When Jesus sent his disciples out on mission, they went preaching the Gospel and praying over people. They saw the power of God in action, and they came back to share with Jesus and with each other the marvels they had witnessed. Then Jesus took them on retreat – a private place where they could rest and relax after a busy time of mission.
At least that was the original idea. But God had other plans:
We read in Luke 9:11 – “The crowds, meanwhile, learned of this and followed him. He received them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and he healed those who needed to be cured.”
The disciples thought they were going to have a nice rest – a private retreat with Jesus, untroubled by the problems and needs of people. But if you follow Jesus, and come close to Jesus, people are going to follow you. People are hungry, hurting, in great need. We need to realize that part of being a disciple of Jesus is being ready to be inconvenienced, sought after. We are not here on earth for ourselves – we are here to serve.
Look closely at Jesus
Jesus receives the people. The people followed him, needy and wounded, and Jesus chose to change his plans. He received them.
What did His disciples do? Verse 12 – As the day was drawing to a close, the Twelve approached him and said, “Dismiss the crowd so that they can go to the surrounding villages and farms and find lodging and provisions; for we are in a deserted place here.”
The disciples were tired. They wanted peace and quiet, to have a nice dinner by themselves with Jesus. Send this noisy crowd away. Besides that, they reminded Jesus that they were in a deserted place. There were no grocery stores or fast food restaurants nearby.
Okay, ready for what comes next? Brace yourself! Here comes the challenge.
Feed them yourselves
The disciples wanted this crowd to go and fend for themselves, but Jesus says no, you take care of them yourselves.
Now here comes the excuse: “We have nothing but five loaves and two fish.”
They thought they were off the hook. We’ve only got five rolls, and two sardines — nothing in comparison to how much food we’d need to feed everyone. They’re thinking, “Now Jesus will finally send the crowd away and we can have a quick bite to eat before getting to bed.”
Jesus did not let them off the hook, but he did something very wise. Vs. 14 — “Have them sit down in groups of 50 or so.” Serving a group of 50 is a lot different than serving a crowd of 15,000. Jesus takes the threatening 5000 and breaks them into smaller, more manageable groups.
Jesus blesses the pitiful amount of food
You know what happens next. The disciples grudgingly hand over their hoarded picnic. Jesus prays, blesses the food, and the disciples start to distribute it.
This group of 50 – check
This group of 50 – fed
This group of 50 – done
And so on and so on.
Every single person, even the disciples, had more than enough to eat. So much food was left that it filled 12 wicker baskets.
God’s miraculous provision!
What about us?
So what can we learn from this?
We say we want to follow Jesus. We say we want to do God’s will. But we often have conditions to how far we will actually go, or how inconvenienced we allow ourselves to be.
We are so good at excuses…
- I don’t know how to do it (as if we could never learn something new).
- I’ve never done that before.
- I don’t have enough.
- I’m too old. I’m too busy. I’m too dumb.
- Maybe when I’m retired.
- Etc. etc.
But God loves to take the little offerings we generously give him — offerings of our time, our talents, our money — and multiply them to feed thousands. As small and as pitiful as what we have to offer can seem, if given cheerfully and generously, the Lord can use it to bring comfort and hope to many more than we imagine.
In my next post, we will look at some practical ways that we can respond to Jesus call to “Give them something to eat yourselves.”