I am from a small Indiana town of around 8,000 people. That number has fluctuated plus or minus a few hundred every decade since 1940, but has stayed steady at that 8,000 mark for over 75 years now. (I fact checked these figures on the internet for accuracy. And, since I found this information on the internet, it must be right. Right?)
8,000 people does not a big city make. It seems especially small now that I live in a large metro area of around 1,000,000 citizens. (No, I did not fact check this number, but I heard it on the news once.) Still… 8,000 people gathered in one place makes quite a crowd.
Especially when this crowd is following you around, seeking miracles.
Matthew 14:13-21 records the scene where Jesus fed a throng of 5,000 men.
Plus women and children.
In other words, that crowd most likely exceeded the population of my hometown. It was probably closer to 15,000-20,000 people.
15 Now when it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a desolate place, and the day is now over; send the crowds away to go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” 16 But Jesus said, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” 17 They said to him, “We have only five loaves here and two fish.” 18 And he said, “Bring them here to me.” 19 Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass, and taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing. Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. 20 And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over. – Matthew 14:15-20 (ESV)
This place on the shore of the Sea of Galilee had no restaurants.
No supermarkets or convenience stores.
Not even a fruit stand.
It was getting dark. They were getting hungry. And the disciples felt it best for all involved that Jesus send the crowd away to buy themselves something to eat.
Think about that. I don’t believe the disciples thought their plan through. My hometown has two fine supermarkets and numerous mini-marts. But if all 8,000 showed up at once, I don’t think the bread and fish supply would hold out.
But what was Jesus’ solution for the disciples, the soon-to-be leaders of the first church?
“You feed them.”
Five small loaves of unleavened bread and two kippers were all they could gather. Dinner for one is served. Now what about the remaining 14,999 hungry and tired seekers?
Then Jesus did what nobody thought possible. And – with that small morsel of food – not only did everyone have his or her fill, there remained twelve baskets of leftovers.
Of course, if that happened today, the media would start up a scandal. I can see the headlines now: “Messianic Figure Eschews Suggestion of ‘Disciples’; Cheats Local Merchants Out Of Huge Revenues By Feeding Local Mob Himself”.
The disciples saw the only solution that seemed logical. Or possible. “Send them away to fend for themselves.”
But that isn’t Jesus’ plan.
“You feed them.” You step out in faith and do what seems impossible. You care for them. Don’t worry about the details. Just do what Jesus said to do.
Sometimes we look at our own resources – our abilities, our strengths and weaknesses, our finances, our situation – and we say, “It isn’t enough.” Either we aren’t good enough, or we feel we have nothing to give.
But, the simple truth is, the results are not our concern. Bring what the Lord has given you to the table and watch Him multiply what you have to contribute. Watch Him work through you to reach others, to nourish others (physically and spiritually), to help others.
When the disciples looked only at their own contribution, they saw lack. Who could possibly do so much with so little?
Today I want to encourage you to step out in faith. Do something for somebody else. Use the gifts God gave you. Encourage someone. Bless someone. Don’t worry about failure. Don’t ponder success. Give of yourself to someone else today. Seek to bless (not to be blessed). Pour yourself out in Jesus’ name with great abandon. And, in doing so, experience the exhilarating joy of Jesus!
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to run to the store before they sell out of sardines and pita bread.