What lessons is God teaching you at present?
Jesus feeds the five thousand
10 When the apostles returned, they reported to Jesus what they had done. Then he took them with him and they withdrew by themselves to a town called Bethsaida, 11 but the crowds learned about it and followed him. He welcomed them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who needed healing.
12 Late in the afternoon the Twelve came to him and said, ‘Send the crowd away so they can go to the surrounding villages and countryside and find food and lodging, because we are in a remote place here.’
13 He replied, ‘You give them something to eat.’
They answered, ‘We have only five loaves of bread and two fish – unless we go and buy food for all this crowd.’ 14 (About five thousand men were there.)
But he said to his disciples, ‘Make them sit down in groups of about fifty each.’ 15 The disciples did so, and everyone sat down. 16 Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke them. Then he gave them to the disciples to distribute to the people. 17 They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over.
As humans, we sometimes choose to learn something new. Perhaps we buy a book, or enrol in a class. And then, sometimes, Jesus decides to teach us during real life.
At the start of this chapter, the disciples had been out representing Jesus. Their impact spread extensively. Now there is more multiplication – this time the famous miracle of multiplication (vs 16,17). The disciples were ready for a rest, but instead, they found themselves before a vast crowd (five thousand men, plus women and children).
It is easy to focus on Jesus and try to imagine him doing the miracle. But Luke wants us to focus on the disciples and ponder what they were learning in this situation. They thought they knew best, asking Jesus to send the crowds away to get food (v 12). They did not realise it was time for a very practical lesson.
Jesus told them to feed the crowds (v 13). He made them count off the groups and have them sit down (vs 14,15). They were the ones distributing the food (and presumably having to answer questions about the source of the meal, v 16). And once it was all over, the disciples picked up 12 basketfuls of leftovers (v 17).
Perhaps God will put you in the middle of a lesson when you are least expecting it. Pray that your heart will be responsive to what he wants to teach you, even as he uses you to bless others.
Deeper Bible study
‘Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory’.1
The feeding of the five thousand is a familiar story – with a profound spiritual truth. Jesus is clearly concerned with the people’s physical needs as well as their spiritual needs and he does not ignore the fact that the people are growing hungry. He could send them away to find food elsewhere, but instead he tells his disciples, ‘You give them something to eat’ (v 13). Their response focuses on their lack of food. Their measly five loaves of bread and two fish are nowhere near enough to feed this crowd of five thousand men (and presumably many more, with women and children).
With Jesus, however, the little that we have is more than enough. He takes this rather measly offering and prayerfully breaks the bread and fish while looking up to heaven in thanks to God. Then he returns them to the disciples to distribute to the people. Incredibly, everyone eats and is satisfied, leaving the disciples to collect 12 basketfuls of leftover food, much more than they originally had. The disciples’ lack turns into overwhelming abundance.
I often feel God’s calling is well beyond me, but this story is about Jesus’ ability to multiply the little that we can offer. He calls us to the impossible, to accomplish far more than we ever could on our own. If we’re not living for something impossibly beyond our own ability, our vision is too small. Like the disciples, our only response is to bring what we have – the simple gifts, experiences, personality traits and faith that we have. In Jesus’ hands these things, inadequate as they may seem, are multiplied exponentially. The abundance left after this great feast speaks of his ability to do above and beyond all we could ask or imagine.
If you feel overwhelmed by God’s call on your life, decide today to bring just what you have. Watch him multiply it to feed the multitudes.
Bible in a year
Read the Bible in a year: Job 37,38; Psalm 88
Pray for Scripture Union
Please pray for the holidays and missions taking place this summer across the central region, including those in SU’s national programme and the various holiday clubs and other events that the Faith Guides are putting on in their local communities.