If you have been around church much, you have probably heard the story of Jesus feeding the five thousand. All four gospels cite the story of thousands coming to hear the Master Himself speak and to see the miracles that he performed. Growing up in church, I’ve been raised hearing the story of how “Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee.” (John 6:1) There He encountered a large crowd that had gathered to hear His passionate words and maybe, if they were lucky, be healed of their sickness. I know this story well, because I’ve heard a Sunday morning message about this passage at least once a year, sometimes more, for 27 years straight. But is there more to the story that I’ve never noticed before? Could God’s Holy Word have more in store for me? If I would simply slow down and really read, could I understand more about what really happened?
As I was reading this past week, I realized that just maybe I didn’t fully understand how Jesus performed this particular miracle. There is debate over the precise number of people in attendance on that day, but don’t let the unknown count distract you from the bigger picture that Jesus was painting that day. Did a multitude of people receive food? I truly believe they did, and scripture is very clear that everyone in attendance “…had enough to eat.” (John 6:12) But how could Jesus, being fully human and fully God, multiply 5 loaves of bread and two fish into an abundance of food, feeding thousands of people?
From Capernaum, where Jesus set sail from, to the other side of the Sea of Galilee was a distance of about four miles. As Jesus was sailing away, the people could see the direction he was sailing and knew the place where he was headed. Knowing his destination, the people took to the near-by roads to meet Him there. It was a nine mile trip by foot, but that didn’t slow them down. Their hope was that they would arrive in time to see Jesus perform MORE miracles.
John makes a special note to mention that the Jewish Passover Feast was near. (John 6:4) Because of this, it is possible that many pilgrims were traveling this same path on their way to the Passover Feast, and joined in with the crowd that was moving rather quickly trying to reach Jesus.
As Jesus reached his destination and was sitting with his disciples, the crowds began filling in and it was beginning to get late. When Jesus questioned his disciples about feeding the people, the best they could do was a basket of five loaves of bread and two fish owned by a small little boy. Did Jesus really cause five loaves of bread and two fish to multiply into enough food for all these people to eat?
I’m not saying that the following is what actually happened, but with the understanding that the God I serve is humble, compassionate, and cares about his creation, I can have a peace that this may be what happened that day long ago…
If there were pilgrims traveling along with the crowd, they would have certainly carried supplies for their journey. As any selfish, human would do on such a long trip, handing out food to other people would not be wise because there may not be enough for the return trip home. Knowing they must keep a close count on their supplies, everyone who had food kept it to themselves. When Andrew brings the boy with his basket of bread and fish, Jesus thanked God for it and began to share what he had with those around him. So what if, seeing Jesus sharing the food around Him, the people were moved by His example and all those gathered who had food began to do the same… Thus allowing everyone to have their fill.
What if the miracle wasn’t Jesus turning fish into more fish and bread into more bread, but it was how He turned a selfish crowd of men and women into a fellowship of givers? All that Jesus asks of us is simply to bring what we have. In our eyes it may not be valuable, but we cannot see the true value, as Jesus does, in any situation. Whether it’s a talent, tithing, or simply being available to be used by God, all we are asked to do is bring what we have.
As you move on from this blog to another one, back to your actual work, back to taking care of your kids, or whatever is next on your agenda, know that God created you and that you are perfect. We all have our likes and dislikes, but the hand of God created each and every one of us. If we can follow the example that Jesus set by giving what we have and allowing Him to handle the results… imagine what He could do in our families, our churches, and our communities. Bring what you have to Jesus, because as the hymn says: “Little is much when God is in it.”
Daniel Hillian, Youth Pastor