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The Small Things
After these things Jesus went away to the other side of the Sea of Galilee
(or Tiberias).  And a great multitude was following Him, because they
were seeing the signs which He was performing on those who were sick. 
And Jesus went up on the mountain, and there He sat with His disciples.
 Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand.  Jesus therefore
lifting up His eyes, and seeing that a great multitude was coming to Him,
said to Philip, "Where are we to buy bread, that these may eat?"  And
this He was saying to test him; for He Himself knew what He was intending
to do.  Philip answered Him, "Two hundred denarii worth of bread is
not sufficient for them, for everyone to receive a little."  One of
His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, said to Him,  "There is
a lad here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are these
for so many people?"  Jesus said, "Have the people sit down." Now there
was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five
thousand.  Jesus therefore took the loaves; and having given thanks,
He distributed to those who were seated; likewise also of the fish as much
as they wanted.  And when they were filled, He said to His disciples,
"Gather up the leftover fragments that nothing may be lost."  And so
they gathered them up, and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the
five barley loaves, which were left over by those who had eaten.  When
therefore the people saw the sign which He had performed, they said, "This
is of a truth the Prophet who is to come into the world."
The Gospel writers recorded 35 of Jesus' miracles. Of the 35, there
is only one that appears in all four gospels-this one. Why? My only explanation
is that it was a favorite of all the gospel writers. I know it is one of
my favorites. I bet I've preached on this miracle over 20 times, in fact,
I've already preached on Mark's version during the short time I've been
your pastor. I like this miracle because it is bigger than life. The task
was so large, feed 5000 men and their families. Philip estimated that it
would take a year's wage to feed them all. No doubt, it was so large a
task it wasn't even worth trying. Usually, when I preach on this text I
emphasize the greatness of our God and how His people can do great things
when we submit to His will.
To some extent, I can't escape doing the same thing today. Our God is
a great and mighty God! He is the creator of heaven and earth and the sustainer
of life. He does great things, yes, but there is something else in this
text that impresses me. To say the creator God can do great things really
isn't that impressive. I mean, if he can create the world, he can certainly
feed some hungry people, right? What impresses me the most is how much
He does with so little.
In fact, God specializes is using little things to do great things.
Why do you think that is?
In this text, he used a small boy with 5 small barley loaves (barley
was a grain used for animal consumption in Jesus' day, only the impoverished
would eat it) and two fishes, (probably the size of the sardines that fishing
boats harvest in the Monterey Bay). In the words of Peter "what are these
for so many people?" Perfect! Jesus must have thought. Just the
Today, bigger is better. Have you noticed how big SUV's have gotten?
I saw a report on a morning show the other day of one that was so big,
it couldn't even fit in a garage. The price tag on those puppies is more
than what we paid for our first home. (Though I think our first home probably
got better gas mileage.) Wal mart has Super Centers and McDonald's will
super size your meal for you. While we want bigger, God asks for the little
things from us-things like a few loaves of bread and fishes.
Remember Gideon's army? He had 32,000 men and God said there were too
many. God pared it down to 300 soldiers, just the right amount. When they
were down to the right size, God used them to defeat the Midianites. In
God's economy, bigger isn't always better. Why would God want less men
instead of more?
Remember Goliath and the army of the Philistines? Who did God choose
to defeat the giant? A small shepherd boy with a sling shot and five smooth
stones. Why would God have a trained army set on the sidelines and send
a boy out to do a soldier's work?
When God's prophet Elijah was hungry in the days of the famine, do you
remember who He sent him to for food? A widow who just had enough flour
and oil to make one more meal for her and her son. She fed the prophet,
then fed her family. The next day she looked in the cupboard and there
was enough to do it again. She continued to feed Elijah and her family
from the same supplies until the famine was over. Why would God require
a poor woman to provide food for His hungry prophet?
God loves small things. He used the smallest seed to illustrate the
Kingdom of God.
"The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and
sowed in his field;  and this is smaller than all other seeds; but
when it is full grown, it is larger than the garden plants, and becomes
a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches." (Matthew
13:31-32 NASB) Why something so small? Why a mustard seed?
It was a woman's small gift he praised. "And a poor widow came and put
in two small copper coins, which amount to a cent.  And calling His
disciples to Him, He said to them, "Truly I say to you, this poor widow
put in more than all the contributors to the treasury;" (Mark 12:42-43
NASB) Why would Jesus praise a small giver, instead of those who gave a
lot of money to the treasury?
Why five small loaves and 2 fishes? Anyone can feed thousands with plenty
of food. Only God can feed them with a boy's sack lunch. And when He does,
He gets the glory.
Why 300 soldiers instead of an army of 32,000? Any military mind can
design a plan to win a battle with plenty of men and supplies, but only
God can defeat a nation with 300 men.
Why send a shepherd boy with 5 small stones to battle against a giant?
A giant beating a giant doesn't impress anyone. But a small boy defeating
the Philistines greatest warrior cannot escape anyone's notice. It brought
fear to Israel's enemies and glory to God.
Why a widow to feed the prophet? Anyone can feed a prophet with bountiful
supplies. God chose someone with small supplies, but great faith. She may
not have had much food but she had great faith. She fed the prophet first
and God honored her faith.
Don't ever underestimate the power of small things.
Some small things are necessary.
I like to have a telescopic spinning rod with me when I am fly fishing.
Occasionally, I'll come upon a pond where the spinning rod is more appropriate..
A couple of years ago, I put an 1/8 oz. jig on the small rod and was going
deep for big trout. When I cast it, something felt strange. I looked down
at the rig, and sure enough it was broken. I lost a small screw that attached
the bail to the reel. Without it, the reel was worthless.
Some small things are deadly.
A typical cubic foot of air contains a million specks that are half
a micron or larger (a micron is 1/25,000 of an inch), but the "clean rooms"
at INTEL are different. Their standards will not allow more than one speck
that is a half a micron or larger in the rooms where they manufacture the
wafers that will become computer microprocessors. (Fresh Illustrations
INTEL goes to extreme measures to maintain cleanliness because they
know that for their chips to work properly, they must be clean. Even a
microscopic speck is too large. What's the impact of a small sin? It can
ruin our witness and destroy our effectiveness.
When we are faithful to give God whatever we have and guard our heart
from even the smallest corruption, He can use us to do great things. And
one day we may hear Him say,
"Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in
handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities.
Let's celebrate together! (Matthew 25:23 NLT)."
Frequently you've heard me talk about God using our church to change
the world. Why do I believe we could be the people He uses? God specializes
in using small things to do a great work. Five loaves and two fishes. Five
smooth stones. An army of 300. A small container of flour and oil in a
widow's cabinet. The widow's mite. An unknown church on the Monterey Peninsula.
Who knows, God may choose to use unlikely people like you and me. If He
does, it won't be the first time. And when He does, all the glory will
belong to Him.