Jesus Feeds the Five Thousand
30 The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. 31 Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”
32 So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. 33 But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. 34 When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.
35 By this time it was late in the day, so his disciples came to him. “This is a remote place,” they said, “and it’s already very late. 36 Send the people away so they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.”
37 But he answered, “You give them something to eat.”
They said to him, “That would take eight months of a man’s wages! Are we to go and spend that much on bread and give it to them to eat?”
38 “How many loaves do you have?” he asked. “Go and see.”
When they found out, they said, “Five—and two fish.”
39 Then Jesus directed them to have all the people sit down in groups on the green grass. 40 So they sat down in groups of hundreds and fifties. 41 Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to his disciples to set before the people. He also divided the two fish among them all. 42 They all ate and were satisfied, 43 and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces of bread and fish. 44 The number of the men who had eaten was five thousand.
Start Where You Are
We have been focusing on the revelation of Jesus’ identity, and here we see he is a miracle worker. But some modern theologians actually debunk this miracle, saying that Jesus didn’t multiply the loaves and fish, but instead, got everyone to share the meals they had brought with them – in this way, Jesus was not a miracle worker, but more of a socialist teacher…like Lenin, or Chairman Mao, I suppose. But this clearly is not the intent of this account, because it says that Jesus divided up the two fish, not the many fish that the crowd had brought. Surely Jesus was a teacher in a way, but it is important to remember all the other revelations of his identity as well, and not to get fixated upon one.
What strikes me most about the passage is the brief exchange between Jesus and the disciples, which runs in the same vein as many of their conversations: they say something obvious, Jesus says something spiritual, and they completely misunderstand, and Jesus explains. Here, the disciples are fixated on how much food they will need, and how much it will cost, but Jesus’ is focused on something else. He doesn’t want to know how much it will take, but instead, how much they currently have. And he uses the little they have, the two fish and five loaves, and feeds the 5000 men.
This may seem trivial, but I don’t think it is because it is actually a great reminder to us. When we are asked or feel called to do something, we typically imitate the disciples – we assess whether we have enough skill or money or time, and if we don’t, we refuse; if we do, then we go ahead. But the critical problem with this mentality is that God is nowhere to be found. We take only human considerations into account.
Instead, Jesus seems to be teaching us that if we are called into service, not to focus on how much it will take to get something done, but making sure that you bring whatever you have with you, no matter how small, and offer it up for Christ to use. And we do this knowing that we serve a God who can multiply our small skills and offerings, and make them into so much more. So in short, don’t focus on how much you have – instead, think about how much God can make it into!
1. Has there ever been a time where you knew your resources, skills, or experience was not enough but God still used you?
2. Is there a situation that you feel God is calling you to serve somewhere or someone, but you feel like you do not have enough fish and loaves?
3. What do you think your personal fish and loaves are? In other words, no matter how small, what are the gifts that you have that can be used by God?