31. Five Thousand Fed – When A Little Is More Than Enough (6:1-13)

After these things, Jesus went away over the Sea of Galilee, the Tiberian Sea. And a great crowd followed Him, for they saw His miraculous signs which He did on the sick ones. And Jesus went up into the mountain and sat there with His disciples. And the Passover was near, the feast of the Jews. Then Jesus lifting up His eyes and seeing that a great crowd is coming to Him, He said to Philip, From where may we buy loaves that these may eat? But He said this to test him, for He knew what He was about to do. Philip answered Him, Loaves for two hundred denarii are not enough for them, that each of them may receive a little. One of His disciples said to Him, Andrew the brother of Simon Peter, A little boy is here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what are these for so many? And Jesus said, Make the men to recline. And much grass was in the place. Then the men reclined, the number was about five thousand. And Jesus took the loaves, and giving thanks distributed to the disciples, and the disciples to those reclining. And in the same way the fish, as much as they desired. And when they were filled, He said to His disciples, Gather up the fragments left over, that not anything be lost. Then they gathered and filled twelve hand-baskets with fragments of the five barley loaves which were left over to those who had eaten. (John 6:1-13)

That “to eat” and “to drink” signify in the Word to eat and drink spiritually, which is to be instructed, and by instruction and living to imbue oneself with good and truth and to appropriate this, consequently intelligence and wisdom, can be seen from the following….In Jeremiah -Thy words shall be found, that I may eat them, and Thy Word be to me for joy and for the gladness of my heart (xv. 16).Here “to eat” manifestly stands for spiritual eating, which is to know, to perceive, and to appropriate to oneself, for it is said, “that I may eat Thy words, and Thy Word be to me for joy and for the gladness of my heart;” the “words of God” signify His precepts or Divine truths …”to eat” signifies in the spiritual sense to receive in the will and to do, from which is conjunction; (Apocalypse Explained 617a{3&4})

We leave off Chapter Five having explored the teaching concerning the Divine nature of the Word and the relationship between the Divine Love or Good called the Father and the Divine Truth called the Son. We also received teaching regarding the nature of the proprium and the natural man’s resistance to heavenly things as illustrated in the Jews response to Jesus’s presence and activity. Now because spiritual life involves learning truths and responding to them as if of ourselves, we enter Chapter Six with the statement that…

After these things, Jesus went away over the Sea of Galilee, the Tiberian sea.

This single statement sets the scene for what is spiritually involved in what is to follow. If we go back to the Greek and render it into a more literal English translation, we can begin to get a better sense of the spiritual meaning being conveyed here. Literally this reads…

From-came the Jesus (to the) other side of the sea of the Galilee of the Tiberius

We have looked at what Galilee corresponds to previously which is the good of life and this state here is said to be of Tiberius. Once we see that Tiberius means good vision, we can get a sense that what is being described is a state of seeing the good in what truth teaches. It is also called the sea of Galilee because this understanding of truth must become expressed in life. So this sea stands as something that needs to be crossed over in order for things to progress. This crossing occurs internally in our own spiritual states every time we move from an understanding of what truth teaches concerning good, to its actual application in our life. The shift in state from instruction to practice is what is meant by Jesus going to the other side. However, it is an appearance of the letter that the Lord as the Word, which is what Jesus represents, moves – for He doesn’t. He is unchanging. What shifts is our understanding of the Word. So Jesus crossing to the other side really speaks of a shift in our relationship to the Word from something that instructs our intellect to something that is to be lived.

To live from our understanding of the Word is a more interior state than merely understanding it. To live from it is to love it because it is a true acknowledgment of its authority in our life, whereas to understand and not live from it is to love one’s self and so give this precedence over what the Word teaches. And so the movement of the Word into a more interior state due to our desire to live from it elevates it in our lives. This elevation is described in the literal sense as Jesus going up into a mountain and sitting with His disciples.

And a great crowd followed Him, for they saw His miraculous signs which He did on the sick ones. And Jesus went up into the mountain and sat there with His disciples.

When we begin to look to understand the Word in relation to our life it provides us with truths which can bring healing and freedom from the instability of the natural mind. For the natural mind, if not ruled by what is spiritual, is steeped in self reliance and pride in its own intelligence and the sense of self that flows out from this is attached to the evils and falsities that are based in the loves of self and the world. In the Word, this mental condition of the spirit is described by all the diseases and sickness that people suffer from but which the Word is able to heal. So spiritually, sickness and disease arise from being disconnected from the Lord who is the source of our life.

When we first come into contact with truths and begin to give them serious consideration one of the things that we notice in regard to our inner states of life is that we become more settled within ourselves. Coming to a place of acknowledging the Lord as God and entering into the security of the truth that His Divine Providence is over all things, as well as many of the other basic truths of faith, brings a sense of peace. Our minds experience a state of being healed from various forms of sickness and dis-ease. And when the truths that Spiritual Christianity offers start to open up an awareness of there being a deeper meaning in the Word which directly addresses the inner states of our mind, there is also a state of excitement. It can be likened to a kind of honeymoon period as new truths, principles, ideas and concepts are gathered. Everything is new and exciting, and this brings a sense of peace and relief as a renewed sense of purpose and meaning, which the opening of a spiritual level to life invariably brings.

This first state of contact with truths and their effect on our mental states are described here as the miraculous signs that Jesus worked in the great crowd. These signs affect us on the level of our intellect and awaken an interest in spiritual truths for they point us to the potential that lies within the Word to bring about spiritual wholeness. But the experience of these signs is external for while powerful and wonderful, they don’t bring true inner spiritual transformation.

Inner spiritual transformation must occur on the level of the will, of what we love, and for this to occur the signs need to provide us with enough motivation to begin to work on the purification of our affections through the removal of evils and falsities. Even in the historical accounts of Jesus’s life, we can see that while many witness the signs that the He performs, only a few were affected enough to make a real commitment to follow Him. Within us there is a great crowd of natural thoughts and affections which get stirred up as we come into contact with truths from the Word. And whilst they all might be seeking to be fulfilled, only a few will be able to serve the Lord in a way that can lead to a real and lasting transformation.

As we look to find a closer connection with the Lord through His Word, many of our thoughts and affections begin to be organised around this new desire. We find that our mental life undergoes a change. Previously, our mental energy had gone into various external secular pursuits with our hopes placed upon the false dreams of fulfilment and happiness that the material world promises. We now start to find that our mind is redirecting its focus to thinking about spiritual things. Where we never sought the Lord before, we now find an inner prayer life developing as we look to the Word to lead and guide us. Things that we had never noticed, are being drawn to our attention. We begin to recognise that certain behaviours and thoughts and emotions stand opposed to spiritual goals and values.

As all this unfolds into our conscious awareness we begin to see in a new way that we are in need of the Lord. We see that we need to better understand the Word not just as ideas, but in terms of the application of them. And so the Word becomes our eyes through which we can come to see spiritually and because it’s the Word that becomes our spiritual eyes and elevates our in-sight, the Scripture says…

Then Jesus lifting up His eyes and seeing that a great crowd is coming to Him.

Which then offers the question … How can the desires and aspirations of the great crowd within the natural mind us be met? And the Word which offers this question, also then answers because what then follows is instruction concerning the process by which we can be brought to see that when the Lord is acknowledged then what is perceived to be a little can become much, and is well able to meet any need that may arise.

A natural response to any perceived need is to look at the problem that we are confronted with. This happens because we are used to being self reliant and the fixer of our own problems and the problems of others. But in this story we are seeing the principles involved in moving from being self reliant to becoming reliant on the Lord. Once the honeymoon is over the real spiritual work begins. Therefore, in our story today we see that in Jesus directing the disciples’ attention towards the crowd, we have illustrated the inner principle of having our attention being directed onto the needs of the natural mind’s thoughts and affections.

There is an important lesson here, and it’s this – we are unable of ourselves to sort out our own lives. As long as we remain in an attitude of self reliance, of placing our trust in old habitual ways of responding to conflict in life, we remain cut off from the Lord because we live in a belief that we don’t need Him. The external appearance may be such that it looks as though we have things together, but how are things inwardly? The natural man places it emphasis in externals as a measure of a successful life. But in the spiritual economy it isn’t about externals, it’s about what is internal and it is only as we look to make the Word as the source of our life that the Lord is able to come in and lead us to inner wholeness.

That we need to come to the realisation of our dependence on the Word for our life is beautifully captured in the question that Jesus asks Philip and in Philip’s response…

…From where may we buy loaves that these may eat? But He said this to test him, for He knew what He was about to do. Philip answered Him, Loaves for two hundred denarii are not enough for them, that each of them may receive a little.

The Word can meet all our needs. This is the truth being taught here. And so the Word looks to stretch our faith, to strengthen it, which is what it means to test it. To be tested spiritually has nothing to do with passing or failing – it always has to do with strengthening our connection to the Lord, of making this stronger. Here the Lord seeks to move us away from a reliance on our own ability to sort out our issues. Philip is the intellectual faculty; his name means lover of horses and horses in the Word correspond to the powers of the intellect.

The Lord elevates our understanding so that we can see the complex needs and desires that stir within the multitude of thoughts and affections that make up and crowd our natural man. How can this be satisfied? is the question that the Word seeks to clarify for us here. Philip’s response is as much as an admission that a conventional or natural approach to the problem won’t suffice. For even if two hundred denarii, a large sum of silver is available, it won’t be enough to allow each to receive even a little.

The spiritual issues in our life cannot be addressed by anyone but the Lord and the only way He can do this is by the Word. And the way forward will only open as we give up our own efforts to sort things out and look to the Word and the principles for our life that it teaches. Giving up on our self reliance is what is expressed in Philips response and for all intents and purposes, the task appears impossible.

But it is the realisation of this that opens the way for our perception to shift from focusing on the problem to instead connecting with the Lord as the Word who is the solution to every human need. It’s a perception that arises out of our willingness to obey the Word as the authority for our life, which is shown in that it is Andrew who speaks next…

One of His disciples said to Him, Andrew the brother of Simon Peter, A little boy is here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what are these for so many?

Andrew is described as the brother of Simon Peter, and just as Philip represents an inner mental faculty that the Lord uses in our regeneration so too is Andrew the brother of Simon Peter. Simon Peter represents the truths of faith and Andrew as his brother is the love of those truths witnessed in a life of obedience to them. Thus, it is our obedience to the Word that brings to the foreground this little boy who has five barley loaves and two fish. But there is still doubt that arises from the external appearances of the senses, for the statement is made by Andrew

…but what are these for so many?

Who or what is this little boy who has in his possession the solution to the pressing need? This little boy is the newly developing spiritual life in us. Children in the Word are symbols of innocence and spiritual innocence is with those who follow the Lord, who obey His Word. So this little boy is the innocence of a genuine spiritual life and holds a little goodness and truth that when in the hands of the Lord can feed a great crowd. Five barley loaves and two fish…. to the natural mind, the Word appears to be woefully inadequate to meet the pressing needs of the human heart.

Yet here we see that what the natural mind regards as close to nothing can, in the hands of the Lord, be more than enough to meet our needs. This sustenance is released from the Word as we recognise that the spiritual good represented by the barley loaves, and the truths of the Word represented by the fish, are the Lord’s. This is represented in the act of them making their way into His hands so that He might take them and distribute them. All that we have is given from above, and here we see the principle of influx represented in Jesus passing the food to His disciples and they in turn passing what they have received out into the crowd who are said to have received what they desired. This is an important point, for reception is according to state, and so we only receive what will fill the vessel, no more or no less. So the Word can meet our need despite how things appear to us; the question is always – Whose authority will we subscribe to? Will be place our trust in It, or our self?

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