I was reading in the Gospels the other day & came across the account often referred to as “Jesus feeds the 5000.” Here’s a sum up:
Jesus & His disciples are dead tired. They’ve been working & interacting with large crowds of people seeking out Jesus for who knows how long. Jesus invites the disciples to “come away” to a secluded place to rest… but on the way, a few people spot Jesus, & they tell a few friends, who tell a few friends, who tell a few friends… you get the picture. Eventually, when Jesus & the disciples get to their “come away” spot, they find that there’s a crowd of more than 5000 waiting for them. Jesus has compassion on them & teaches them… for a long time. At the end of the day, some of the disciples come to Jesus & say, “Hey! It’s been a long day. We were tired when we started, but NOW we’re toast. Would you please send the people away so they can GO HOME & get some FOOD to eat?”
Jesus’ response? “You feed them.”
Immediately, the disciples responded with all of the reasons they COULDN’T feed the crowds; chief among the reasons (excuses?) was that they DID NOT have enough.
Not enough money to buy food.
Not enough food among them for the crowds to share.
Big problem – no solution (that they could see.)
Jesus, however, asks them a question, “So, what DO you have? Fish? Loaves of bread? What DO you have?”
After taking stock of potential resources, they return with the answer, “2 fish & 5 loaves of bread. THAT”S not going to go very far when it comes to feeding THIS crowd.”
It was as though Jesus hadn’t even heard them… after they told Him what they DID have, He simply instructed the disciples to tell the crowds to sit down in manageable groups, & that they’d start the food distribution in a minute.
I wonder what was running through the disciples minds as they were herding tired & hungry (& hangry?) individuals into groups of 50 & 100. “We’re supposed to be telling these people to sit down & wait for FOOD? When we don’t have enough for 2 hungry dudes, let alone 5000. What are we gonna do?”
Jesus took the bread, blessed it & gave thanks, then gave it to the disciples to pass out. “This won’t take long,” they had to be thinking. And then Jesus took the fish, blessed it & gave thanks, & passed it on to the disciples for distribution.
And distribute they did.
“Where is the food coming from?” they wondered. “We started with 5 loaves & 2 fish, & now we’re working on our 10th group of 100, & there is still MORE food to pass out. What’s going on?”
All the while person after person, big group after big group were fed to the point of fullness… & there was still more food. Jesus sent the disciples out to gather up the leftovers (Waste not, want not), & by the time they were finished & the last of the crowds were waddling on their way home, they’d collected 12(!) small baskets full of leftover bread & fish. What they had at the END of their feast was MUCH more than what they’d started with.
It’s funny to me how different Jesus’ perspective is from His disciples – they both can see the challenges in front of them:
- We’re all tired & hungry
- The crowds here are HUGE
- We don’t have enough money to buy food
- We don’t have enough food to share with everyone
However, instead of focusing on the (very real) issues of not having enough of multiple resources to accomplish the task, Jesus challenges (invites?) the disciples to THINK DIFFERENTLY. Instead of focusing on what they DON’T have, how about exploring what they DO have.
It’s a subtle, but significant shift. Jesus is inviting His disciples to evaluate & weigh the challenges in front of them seeing their contribution of loaves & fish as a PART, (not the whole) solution to the food dilemma. Basically, He’s asking, “What do we have to work with, to bring to Father God? What can we offer up to Him?”
Jesus’ actions of giving thanks & blessing the food wasn’t about “protecting the food.” No – it is about acknowledging that God has provided enough, for the task at hand, & that, coupled with faith-in-action of obedience (it took guts to start the food distribution for sure!) was enough for God to make a way & do FAR MORE with seemingly meager & insignificant amounts of food than they would’ve been able to do with lots of money & adequate time to plan. It’s like Jesus was inviting them to believe that God can (& will) do great things (in scope & in number) even if all we have to offer is a real small token (or a mustard seed portion of faith.)
Makes me wonder about the challenges I/we face… where the 1st thing that I usually do when examining the challenge is to review whether or not I have the resources to pull off working through/past the challenge… & sometimes I don’t even consider or remember to ask God what He has to say. I just pull a “we don’t have enough money/resources, etc… There’s no way…”
What if Jesus is wanting to issue the same sort of invitation to us that He did to His disciples 2000 years ago – the invitation to look at what we DO have vs. what we DON’T. Maybe He is inviting us to submit ourselves & our resources to Him & to THANK Him for His provision & to BLESS what He’s given us & then to look to take steps of obedience, wherever He’s directing us.
It’s a definite shift in perspective & requires a bit of stepping back from practicality, feasibility, & sometimes even logic. Jesus’ perspective seems to be, “I can do MORE with the little you have to offer than you can at your best, fully resourced & ready to go. TRUST Me, put your FAITH in Me, & don’t merely look at what you DON”T have to take on the task at hand; consider what you DO have…”
What situations are you currently facing that Jesus might be asking you to evaluate, “What DO you have?”
If Jesus was to ask you, “What DO you have?” what would your response be?