It is a telling moment, one I believe to be both literal and symbolic. Such is the importance of the event that it is the one miracle all four gospel writers recorded. And it speaks volumes about the ability of God working through our lives. It is the miracle of the feeding of the five-thousand, recorded in Matthew 14:13-21, Mark 6:31-44, Luke 9:10-17 and John 6:5-15.
Applicable lessons abound from the passages, ripe for gleaning. For the sake of brevity, I will pluck only one for now: if we only look to our abundance – our understanding, our gifts, our treasure – we will miss out on what God wants us to do in our lives. We need to see things as Christ does: through eyes of faith.
Let’s assess the situation in Luke, the most succinct of these four passages. The crowd had gathered, and Jesus had taught and healed them. They marveled.
And they lingered.
And they needed to be fed.
As if Christ wasn’t aware that these folks may need physical nourishment at the end of a long day, the disciples tell Jesus, “Send them away!” (I’m always taken aback at the temerity the twelve disciples so often display. But that’s another lesson…)
How does Jesus reply? “You feed them.” Eventually, “feeding” the flock would be there job anyway (read John 21:15-19, which is really still another lesson altogether, but…). Their response was predictable: “You’ve got to be kidding, right? Five loaves and two fishes for five-thousand people. And not a supermarket in sight. Anyone else see a problem here?”
Jesus saw no problem at all, because He saw with eyes of faith. All the disciples were looking at was their ability. They were limited by what they could logically see. But Jesus wanted to stretch their faith. He instructed the twelve, gave thanks to the Father, which always goes hand-in-glove with faith. (See there? Yet another lesson.)
Faith is a stretch. But faith is exactly what God wants from us – expects from us. If all we ever do is rely on ourselves to get things done, we are limited. Crippled even. Faith is like a muscle. It requires exercise to grow strong, even just to maintain. Left unworked, muscle begins to atrophy. The same is true with faith.
What’s limiting you in doing what God wants you to do? Do you believe He would expect something you and not equip you for the task at hand? Step out in faith with gratitude for the wonderful work God has planned for you, not concerned about results or success, but joyful that the Lord is being glorified through your faithfulness. And many more than you can imagine just might be fed from your hand.