I have heard more than a few sermons based on the story of the feeding of the 5,000. I have even preached a few of them myself. I wonder what preachers have against the feeding of the 4,000 that it doesn’t get so much air play. Isn’t it just the same story with a thousand less people being fed and a few less baskets of bread and fish bits left over? Not really!
Three days of miracles set the scene.
“Great crowds came to him, bringing the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute and many others, and laid them at his feet; and he healed them. The people were amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled made well, the lame walking and the blind seeing. And they praised the God of Israel.” Matthew 15:30-31
I can imagine that no one wanted to go home just in case they missed something! Three days of celebration, during which they gave no heed to a physical hunger as a spiritual hunger was satiated. God was no longer silent, no longer absent, but in Jesus He had stepped into their lives. God was dealing with whatever it was that disabled them.
It’s Jesus that raised the point that they hadn’t eaten for three days. I don’t think they had even noticed!
The loaves of bread and the fishes were located and Jesus gave thanks and broke them.
What happened next wasn’t any different from what happened with the 5,000 – but I just didn’t notice it until now. I suppose I got so wound up on counting people and counting baskets of left overs and other stuff that it just passed me by.
“Then he took the seven loaves and the fish, and when he had given thanks, he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and they in turn to the people.” (v36)
Jesus gave the bits of the bread and fish to the disciples and they in turn gave them to the people. Jesus didn’t give the people in the crowd anything. He gave everything to his disciples. The responsibility of feeding the crowd was given to them. If the disciples had not been faithful to the task that Jesus had given them, the people in the crowd would have remained unfed. They would be hungry. Instead the account goes on to say “They all ate and were satisfied.”
“They all ate” seems to suggest that it wasn’t just the crowd that ate the bread and the fish. The disciples ate too – and they were satisfied. There should be something very unsatisfying about eating our fill when someone else goes hungry.
The thought came to me as I read the verse – what has Jesus given me in the expectation that I will use it to feed those that are hungry? What has he called me to share with others that I am, perhaps, holding on to?
Jesus didn’t step in to feed the crowd himself. He supplied the necessary resources and gave it to His followers to distribute.
Jesus continues to supply the necessary resources and He continues to place these resources into the hands of His disciples.
The reason why so many today are so hungry, both physically and spiritually, is because we are not giving to the people what Christ has given to us to pass on.
When we withhold giving the things we are supposed to give, the church itself becomes starved, both physically and spiritually. Our own spiritual well being is tied up with the well being of the people God has given us to feed.