On two occasions, Jesus fed a multitude of people. We estimate 10,000 or more were fed based on Mark 6:44 and Mark 8:8. I’m sure we’ve heard and read about these miracles in the past. In Mark 6, we learn that Jesus fed 5000 men (not counting women and children, Matt. 14:21), and in Mark 8, he said Jesus fed 4000. This was done with a tiny amount of food in comparison to those who needed to be fed. In Mark 5, Jesus fed the multitude with five barley loves and two small fish, while in Mark 8, we read that Jesus had seven loaves and a few fish.
The miracle of feeding great numbers with a small amount of food is a wonderful event worthy of our awe and respect. Feeding 5000+ (Matt. 14:21) motivated some people to want to force Christ to be a king (Jn. 6:15). Yet, this wasn’t the point of the miracle(s). In fact, feeding these great numbers should have brought the people’s minds back to events that happened in Old Testament days. One such example is what Elisha did in II Kings 4:42-44.
Of course, Christ’s compassion motivated Him to feed the people (Mk. 6:34, 8:2), and at the same time, this miracle would show people again that He is the Son of God, not merely a good teacher or a good leader. However, what gets my attention is that both times the miracle was performed, there were leftovers! Can you imagine this? Just having enough food to feed more than one person was something. Then to think of His ability to feed the people until they were full (Mk. 6:42, 8:8) is a miracle! Now, we read in Scripture that there was not only food, but enough to fill the people, and so much food that there were leftovers?? Amazing! Praise be to God!
Could there be any significance to the fact that one miracle produced leftovers that filled twelve baskets while another filled seven baskets? That number hasn’t escaped my notice. Jesus didn’t say much about the result of those miracles except the time He chastised the apostles for not understanding what He meant by “the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees” (Matt. 16:6-12, Mk. 8:14-21). However, could there be something worth considering when we think of the numbers 12 and 7? I am willing to discuss this, but could it be that twelve baskets were left so that the twelve apostles had something they could touch and remember? John 6:5-7 gives us some insight into the apostles’ attitude, and it seems they doubted how the people would get fed anyway. “Two hundred pennyworth” (nearly a year’s wages) wasn’t enough to feed everyone, Philip estimated. Thus, at the end of the miracle, each apostle had gathered a basket of food.
The feeding of the 4000 resulted in seven baskets of leftovers (Mk. 8:8). To the Jews, “7” represented perfection. The perfect number of baskets leftover certainly would be the “perfect” end to a miracle where so many were fed.
Even if you disagree with the application I made, I know we can all agree that Jesus is the One who can supply our needs (Matt. 6:25-33). He made this abundantly clear that He could feed the people so that they would be well-supplied for the journey to their homes. Jesus lived on this earth for 33 years, and He knows man’s physical and spiritual needs (Heb. 4:15). Beginning with a small amount and producing leftovers reminds me of God’s promise in Malachi 3:10 to His people.
Jesus came to this world that men might “have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (Jn. 10:10). Isn’t the feeding of 5000 and 4000 object lessons of this truth? If Christ can provide abundant physical food, can we not also have abundant spiritual blessings? I believe so! Jesus has given us “all things that pertain to life and godliness” (II Pet. 1:3). Are we appreciative? Have we noticed what He has provided? Indeed, we have access to so much in the Lord that even the “leftovers” are more than anyone could fathom!
Are you a Christian? If not, why not? The chasm and blackness that fills your soul can be filled and enlightened when you come to the Lord for salvation (Acts 2:38; Mk. 16:16)! Living the life of a Christian is a beautiful blessing wherein we have “a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (II Cor. 4:17). Do you believe the miracles occurred concerning the feeding of the masses? If so, what is stopping you from partaking of the spiritual food and spiritual water that can sustain you for eternity? Indeed, this is available in unlimited supply!
- Jarrod M. Jacobs
Do we have a problem with listening to too much? Sometimes we hear things said about us that are really none of our business. Why do we listen, and why do we take these words to heart? Solomon teaches us a hard lesson in Ecclesiastes 7:21, but it’s a lesson that will help us immensely if learned.
The Holy Spirit inspired the following: “Also take no heed unto all words that are spoken; lest thou hear thy servant curse thee.” What a lesson! In a time when we want to hear all, and when social media allows us to hear it, let’s go back and listen to Solomon. He reminds us that this isn’t always a good idea! “Take no heed” means essentially, don’t take it seriously. I’ve had to tell people (and tell myself), “consider the source!” This is the essence of Ecclesiastes 7:21.
Don’t listen, nor take to heart everything that falls out of someone’s mouth (or keyboard). An enemy doesn’t have your best interests in mind, anyway. Someone may ask, “What if it’s a friend saying harmful things?” As someone once told me, “Hateful statements are sometimes made by kind people.” We don’t always know what a person’s disposition is when they say things. You may be the nearest person to criticize when a friend is angry! Someone has said, “He was in the line of fire.” Listen, dear one -- “take no heed”!
As I thought about Ecclesiastes 7:21, I also thought about the other side of this “coin.” You see, it’s true that harmful statements can be made in a moment, and yes, there are times when a person does damage with his sharp tongue (Jas. 3:2, 5-6, 8; Ecc. 5:6; Prov. 26:18-19). Yet, have we ever thought about the fact that perhaps some of the damage could’ve been lessened if we’d not taken it the way we did? Maybe there would’ve been no lasting damage done if, after we have heard someone say something, that we remembered the words, “For oftentimes also thine own heart knoweth that thou thyself likewise hast cursed others” (Ecc. 7:22)!
In other words, before we get too offended at what someone has said about us, remember that we probably did the same thing already! Did you mean it, or was your mouth in gear while your brain was in neutral? Were you angry, and this person was just the easiest “target”? Maybe that’s what happened to our friend, too. Think the best about people instead of thinking the worst (I Cor. 13:7). See how your life is bettered for it!
I know it is a hard pill to swallow in a society that prefers “information overload,” but sometimes, the best advice is: “Don’t listen!” You’ll be happier when you don’t have your nose in other people’s business. Furthermore, the one who said something hateful will have some time to calm down, reflect, and repent before things get worse. Isn’t this the way we live Matthew 7:12 and 22:39?
- Jarrod M. Jacobs
Gaius, the recipient of III John, had many great qualities. One quality is revealed in John’s observation: “Beloved, thou doest faithfully whatsoever thou doest to the brethren, and to strangers” (III Jn. 5). The “strangers” in this text are similar to the “strangers” Peter wrote to in his first epistle (I Pet. 1:1). These people were Christians unknown to the face of Peter. Similarly, John said Gaius was faithful in treating the Christians who were “strangers” well.
The blessings of being in Christ are innumerable. We could make a detailed study of all the benefits God provides His children, and we would spend months and even years covering these things in their entirety (Eph. 1:3; II Pet. 1:3; etc.). At the same time, we see innumerable blessings on earth when we consider the blessings our brethren provide. III John 5 reveals the blessings we have in our brethren.
Read III John 5-8, and learn of the generosity of Gaius toward his brethren. His acts of charity (love, benevolence, v. 6) were well-known. He had provided in such a way that these folks went forth “for his name’s sake, taking nothing from the Gentiles” (v. 7). In other words, they had no reason to ask for money or goods from others, because Gaius provided in such a generous way that they had all needs met. Who were these people? Notice in verse seven, it was those who went forth for “his name’s sake,” i.e., Christ’s name! These were men preaching the gospel far and wide, and when they left “for his name’s sake” from Gaius’ house, they went with their needs provided that they might get to the next place! Gaius’ actions remind me of what Christ said in Matthew 10:40-42.
John concludes that since Gaius did his job, “we ought to receive such” (v. 8). In other words, “we” have a job to do in receiving these people since Gaius did his part so that they could travel. I wish I knew more about this work and the generosity shown, but this is enough to make Gaius stand out as a man who wanted the gospel preached and willingly sacrificed to make it happen. Such a blessing!
Is Gaius still around? I say “yes” without a doubt. I have been the recipient of the brethren’s generosity on several occasions. I remember moving to a place, and when I went to get the electricity turned on in my house, I learned that “Gaius” had paid the “hookup” fee usually charged new customers. There was a time when another “Gaius” gave me traveling money when I held four back-to-back meetings. “Gaius” was present in another state of the Union to give me a brand new pair of boots, and also provide presents for my young boys just because he loved the gospel preached and saw this as something he could do to give a “cup of cold water” to another. “Gaius” has come through on several occasions. I remember one who played the part of “Gaius” and provided some support when she saw a preacher and his family in need. I speak in general terms because these people with the “Gaius” spirit didn’t want to be recognized! The most important thing is that they are known to God!
It is not exclusively the person offering financial support that serves in the role of “Gaius” (though this is the context of III John 5-8). I remember some brethren who cared for me in a time when my life was literally in their hands! I have not forgotten their kindness and generosity, and I know God hasn’t forgotten, either!
I could go on with sweet memories of modern-day “Gaius’.” I imagine that if I asked other men to write of their experiences, we would all rejoice at the multitudes of examples of dear brethren. John made mention of Gaius’ sacrifice and the blessing he was to others for a few reasons. First, he wrote this by inspiration, which means the Holy Spirit wanted these things revealed (Jn. 14-16; II Pet. 1:21-22). Second, these verses are written to encourage Gaius. His sacrifice was not forgotten nor unappreciated. In fact, it was the opposite (Prov. 27:2)! Third, Gaius’ example was other brethren’s motivation to do the same (III Jn. 8)! Read III John 8 carefully in this context and see that John says because Gaius did what he did, “we” have work to do on our end!
Just as Gaius was a blessing in the first century, we also can take up the mantle and be a blessing to others. Remember, we who are Christians (Mk. 16:16) are family (Rom. 8:16-17). We are one body (Eph. 4:4), and need to help encourage each other (Rom. 14:19; I Thess. 5:11). This encouragement comes in moral support and prayers, without a doubt. There are also times when physical needs must be provided (Jas. 2:15-18). Do we have the “Jerusalem spirit” when it comes to generosity (Acts 2:44-45, 4:32-35)? I pray so! We live in some hard and strange times, and we need men to preach and spread the gospel far and wide because only the gospel will save (Rom. 1:16)! Getting our priorities straight is what will help us through the times ahead (Matt. 6:33). We also need folks like Gaius, Phoebe, Aquila, Priscilla, Silas, Barnabas, Timothy, Mary (there were several), Luke, Apphia, Archippus, Philemon, etc., who are ready to do the Lord’s will, support the preaching in all ways they can, and help get the gospel to the lost.
Gaius was a blessing to brethren and strangers in the first century. Who are we blessing in the twenty-first?
- Jarrod M. Jacobs