Twelve Baskets

  • Posted on: 28 July 2013
  • By: Chris Strevel

Feeling compassion for the hungry multitudes, our Lord took five small loaves and two fishes, just a little food carried by a boy in his pouch, gave thanks, and multiplied little into abundance. What compassion and power united to feed the hungry that day! Since he can do this, we should never doubt his ability and willingness to provide for us. He loves to give his people a feast, to provide beyond all expectation. Each day he does this in so many ways that we are usually stupefied before his goodness and miserably fail to thank him. We focus upon what we think we lack rather than upon what he has already placed into our hands.

After feeding these thousands, our Lord instructed the disciples to “gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost” (John 6:12). His command is worthy of our careful consideration, for in the blinding glory of the feeding itself, it is easy to pass over this seemingly insignificant detail. Twelve baskets held the fragments from the feast. There was more food left over than what they had in the beginning! There was a basket for each disciple. Were they not to learn from this that the Lord possessed sufficient resources to provide for them? From nothing, he can feed a host! Whether in a dark dungeon for the gospel or hated by all men or feeling oppressed beyond all possibility of recovery, he has fullness of grace and strength. They were never to forget those baskets, their Lord’s abundance and power. For us, do we not grow fearful because we forget them? No matter how great a legitimate need may be, there stands the living Bread, ready to share of his fullness with us. He takes care of every bird. He clothes the flowers with luxuriant blossoms. Everything eats from his hand. Therefore, our Savior said, “Take no thought for tomorrow.” He who owns the cattle on a thousand hills will never fail to take care of his children. He feeds his enemies. His friends should never doubt his faithfulness or fall into fear and complaining.

But there is something more here. Grace is never to be wasted. Our Lord wanted the multitudes to see more in this feeding than the bread (John 6:26). He wanted them to see the miracle, the divine power, his glory and grace and love. He wanted them to understand his sufficiency, that they need look for nothing but what they find in him. Think of all the ways the Lord has abundantly provided for us in the past. Do we remember what he gave us? Do we thank him for it? Whether he chooses to give us abundance or just enough, it was undeserved. His gifts to sinners are always gracious, always part of those promises which are “yes” only in Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 1:20). Our ingratitude to God is not the least of our sins. It blocks joy. It blinds us to the baskets the Lord has already filled, which are a testimony to what he will yet do.  

Thus, when God fills our baskets with his grace, he expects us to store it up. His faithfulness must be remembered (Ps. 119:52,55). Has he forgiven our sins? Never must the memory of our Savior’s precious blood or the glory of his sufferings to grow cold. Did he help us in our hour of need? One deliverance should lead us to praise and serve him forever with joyful hearts. But he has delivered us countless times. He has comforted us so many times that his faithfulness as our Father should never be questioned. He has filled the basket of a believing memory with far greater blessings than bread and fish. He has given us himself. Treasure his blessings, child of God. Never forget them. If necessary, and it likely will be, keep a diary of every answered prayer, unexpected provision, and joyous feast.

We shall need these records. There will be more seasons in the desert. We shall have great need to remember the Lord’s power and in leaner times to feast upon his past goodness to encourage us to depend upon him. Think of when he first brought you to saving faith in his Son. You came to Jesus only because the Father drew you (John 6:37,44). He could have left you starving in the wilderness of sin, and you could not complain of any injustice. He brought you out. He split asunder the Rock of Ages, our Lord Jesus, on the cross, and poured forth rivers of grace. Have you forgotten? Has worldliness emptied your basket of gratitude? Unless we keep in constant memory the wonders of God’s salvation, the deceitfulness of riches and worldly lusts will choke out God’s word (Mark 4:19). It happened to these very men whom the Lord fed.

When difficult times come or we hear hard doctrines that make us uncomfortable, our first thought is to complain and fret. Perhaps you heard a sermon that really stepped on your toes. You may be having trouble with your spouse or children. Perhaps your present employment seems precarious, and you feel sure you are about to be let go or have your wages diminished. You then look around at the city of man, with all its absurdities masquerading as things of importance. You hear its politicians stirring up strife and class envy, robbing and scheming, lying and killing. Sin’s blindness and ignorance are truly terrifying. You wonder whether your children will be safe; whether you will be safe. Remember those baskets. God has preserved his people through some very black hours, trials of such magnitude that it seemed as if God’s church could not survive. The memory of God’s goodness saw them through those hours, and we are their children. What will pass on to our children? That we made a good living and enjoyed our retirement years? That our house was always clean and our clothing fashionable? We set so much importance upon the meat that perishes (John 6:27).

It is far better to pass on the memory of the way the Lord delivered you from the dominion of your sins, led you to a place where you could hear his word preached, or encouraged you to persevere in the faith when you were so ferociously assailed by doubt that only God’s power upheld you. Perhaps that diary of God’s faithfulness would be used to kindle another reformation in the heart of one of your children – if you had only kept it, spoken of his goodness, thanked rather than complained. And assuming you are growing in love for the Savior, is not he the bread that does not perish (John 6:27)? Has he not satisfied you when in the world’s eyes, you were barely making it? You see, he is the true bread (John 6:35). This is what the feeding is supposed to teach us. Whatever our need, Jesus Christ is our life and fullness. Whatever our temptations, he is powerful to overcome them. However pressed we are with work and family responsibilities, he has sufficient strength to keep us on the path of faithfulness. This is what those men were supposed to think after eating those bread and fishes. Let us run to Jesus Christ. This was a fine repast, but we want him – not to be our political deliverer, for from all such delusions, he withdraws himself (John 6:15). He is a King, the only rightful King of men and nations (Rev. 1:5), but he will reign not by human might and expectations but by feeding men with himself. Unless we are eating him – believing him, desiring him, loving him, walking with him – we have no life in us (John 6:53).

And this life is abundant (John 10:10); he is abundant. There were leftovers. Think of what this means. You feel tempted to a particular sin. The pull of the flesh is strong. Stop and remember how the Lord has saved you and offers himself to you. Call upon him and abide in his word, and he will strengthen you with the living, eternal bread to resist sin and continue yielding yourself to God. Remember how he helped you in the past to overcome sin, or particularly encouraged you with a sermon, or wonderfully refreshed you through prayer, perhaps that very morning. Will we throw away his abundance for a little fleeing pleasure? He fills our basket. What love and compassion he continues to pour out upon us!  All the good he has done us, all the tears we have cried due to our stupidity and fears that he has collected into his bottle, he has done these things for us because he loves us. He loves to share his fullness with us. Having fed us once, he will never stop feeding us.

But we must labor for this bread (John 6:27). We shall have to trust him to provide for us. Trust is hard work, as anyone who has done any real trusting will tell you. To continue believing that God will provide when we do not see how he can, or to resist sin when you simply want to give in and end the pressure, these are choice morsels for which we must labor. I fear this is where too many of us fail. We profess to believe all this, but when our Lord presses us a little, delays in answering our prayers, and tests our faith, we grow weary. O, how we need to learn the lesson of the five wise virgins, especially as our Lord continues to delay his coming! He will feed us, for he has promised. But we cannot go to sleep and simply expect him to drop the bread into our lap. He expects us to stir ourselves up to ask, seek, and knock.  He expects us to carry the basket of his grace with us, the living memory of his power and faithfulness already shown to us. Waste nothing, child of God, however small the fragments may seem. His grace today is the food that will sustain you tomorrow as you journey onward to God’s eternal city.

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