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
In our previous study, we studied about Christ calling Peter, Andrew, James, and John to be fishers of men. One other event connected with this calling is found in Mark 1:20 (and Matt. 4:22). Mark makes a point of saying that Peter and Andrew “forsook their nets,” and when James and John left, they left their father in the boat. Matthew’s account varies slightly by saying they left “their ship and their father.” Either way, the point is that things were left behind to follow Christ. In these four men’s cases, they had to leave their family (father) and their business (ship and nets) to follow the Lord and be “fishers of men.”
Jesus didn’t take such decisions for granted. Later, He told the disciples, “Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel's, But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life” (Mk. 10:29-30).
Christ never promised the disciples a life of ease when He called for them. Nor did He promise a life free from sacrifice! I think Mark 1:18-20 states this lesson quite succinctly. Matthew 8:19-22 and Luke 9:59-62 teach a similar truth when three people approach the Lord about following Him, and each person is told essentially to choose Him over anyone and anything else. Yes, following the Lord requires sacrifice (Rom. 12:1-2)! He never promised a life of ease on earth. He promised life eternal (Matt. 25:46) and rest one day (Heb. 4:9) if we’ve been faithful now!
Many have sacrificed for the Lord through the years. I think of Elijah, Elisha, Job, and many others in the Old Testament. Some have lost their lives in order to remain faithful to God. This is recorded for us in Scripture. Even our “secular” history records the lives of those who risked life and limb that the gospel might spread far and wide. While many lost their lives, still others lost their livelihoods, and some lost families in order to live according to God’s will. I can think of many preachers of the gospel whose sacrifices have allowed me to preach where I am today, and I’m thankful.
The older I get, the more I understand, though, that anything truly worth having will cost something. I’ve also seen that (with a few exceptions) we don’t usually appreciate the things given to us without some condition. Usually, the things for which we haven’t struggled and earned are the first things we give away or sell. If that item breaks or is stolen, there’s little emotion involved. I hasten to add I know there are exceptions to this, for example, an inheritance or something similar, but usually, what I’m saying is true. Watch people and see if I’m not right!
I know it sounds trite to say, “There is no free lunch,” but that is a true statement. For you to get something “free” means someone else bought it. That includes the “free gift” of our salvation (Rom. 5:15-16, 6:23)! Someone else paid a price that we might have the opportunity to be saved (Jn. 3:16; Rom. 5:8; Matt. 20:28, 26:28; Heb. 5:8-9; etc.). Don’t get me wrong, there are conditions attached to this “free gift,” and rightfully so! We can’t enjoy the blessings of God’s gift unless we believe in Christ (Jn. 8:24), repent of our sins (Lk. 13:3), confess Christ as God’s Son (Rom. 10:10), and be baptized for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38). We must have some “skin in the game,” and we do when we make that commitment to accept the Lord’s conditions and follow Him for the rest of our days (I Cor. 15:58; Rev. 2:10b; etc.). We must put the Lord first (Matt. 6:33) and not be “conformed” but be “transformed” (Rom. 12:2), that we might grow closer to the Lord every day.
Four apostles in this text left family and business to follow Christ and serve Him for the rest of their days (Mk. 1:18-20). What’ve we left behind? Does the gospel mean anything to you? Does the cross mean anything? Have we been fooled into thinking that being a Christian requires little more than warming a padded pew and devoting my time for an hour or so on Sunday? Have we left anything behind willingly? If not, why not? Those who think that being a Christian is nothing or that there isn’t true sacrifice involved in being a Christian have never read the Book! The gospel demands much of us. Ask Peter, Andrew, James, and John what it cost them! However, the reward will surely be worth it (Rom. 8:18).
Are you ready to leave this world behind to gain Heaven?
- Jarrod M. Jacobs
When we read the book of Mark, it begins by introducing us to John the Immerser, or John the Baptist. This man who prepared the way for Christ (1:3). Among other things, we read about John baptizing people in the wilderness and specifically baptizing folks in the Jordan river (1:4-5). This was not the only place he baptized folks, but this was one area, and this is where he baptized Jesus (1:9-10).
Later, when we read about John’s baptism, we read where folks were told basically that John’s baptism was not valid, and they needed to be baptized in the name of Christ (Acts 19:5). Why the difference? If John’s baptism was valid in Mark 1, John 3, and other places, why is it treated as invalid in Acts 19? What difference is there between John’s baptism and Christ’s?
While at first glance, there seems to be little to no difference. Both baptisms are immersion. Both baptisms are for those who are seeking “remission of sins.” What difference is there between these acts? Notice, I said at first glance there seems to be no difference. When we study, we see several differences between these acts.
In John’s baptism, we see:
- John told men to confess their sins (Matt. 3:6).
- John told them to believe in “the One to come” (Acts 19:4).
- This baptism added none to the church (No church existed then!).
- There is no connection with Christ’s blood.
- John’s baptism is described as “a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins” (Mk. 1:4).
In contrast, Christ’s baptism:
- Was “for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38) - not an act looking forward to something that had not yet come.
- Puts one “in Christ” (Gal. 3:27; Rom. 6:3).
- Adds us to his church (Acts 2:47; I Cor. 12:13).
- Is connected with the blood of Christ (Rom. 6:3-6; Matt. 26:28; Acts 2:38).
- Saves us (I Pet. 3:21; Col. 2:12-13).
John’s baptism served its purpose, but its purpose has ended. Now, we are to be baptized in Christ’s baptism -- that baptism which allows us to experience the cleansing effect of His blood, adds us to His church, washes us from sin, and enables us to be called “Christian.”
Have you been baptized? If not, what is stopping you? Contact me, and let’s make sure you are right in the sight of God.
- 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
John told Gaius, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth” (III Jn. 4). This statement, though short, teaches us several things. Let us break this verse down, see what John was saying, and make some applications to our lives.
“I Have No Greater Joy” - Nothing gave John greater joy than to know that Gaius, Demetrius (v. 12), and other Christians (i.e., “friends,” v. 14) were holding fast to the Lord. He had his joy set on things eternal and not temporal (II Cor. 4:18). In other words, John’s joy didn’t rest in men’s opinion of him or some physical pursuit. John’s joy was in knowing that faithful Christians were doing their duty for the Lord! (See: II John 4)
Friend, what gives you joy? Is it vacations? Physical pursuits? Work? Children? Cars? Hobbies? These things might bring momentary happiness, but what brings joy? Is our true joy found in spiritual things? If we truly love the brethren as we ought (I Pet. 2:17), we will be able to speak as John concerning the well-doing of brethren all over this country and world!
“Than To Hear” - Though he wasn’t there in body, John was concerned for the brethren. He wanted “to hear” about Gaius, and others and learn about their welfare. I know brethren who look down on such concern for others, but John (and the other apostles) showed us the proper example (I Cor. 4:16, 11:1; Phil. 3:17; Eph. 5:1-2). Please understand, John wasn’t interested in gossip, etc., but genuinely concerned for their souls. This needs to be our attitude as well (Prov. 25:25).
Other apostles showed concern for the brethren as well. We see Paul’s care for brethren through all of his epistles (II Cor. 11:28; Rom. 16:1-15; I Cor. 1:11; Phil. 4:21; Col. 4:15, 17). The same goes for Peter (I Pet. 1:1, 2:17; II Pet. 1:1).
How concerned are we for our brethren? Do we show it through prayers? Through financial support or other means? Are we so caught up in ourselves that we don’t have time to “hear” about the welfare of other Christians?
“My Children” - This does not have reference to his physical lineage, but to those he had been instrumental in bringing to the Lord. The apostle Paul used the same language for those he taught (I Cor. 4:15, 17; I Tim. 1:1-2; II Tim. 1:1-2; Titus 1:4).
I think it is interesting to note that we are never told about the apostles’ physical children. (For example, we know the apostle Peter had children, I Pet. 5:1!) I wonder if this was done so we would keep our eyes on the apostles who pointed us to Christ, rather than on their descendants that we might treat as “royalty,” or give them some special position in the church that God never intended?
Brethren, what is our attitude toward fellow Christians? Do we strive for closeness? Do we treat one another as brethren? Let’s ask this another way: How many can we consider “children” in the sense the John and Paul used the word (II Tim. 2:2)?
“Walk In Truth” - The word “walk” describes one’s manner of life or behavior. This was seen as Gaius showed hospitality toward others, and showed the right example to fellow Christians not traveling (III Jn. 5-8). In other words, Gaius was faithfully following God despite the difficulties that surrounded him. He didn’t merely give lip-service to the truth, but was walking in it! John said those, like Gaius, who were walking in the truth brought him great joy. Why did he have joy? It is because he knew that what they were doing pleased the Father (II Jn 4; III Jn. 4). Let us examine ourselves so that when the Lord returns, He will find us walking in truth.
- Jarrod M. Jacobs