Jesus Asks the Disciples to Feed a Crowd
Jesus and his disciple were camping out in a deserted place away from the crowds for a few days. Perhaps they needed some quiet time alone to pray and rest. But someone must have found out where they were because soon thousands of people were rushing out in the desert to be near Jesus. Scripture says that when Jesus looked out over all of the people: “He was moved with compassion for them, and He healed all of the sick among them.” (Matthew 14:14)
All day long more and more groups arrived and soon there were people everywhere the eye could see. Scripture says there were five thousand men in the crowd and in that society only men were considered important enough to count! No one ever counted women or children! So, with the women and children, there might have been fifteen thousand or more people in the crowd that day. And all day Jesus loved the people and held their children on His knee and healed their sick and taught them about God.
The day passed and it was getting dark and everyone was getting hungry. So the disciples came to Jesus suggesting that Jesus send the people away. Perhaps some of the people could buy food in the nearby villages, they said. But Jesus answered them: “The people don’t need to go away. You give them something to eat.” (Matthew 14:16)
Do you notice that Jesus isn’t telling the disciples that He will feed the crowd? He is telling the disciples that they are to feed the crowd! Of course the disciples know that Jesus will back them up in anything He asks them to do. But still the disciples are overwhelmed with Jesus pushing them out in front to do this impossible job!
The disciples reluctantly go through the crowd asking if anyone has food they can share for dinner. Amazingly no one in the crowd brought any food along except a young boy whose Mother packed him a lunch of five loaves of bread and two fish. This generous little boy is hungry but he is still willing to give his lunch to the disciples to share with everyone. So the disciples bring the boy’s small lunch back to Jesus and tell Him that five loaves of bread and two fish are all that they could find to feed the thousands of people! The disciples shake their heads. They know this won’t work!
Jesus smiles and reaches for the bread and fish and calls out to the crowd for everyone to sit down on the grass and get ready for dinner. Then Jesus stands and prays and holds up the little lunch and blesses it and breaks the bread and fish and gives the small pieces back to the disciples asking them to serve dinner to the thousands!
The disciples are nervous and hang their heads but they reluctantly obey Jesus and go through the motions of starting to hand out bread and fish. Passing out food to hungry people is a big job, especially when there are only five loaves of bread and two fish to give out! What will they do when it runs out? Won’t this be embarrassing?
But it seems that as the disciples’ break more bread into pieces, the broken pieces seem to be growing bigger! It is getting darker now and in the flurry of giving out hunks of bread to outstretched hands, more bread just seems to be multiplying in the disciple’s baskets as they go about! They keep passing out food and there is still more in their baskets. What is happening? Is this wild and crazy or not?
People are laughing and eating and the supply of fish isn’t running out either. The disciples feel warmed in the Spirit as they move about serving the food. No matter how many pieces of fish they give away, more fish miraculously show up in their baskets as they hurry through the crowd! In the darkness and confusion people are being fed and there is joy and abundance in the Lord! Scripture says that everyone enjoys dinner that night under the stars fellowshipping with Jesus and the disciples. And each person there has more than enough to eat. After dinner the disciples have twelve baskets full of pieces of bread and fish left over!
What can we learn from this miraculous Bible story of the feeding of the five (or ten) thousand? Doesn’t this miracle point to the fact that Jesus is the Son of God? Soon after Jesus feeds this huge crowd, He preaches to the people and tells them: “I am the Bread of Life. Any person who comes to Me shall never be hungry. And any person who believes in Me shall never thirst.” (John 6:35) I believe Jesus is speaking here about filling our spiritual hunger and thirst. But of course Jesus is deeply concerned that people who are physically hungry are fed too. Jesus did not send the crowd away hungry and neither should we. Doesn’t this mean that we who belong to Jesus should follow His example and do what we can to feed the hungry both spiritually and physically?
Can you imagine how the young boy in the story feels as he watches his one little lunch grow and multiply and become large enough to feed and bless thousands and thousands of people? When he willingly gives his lunch to the disciples, Jesus takes it and blesses it and makes it to be so much more than it would have been if the boy had kept it for himself!. And isn’t that what Jesus does with what we give Him too? He takes and blesses and multiplies what we give Him (our service, our life, our money) and uses our gifts to be blessings in ways we can never imagine.
I don’t think the disciples really wanted to try to feed the crowd with that one little lunch in the first place. But they reluctantly obeyed Jesus and started passing out the few pieces of bread and fish anyway. And while they were doing what Jesus asked them to do, the miracle unfolded! And then things got crazy! It must have been so much fun for the disciples to have been there and to have been able to play a part in that amazing miracle!
And perhaps we are like the disciples. Jesus is here today in our lives too and He invites us to play a part in His miracles just as He did the disciples back then. The love of Christ is powerful and dynamic and since we belong to Him we are empowered by His love. If we obey Him we are provided with an attitude of humility and servant hood. And when we have a job to do He gives us the assurance of strength and power. (His strength and power being there for us) And as we move ahead doing what He asks us to do, the miracle unfolds! And there is joy and abundance in the Lord and people are fed and blessed .
I think that being able to live out our lives today as faithful Christians is a much greater miracle than the miracle of feeding the five thousand was back then. Jesus is here today with us blessing and guiding and growing the grace that is in our lives. Troubles come at us each day and an invisible strength seems to take hold and get us through. And temptations come at us and threaten to bring us down and we stumble and have hateful thoughts and do ugly things. But the promise is always there for us: “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness,” (2 Corinthians 12:9) He just keeps picking us up and carrying us along! The exciting miracle of living a Christian life just keeps unfolding and growing and multiplying! And in the end when we finish the course and cross the line, there will be twelve baskets of love and grace leftover!