When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things.And when it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, “This is a desolate place, and the hour is now late. Send them away to go into the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.” But he answered them, “You give them something to eat.” Mark 6:34-37
The Feeding of the 5,000 is a familiar Bible story. With a peasant boy’s meager lunch, a multitude of people are fed with plenty left over. Hundreds of thousands of sermons have been written on this miracle and thousands more have speculated how it happened. Some think that the boy was an example and that everyone began to follow his lead, producing food to share instead of horde from under their cloaks – sort of a Biblical pay it forward. Whatever.
The point that struck me is what happened just before this miracle of the fish and loaves. Jesus had sent the disciples out two by two to do miraculous things. They cast out demons and healed people, spread the Gospel and probably baptized. That is why they attracted the multitude. Word got around. Now the people all converge upon them and after that wonderful series of sermons in Matthew’s recording, it is getting late. What was the theme of a lot of those sermons? Serve and trust in God to provide because He loves each and every one of us. The disciples obviously were not listening.
Aren’t we the same? Christ guides us, uses our hands and feet, and showers us with His grace. We absorb it all like a sponge. We can feel so useful and thankful to be used. We can even feel humbly empowered – for a while. Then, another situation comes up and we run to Him. How can I handle this?His answer? “I have given you what you need. Don’t you think I will again. Just get out there and do it and trust in my provision. You feed them.”
I have to ask myself how many missed opportunities have I passed up while I questioned if I was capable of doing that for God? How many times have I prayed for the strength, or the wisdom or the endurance that Christ has already given me? I just need to tap into it again, realize He is the provider and get out there and serve, knowing He will never give me more than I can do with Him by my side. I shouldn’t worry about where the fish and loaves will come from, or all the baskets to hold all of His abundance. All I need to do is obey. Yes, easier said than done.
Perhaps when Jesus told Peter before He ascended into Heaven to “feed my sheep”, Peter realized that He was alluding to that day on the mount when Christ provided for a multitude who were like sheep without a shepherd. Maybe He was telling Peter, “I will provide all you need. You just get out there and do it.” And so Jesus would again, and again, and again for Peter. Just as He will for you and for me.