Lisa and I planned a special evening … for 500 girlfriends. Our plan: provide a nourishing meal followed by a spiritual meal. We hired a caterer to accommodate the first need and we hired a renowned speaker to address the second need.
The meal was excellent…or so I heard. However, the buffet line was long and midway through, we began noticing that the food seemed to be running low. When we told the caterer, she informed us that was all the food she prepared because she assumed it would be enough.
Lisa looked at me with huge eyes and said, “What are we going to do?” I wish I had been mature enough to answer, “Let’s pray and see how God multiplies the food. He did it before. He can do it again.” Instead I leaned against the wall and replied, “I think I’m going to throw up!”
The only thing that could be done was apologize. The ladies were quick to forgive and they extended grace while smiling (perhaps with growling stomachs.)
The rest of the evening was beautiful.
On a much, much smaller scale, the story found in John 6:1-15 has two similarities. Jesus planned to meet the physical need of hunger for a much larger crowd and then follow with spiritual nourishment. That part, Lisa and I had right. Unfortunately, our response resembled Philip’s. “Where shall we get food for all these women?” Neither Philip nor I looked to the One who has proven time and time again that He can do the impossible.
I learned a little from my mistake. The next time I was confronted with the realization that I didn’t have enough food for a crowd – breakfast for 300 hungry teenagers, my friend and I prayed, turned it over to God, walked out of the kitchen and attended a morning worship service. And God was faithful. Without going into details, He took care of the problem. Everyone had a filling breakfast…and there were leftovers.
John records a great crowd of people following Jesus because they saw the miraculous signs he had performed on the sick.
Some may have been following Jesus out of curiosity. Some most likely followed because of their need for healing. But all would get hungry.
When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.
Jesus responds to people’s needs. It’s evidence of His compassion but He also understands that if our basic needs aren’t met, the needs will become a sole focus. People who are starving worry about their next meal, not the hunger in their spirit.
Philip answered him, “Eight months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!” Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, “Here is a boy with 5 small barley loaves and 2 small fish, but how far will they go among so many?”
This boy had a mom who probably packed his lunch of 5 little barley pancakes and 2 sardine like fish and never imagined the impact that would be made by her morning chore. How many parents are performing ordinary chores for their family without realizing the extraordinary impact possible? This family didn’t have much. Barley was the food of the poor. Nevertheless, this mom had taught her son to share, so he offered all he had.
Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, and the men sat down, about 5,000 of them. Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish.
There would have actually been more like 20,000 people because the men would have been accompanied by women and children—which makes the miracle even more astounding. The little boy may not have been considered worthy enough to be included in the headcount but he was of utmost value to Jesus. How often do we consider ourselves incapable and our resources inadequate?
Before Jesus did anything, He gave thanks. Pause and ponder this. We can express gratitude for what God has provided in our lives and then, we can express thankfulness for what He is going to do. We don’t have to see results first.
Can you visual the magnitude of what Jesus did? Do the math. One little boy with one little lunch + one prayer with the power of God released = a feast for 20,000 and leftovers. It should astound us—drop us to our knees with wonder and awe. God, let us never grow apathetic about this story.
Yes, the needs of mankind are overwhelming. But often, so is the grip we have on our “loaves and fishes.” We rationalize that we cannot meet needs with our meager resources and forget that God can! He’s the God who can create something out of nothing. He’s the God who can multiply into abundance. And time and time again, He uses inadequate resources and inadequate people.
When they all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” So they gathered them and filled 12 baskets with the pieces of the 5 barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.
God allows us to partner with Him. That might just be the biggest miracle of all. He allows us the joy and delight of working alongside Him. Astounding!
Thoughts to ponder:
Are we guilty of wanting to avoid problems, send them another direction? What if Jesus is telling us to look at people and their needs…really see them? Will the result resemble His—compassionate and moved to action? What if He is offering us the opportunity to partner with Him to do the impossible?
Do we give God our weaknesses or do we think He can only use our strengths?
We are all wealthier than we realize. What are we being asked to share?