Jesus and his disciples had been on an arduous ministry tour and were tired and in need of a break. So they headed by boat to a private place to be alone for a while and rest. But word had spread and people were waiting there for them. Lots of people. 5,000 families, to be exact (which isn’t really exact, because who knows how many literal bodies 5,000 families yields!). Spurred by compassion and calling, in spite of weariness and hunger, Jesus began to minister to the throngs of humanity gathered near the shore. The disciples soon realized that the people were hungry and suggested sending them out on their own to find food.
But Jesus said to them, “you feed them.” “With what?” they asked. “We’d have to work for months to earn enough money to buy food for all these people!”
“How much bread do you have?” He asked. “Go and find out.”
They came back and reported, “We have five loaves of bread and two fish.” (Mark 6:37-38 NLT)
Do you wonder what those disciples were thinking? How in the world can Jesus expect us to feed 5,000 families with only this? This isn’t even enough for us to eat!
Then Jesus told the disciples to have the people sit down in groups on the green grass. So they sat down in groups of fifty or a hundred.
Jesus took the five loaves and two fish, looked up toward heaven, and blessed them. Then, breaking the loaves into pieces, he kept giving the bread to the disciples so they could distribute it to the people. He also divided the fish for everyone to share. They all ate as much as they wanted, and afterward, the disciples picked up twelve baskets of leftover bread and fish. A total of 5,000 men and their families were fed from those loaves! (Mark 6:39-44 NLT)
Wow. For some reason this well loved, often told account of the miraculous has hit me right between the eyes this time.
I see the hunger around me. Physical hunger, spiritual hunger, emotional hunger. And so often I find myself assuming that these hungry people will get fed somewhere else. In the next town over. Down the street or around the corner. Somewhere, but not here. Then I hear Him say, “You feed them.” And I am quick to reply, “With what? How?” or “When I’m ready, certainly not now.” My insecurities scream. “Me feed them? Surely I lack the necessary training. I’m so far from perfect (or ready, or equipped or talented…). What will they learn from me? What do I have to offer?”
Then I hear Him ask me the same question He asked His disciples that day on the grassy hill. “How much do you have? Go and find out.”
When Jesus asked the disciples these questions, He was not simply asking them to empty their own backpacks and tally the goods. He was asking them to inventory the very crowd they were assigned to feed. What have we got to work with boys? What are we starting with? What is the reality of our situation right here and right now?
Why did He put them through this exercise, I wonder? Why would He want me to do the same? Couldn’t the Son of God rain down manna on that crowd to feed them all beautifully and efficiently? Don’t you think He already knew how many loaves of bread there were that day? Would it have mattered if the answer were different? What if they had two loaves and one fish? Or three fish and seven loaves? Or even one loaf and no fish? I don’t think so. I believe Jesus had a plan.
His plan was to feed His followers (physically and spiritually), to allow everyone to share in the experience, and to reveal God the Father in the process. The resources inventoried and gathered that day were merely the vehicle by which to draw everyone into the miracle and to make sure they witnessed the glory of God revealed through the Son, through every single crumb and fish bone.
Jesus had a lesson for them all. And for us.
You are hungry. I will feed you.
Assess what you have and give it all to me. I will make it be all you need to be fed – and to feed others.
How much do you have? Are you ready to see it multiplied?
Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen. Ephesians 3:20-21 NLT