I am terrified of not having enough food! No, I’m not talking about myself, but rather when there is a big event for which I have some responsibility. For example, a week from Sunday (Superb Owl night – I’m going to use that title somehow next year since we’re not supposed to use “the other one!”) we will be hosting the Kingdom United Fellowship – our new partnership with a number of African-American churches in the community. This is a first time that they are coming to our place, versus me and a few of us from TSF attending an event at one of their facilities. I really, really want this to go well! I’m planning food and seeking helpers (give me a call!), and I’m also counting on A.C.&T. down the street for a lot of chicken. We’ll bring other stuff, as will our guests, but I’m still worried about it. It would be great to have Jesus here as he was in the passage we look at today – the account of the feeding of 5,000 with just a few fish and some bread. He could repeat that with chicken and hot dogs and salsa dip, right?
I try not to worry, because it always works out. Only once in the history of TSF did we not have enough food at an event. Very early in my time here (probably around 1995) we had one particular Sunday morning outdoor service at Camp Joy-El, with a luncheon to follow. Somehow, we didn’t have enough food brought by the people attending. The women of the church were HORRIFIED!! They said that this would NEVER happen again, and it hasn’t. But, I worry … so help me out.
This account of Jesus with the 12 disciples would be after their return from having been sent out by Christ to preach, etc. Back now with the Master, he was taking them to a more secluded place to likely debrief (as we see in tomorrow’s passage) and to rest, etc. But the crowds would have none of this. They followed him, along with the disciples; and now they found themselves at a place with insufficient resources to feed this multitude. The disciples have a Randy-esque… TSF women-esque response of “OH NO!!”
We are left to wonder what the crowd was thinking. Maybe they had less concerns than the disciples. They were looking for miracles. As we know from one of the other gospels, there was one Jewish, first-century boy scout in the crowd who was prepared with some food; that was all that could be found. But Jesus orders them to sit in groups of 50s and he multiplies the scant resources into enough that there was plenty left over.
Those who were there would have surely had two Old Testament stories come immediately to mind. The first would be the way that God through Moses provided for the children of Israel in the wilderness, sending them their daily manna. Beyond that, they would likely also recall a more obscure story of Elisha (in 2 Kings 4:42-44) providing more than enough vittles for 100 prophets to eat, doing so out of a mere supply of 20 loaves of bread.
Beyond that, looking back at this account from the church age, Christians would see Jesus giving thanks and breaking bread, recalling the scene from the last supper. And of course, this represents Jesus’ provision for our spiritual needs through the giving of his life.
Be it bread for physical life or spiritual life, God provides for his people. There are dozens of passages and stories to support this primary idea. So why should we ever live in any actual concern for ourselves about our basic needs? Maybe we fear too much that our basic needs may be met just in that way … basically, rather than abundantly. But in any event, it is silly to not trust God. “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?”
From Luke 9:10ff …
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, “Have 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.