1After this Jesus went away to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tiberias. 2And a large crowd was following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing on the sick. 3Jesus went up on the mountain, and there he sat down with his disciples. 4Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand. 5Lifting up his eyes, then, and seeing that a large crowd was coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?” 6He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he would do. 7Philip answered him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread would not be enough for each of them to get a little.” 8One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, 9“There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many?” 10Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, about five thousand in number. 11Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated. So also the fish, as much as they wanted. 12And when they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, “Gather up the leftover fragments, that nothing may be lost.” 13So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves left by those who had eaten. 14When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!” 15Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself.
One of the things my grandsons love to do while we’re eating dinner is hear stories. They want to hear about my past, my parent’s past, their mom’s past. And they don’t mind listening to the same stories over and over. It’s a legacy that comes from my own upbringing. We used to do the same thing when I was a kid at the dinner table. And every now and then, I sneak in a Bible story and the story we read today is one of their favorites. I began telling this story to Samuel, my first grandchild back when he was 2. And I admit, I might have added one detail that doesn’t appear in the story. I used to tell him that the little boy who shared his lunch was named Samuel. Yes, I know. That doesn’t appear in the text, but hey, who’s to say his name wasn’t Samuel. Could have been! (And then I told the same story to Aaron and Elijah, inserting their names into the story as well. I know – shameless!)
This event is one that most of us know quite well. It is a favorite Sunday School lesson because there’s no violence or weirdness; there’s just a whopping miracle. The details are fairly straight forward. Jesus has collected a very large crowd around Him almost all of the time by this point in His ministry. The people follow Him everywhere, hoping to see a miracle. This time, they got to be a part of the miracle. It’s lunchtime and everyone is hungry. They are a long way from town, so Jesus takes this opportunity to test His disciples. He asks Philip where they might get food for these people because Philip is from this area. Of course, the disciples don’t immediately lean on Jesus to solve an insurmountable problem. Instead, they start doing the math. The consensus is that there is absolutely no way they can come up with food for these people. Not enough money, not enough resources. The only food they can locate comes from a small boy who is willing to share his meager lunch; five loaves of bread (think dinner rolls) and 2 small fish. Hardly enough for that one boy, not to mention well over 5,000 people. (Most Bible scholars believe the crowd actually numbered between 10,000 and 15,000 if you count women and children!)
Jesus takes this moment to teach His Disciples. The people are going to be the recipients of some food and the Disciples are going to see their Master in action. He’s trying to teach them about trusting in Him because they are going to need that skill in great measure. There is a reason there are 12 baskets of leftovers. One basket for each disciple. Each of them gets to hold in his own hands the proof of Jesus power and bounty. I wonder how many times they harken back to this event in their memories as they are laboring to spread the Gospel after Pentecost.
This was a great reading for me personally today. I am facing an insurmountable problem right now and God is the only one who is going to have an answer for me. I’m grateful for the reminder that I don’t have enough resources to handle any problems and so turning to God is my only answer. You know, as I read back over this paragraph I’m aware of at least 2 other insurmountable problems I need to lift up to Him and leave at His feet. Feels pretty good and freeing to hand those problems over and let Him deal with them.