Perhaps one of the most familiar stories of Jesus’ ministry is the feeding of the five thousand. Most of us probably know it well. A large audience had spent the day listening to Jesus teach about the work of God upon the earth and as the late afternoon drew on, his disciples approached him with the words, “ It’s very late, send the people away so they may go to the surrounding villages and buy food to eat.” (Mark 6:35) However, Jesus shocks the disciples with the direct command, “You give them something to eat.”
There is the first lesson.
It would be so much more convenient if we could just send people with needs away somewhere. Send them to DHS, or the Salvation Army, or some other church, or day I say it…to the pastor. But Jesus does not give his disciples that option. “You feed them!” he says to the twelve. As believers, that instruction echoes to us this very day. Are we alert to the situations in our community that may call for us to meet the needs of people for food, shelter, or even emotional support?
Now it is not difficult to understand the consternation of the disciples with this command. Twelve ill prepared people not told to feed five thousand? No wonder they said, “That would require eight months wages to do. Do you expect us to come up with that much?”
Now here is the second lesson of Jesus. He responded, “What do you have? They responded “Five and two fish”. Jesus said, “Give them to me.” The message is clear. The answer lay in, first, our being willing to give what we have and second, to give it first to Jesus. Too often, we do not give because among other reasons, we perceive that we have nothing adequate to the task. What will my five dollar bill accomplish? What will my small bag of staples really do? How do I meet this great need with only this small sack lunch? Jesus says, “Let me worry about that.”
Second, the lesson is also, don’t just give to the need; give to Christ. The disciples were not instructed to go immediately to the crowd, but to bring the bread and fish . In a way, it is God saying to us that it is never about what we can do…it is about what he can do with what we have. There is an old hymn entitled, “Little is Much, When God is in It.” That hymn proclaims the message that when we yield our bit, God can do great things. Do you have a loaf or a fish that you could share today?