When Jesus Did the Impossible: Part 1 of 3
by John Lowe
12 October 2005
When Jesus Did the Impossible
In the Sixth Chapter of his gospel, John records a unique incident in the ministry of our Savior. This event not only confirms the deity of Christ, but also gives us a thrilling insight into the power of Jesus to do the impossible. This miracle is the only one recorded in all four gospels. It is a miracle that is performed not only in the presence of His disciples, but it involves the personal participation of thousands of other people as well. If we examine the miracle, we can only conclude that it is an absolute miracle.It does not involve the transforming of a natural occurrence. It is not based upon the setting aside of some terrible condition. In this miracle Jesus does what only a Creator God can do. He in essence brings into existence huge quantities of food that did not exist previously. That is impossible in anyone’s book. Let us look what is involved in God doing the impossible.
Perhaps it would be good for each of us to pause here for a moment and look deeply into our own hearts and ask ourselves just what is the most impossible challenge we face in our Christian life today. As we seriously consider the matter, would it be possible to place the value of that impossibility up against God’s power, and find a real and lasting solution that is pleasing to God?
If we are not facing such challenges at this moment, we only need to wait awhile and we surely shall. If we are climbing a little mole hill in our Christian walk today, we can be sure we will probably be struggling up the steep incline of an impossible mountain tomorrow.Just how can we deal with such impossible challenges? Could Jesus still do that which is impossible for us today? Just remember: THE IMPOSSIBLE BECOMES POSSIBLE WHEN WE RELY UPON OUR REDEEMER.
As the story begins we find a little band of tired and weary followers gathered around Jesus on a mountain side. Why have they come aside for some rest and relaxation with their Savior at this particular moment? Looking back through the gospel accounts of earlier events we find that they had been called out and sent forth into all the villages of the surrounding areas. Their mission was to reach into every little corner and crevice with the message of redemption. They were commissioned to preach the message of repentance and of the arrival of the King and His gospel of the kingdom.
They are footsore. They have been through terribly tense and trying times. Anyone who has gone from place to place and house to house with the good news could confirm they had been involved in the most physically exhausting and emotionally draining experience one might imagine.
Now a loving and compassionate Master calls them aside to spend some quality time alone with Him. As He sets His face toward Calvary, they need rest and recuperation for the coming days of challenge ahead. They have been in an intensive "people" ministry. They need to be away from the press of crowds. They desperately need healing and help for the emotional and psychological bruising that is always a part and parcel of such ministry.
Only the Savior can give them what they need at this hour. But then Jesus looks up and sees this enormous crowd of people coming toward them. If we compare all the gospel accounts of this event, we can only conclude that there were at least eight to ten thousand people swarming up that mountain side. Imagine the energy they were emitting and the noise they were making! Just what everyone needs when they are trying to rest and recuperate! Since Jesus and His followers are always in the needs meeting business, imagine the challenge the sight of this approaching crowd brought to this small band on the mountainside.
It’s not very long before a critical need becomes all too apparent. The crowd is hungry and there is no ready source of food. Seems there’s nothing within miles of this lonely and barren place. No fast food outlets. No supermarkets. Not even a convenience store. If there are farmers or householders around with a sufficient supply, the disciples don’t know about it. It truly is an impossible situation!
His followers see the impossibility of the situation immediately. Their response could be characterized as an exercise in holy hand wringing. "Woe are we! What are we going to do now!" Is this not all too often the predictable response of those of us who are His followers today as well? Are we prone to limit the Holy One of Israel by saying, "There’s no way out of this predicament. There’s no possible answer to this dilemma.
It is obvious here that everything is turning out just as our Savior planned.He will give His fledgling followers a fateful exam. Their
response will be critical; not only for this occasion, but for their own future ministries. From the beginning, He has taught them that He is God in the flesh. He is the Master of every situation. They saw it first evidenced in a miracle of a similar kind at the wedding feast in Cana. This is His perfect opportunity to again turn theory into positive reality by solving this impossible situation with a miracle beyond anyone’s wildest imagination.
His disciples will now face an acid test. Their response will provide a key for their future. It is often not the stress or test we face that is important, but our response to it is what really counts for time and eternity. The words of the test are quite simple, ". . .He saith unto Phillip, Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat? And this he said to prove him: for he himself knew what he would do."
It is good to especially note here as well that just as Jesus says, the God of the impossible always knows what He is going to do. If He knows the end from the beginning, is in charge of all that comes in between and controls the ultimate outcome, why doesn’t He just spare us the stress and strain, relieve us of all the pressure, snatch us right on through and get it all over with quickly?
It’s clear that coping with the impossible is a process designed for our benefit. Someone has said that the Christian is like a tea bag; hot water brings out the best in him. Someone else has said he is like a steam engine; he performs best when under pressure. Perhaps Peter, who had quite some experience in the matter, said it best when he said: "That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:" (I Peter 1:7)
The Savior chooses a special person to take the exam first. Why did He choose Phillip? Perhaps it was because Phillip seemed to be one of those, "Seeing is believing," sort of people. He seemed to have a microchip sort of brain. He comes across as a statistical whiz, always adding and multiplying all the odds and seeing if he could figure it all out logically. Even after this great miracle, he would later on say to the Lord, "Just let us see God and we won’t have any more questions." Evidently forgetting he had seen God again and again in Jesus and through the many miracles performed by the Son of God. Yes, he seems to have forgotten that the impossible only becomes possible when we totally rely upon God.
Next, I want to say, JESUS CAN DO THE IMPOSSIBLE WHEN WE RECOGNIZE OUR OWN POWERLESSNESS.
When all this is considered, it is fair to say he chose Phillip in order to test and deepen his faith. When faced with the impossible, would Phillip focus on the complexity of the problem or upon the power of the God of the impossible? Would he recognize his own pathetic puniness and powerlessness to do the impossible?
His initial answer comes soon enough when Phillip replies. We are told that "Phillip answered him, Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may take a little." You can just hear the calculations whirring around in his head. He comes up with an answer that is, according to all laws of science, mathematics and statistical probability, impossible.
Isn’t it strange that Phillip did not necessarily give the wrong answer but he answered the wrong question? Jesus asked, "Where do we go?" He answered the question, "How much?" How often do we do the same? When faced with the impossible we can’t see the forest for the trees. If Phillip had really understood and prayerfully considered the question and his answer to it could the correct answer have been a form of the same answer Simon Peter gave a bit later? "Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life." (John 6:68) Evidently Peter passed his particular test with flying colors.
It was clearly a humanly impossible situation. According to calculations I have read, Phillip was saying the daily wages of two hundred men would not buy enough to give each person bread to eat. That would be at least 20,000 dollars in our culture today. Here Phillip recognizes his own inability, but he fails to recognize God’s always sufficient ability. A simple admission of the impossibility of the situation and a statement that Jesus could deal with it would have sufficed. I’m sure a passing score could have been given if Phillip had just said something like this:"I don’t know. It’s impossible. But I know I can trust you to solve this impossible situation."