invites us to give what we have to him in the knowledge that it can be used for the work of the kingdom in amazing ways.

To Ponder

What gifts do you have that God could multiply? To what extent are you willing to offer them?

How can you help people who feel that they have nothing to give know they have a place in God's work?

Bible notes author

The Revd Chris Blake

Chris Blake is a Methodist minister and principal of Cliff College in Derbyshire. His background is as a biochemist, and he has previously served in Barking and Dagenham as an industrial chaplain, in Dorset in the Wimborne Circuit and as chair of the Cornwall Methodist District.