The day was ending. The time of the evening meal had arrived. The twelve disciples came and said to Yeshua, “This place is remote and the hour has already grown quite late. Dismiss the crowd and send them away so that they may go into the surrounding villages and countryside and find lodging and get something to eat; for here we are in a desolate place.” The Master looked out over the small army of people and said to the twelve, “They do not need to go away; you give them something to eat” (Matthew 14:16).
Turning to Philip, He asked, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these may eat?” The Gospel of John comments on this question: “This He was saying to test him, for He Himself knew what He was intending to do” (John 6:6).
This conversation sounds similar to the time Moses objected to promising the people of Israel meat. He said, “Shall flocks and herds be slaughtered for them, and be enough for them? Or shall all the fish of the sea be gathered together for them, and be enough for them?" (Numbers 11:22). The LORD replied, “Is the LORD’s hand shortened? Now you shall see whether my word will come true or not?” (Numbers 11:23).
Apparently Philip did not pass the test. He estimated the size of the crowd and said, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, for everyone to receive a little ” (John 6:7). The other disciples agreed with Philip’s assessment: “Shall we go and spend two hundred denarii on bread and give them something to eat?” (Mark 6:37). A laborer earned a denarius for a day’s work. Two hundred denarii represented more than half a year’s wages.
Did the disciples actually have two hundred denarii to spend, or was it a hypothetical, round number? They did share a common purse, and they received support from donors. They might have collectively had two hundred denarii. In that case, they objected, saying, “Even if we spend all the money that we have, it will be insufficient to feed such a multitude.”
How might Philip and the other disciples have answered correctly to pass the test? Perhaps Philip might have replied, “Master, you have taught us not to worry about what we will eat and what we will drink. Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap, nor gather into barns, and our heavenly Father feeds them.”