Where are we to buy bread?

In John 6, when Jesus lifts up his eyes and sees a large crowd approaching, he turns to Philip, one of his disciples, and asks him, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?” It’s a simple question, really. Where do we go, Philip, to provide for these people? Where is the place we need to go? Where are you looking, Philip? I have eyes to see what’s right in front of me (a large crowd approaching); do you have eyes to see what’s right in front of you (i.e. me)?”

What I love about Jesus’ question here is his insistence on involving his disciples in the things he plans to do. John tells us that Jesus said this to Philip in order to test him, for he already knew what he was going to do. And I think it’s safe to say that the “test” for Philip involved (more than anything else) whether or not he would look to Jesus as the answer to his dilemma or focus on the size of the problem. Philip chooses the size of the problem: “Two hundred denarii worth of bread would not be enough for each of them to get a little.” It’s hard not to be just like Philip, isn’t it? Some problems really are big; too big for us. We want to do the right thing but don’t see any way with the resources we have.

But this is where this encounter with Jesus is so powerful. Philip answers Jesus’ question in the same way he would have if it had been asked by one of the other disciples. He wasn’t expecting Jesus to do anything out of the ordinary. And so his response to Jesus only involves the ordinary: we’d need money to buy this much bread. But who has that kind of money? Philip’s eyes are on the problem he’s confronted with, not on Jesus. Jesus longs to show his people the power he has to do what no one else can; to provide for people in need with his care and compassion. But he needs them looking at him. He needs their eyes on him.

Why do you think it’s so hard to focus our attention on Jesus? How do you think our prayers would change if we were looking only at Jesus instead of at our problems? How do we begin to correct this?