Studies in John's Gospel -- Part 8
Careless Calculating (I)
By: A.J. Higgins, M.D.
Passage: John 6
We live at the mercy of correct calculations, calculation that admits no margin for error. High speed transportation demands accuracy to avoid tragedy. Space programs require it for success. Industries rise and fall, retreat and forge forward on the basis of their calculations. Errors in these fields may cost profits, jobs, or tragically even lives.
In the spiritual realm, that intangible, unscientific realm that modern man has largely chosen to ignore, calculation becomes even more critical. The Lord Jesus poignantly pointed to the ultimate issue: "What shall it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" Mark 8:36. Clearly then, this is no market for speculation. John 6 depicts men coming face to face with the claims of Christ. In their decision making they misapplied basic functions of mathematics and arrived at the wrong conclusions.
An Error in Division:
The miracle of the Lord Jesus Christ feeding the five thousand holds a unique place in the gospel chronicles. It is the only miracle recorded by all four gospel writers. Although a literal miracle, it is also a picture for us of the central message of God’s gospel, His good news for mankind.
A large company had followed Christ. It was now toward evening, and they were evidently hungry. The amassed resources of the disciples amounted to five barley loaves and two small fishes. The disciples calculated "What are they among so many?" The need was vast; the resources apparently meager. How could so little be divided among so many? Yet in this well known miracle, the Lord Jesus met the need to the extent that all were filled, and there were leftovers to fill "twelve baskets." Only the Son of God could perform that division.
But this was an object lesson from the Sovereign Son and Divine Teacher to introduce a most vital subject: The Bread of Life the Lord Jesus Christ. For the miracle provided a vivid illustration how He, "the Bread of God come down from heaven" was to give His life so that all who receive Him as Savior would have eternal life (vs. 33-35).
As then, so men today make the same error in spiritual division. How can the work of Christ upon Calvary meet my needs? How can His one life given up at Calvary meet the need of every sinner? Men feel a compulsion to do something additional to pay for their sins, to obtain life from God. Although not uttered in words, the testimony of their actions is that Christ is not enough. The testimony of God is "He that hath the Son hath life." (I Jn. 5:12).
An Error in Multiplication:
Continuing in John 6, we come face to face with an error in multiplication. The Lord Jesus had fed the large crowd with five loaves and two fish. The next day He explained to the same group how He was the bread of God that had come to give His life so that others might live.
The crowd, though conceding that He had supplied bread for them, pointed to the miracle of the manna that was supplied not for one day but for forty years in the wilderness. So they asked: "What sign showest thou then that we may see and believe?" Their path of logic to faith was direct and simple: Multiplied miracles equal faith.
Before you condemn too hastily, remember that much of the same mistaken mathematics is prevalent today. Paul has clearly stated that faith rests alone upon revelation from God through His word the Bible. "Faith cometh by hearing (not seeing) and hearing by the word of God." (Romans 10:17). Faith lays hold of God’s Word as sufficient in all things.