Gift for the People - A Lesson for the Disciples

Matthew 14:13-21
13Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns.

14When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick.

15Now when it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a desolate place, and the day is now over; send the crowds away to go into the villages and buy food for themselves.”

16But Jesus said, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.”

17They said to him, “We have only five loaves here and two fish.”

18And he said, “Bring them here to me.”

19Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass, and taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing. Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds.

20And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over.

21And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.

Becoming a grandma handed me a brand new opportunity to share the Bible stories that I loved with a whole new generation. And the story I started with was the “Feeding of the 5,000.” I like this story for children. It is gentle and there’s no violence; it’s just a fantastic kids’ story. My first grandson’s name is Samuel and so I “adjusted” the story a little. In the book of John we read the same story with the additional detail that the 5 loaves and 2 fishes came from a little boy who was willing to share his food.  As I related the story to Samuel I told him that the little boy’s name might have even been Samuel. I know – playing fast and loose with the Scriptures is bad idea. But hey, who’s to say the kid’s name wasn’t Samuel?!? (I have since told that story to Aaron and Elijah and filled in their names where the little boy appears. :)

This relatively simple story carries a great deal of impact for us as believers. First of all, we are given a brief glimpse into what Jesus was actually feeling during this event. The Gospels are filled with stories about Him, but rarely do we hear what Jesus was feeling. We can infer from the text and His actions (sometimes) but we usually aren’t given a definite clue as to His emotional state. The word used to describe Jesus in this passage is compassionate. His heart went out to the people for two reasons. They were sick and they were hungry. And so He did something about both of those situations. He healed the sick and provided food for the whole crowd.

The Disciples had a solution for the hunger problem too. Send the people back to town and they could buy some supper there. But Jesus compassion wouldn’t allow Him to treat the people that way and He didn’t waste this teaching moment for His followers. “You give them something to eat” is Jesus response to the problem. Of course the disciples can see their own inadequacy to provide that much food. (There were quite possibly 8,000-10,000 people present when you include women and children!) But Jesus is the Creator of all things and multiplying the 5 loaves and 2 fishes was an easy day for Him. And the Disciples are the ones who hand out the food. Jesus has told them to provide dinner and He makes it possible for them to do so. It cannot be lost on us as well that when it the meal is over and everyone has eaten to the point of satisfaction (Jesus is always abundant in His blessings for us) there are 12 baskets of food left over – one for each of the Disciples. The object lesson is personal. Not only does Jesus demand that we serve with compassion, He enables and provides so that we can do so. Jesus demands that we serve others because of His great love but He doesn’t do that inside of a vacuum. He also provides the wherewithal to act accordingly.