“He asked them, ‘How many loaves do you have? Go and see.’ When they found out they said, ‘Five, and two fish.’ . . . He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, he blessed and broke the loaves. He kept giving them to his disciples to set before the people. He also divided the two fish among them all.” (CSB – Read the chapter)
Have you ever had to stretch something scarce to make it last further and longer than it looked like it would be able to do? I was cleaning out a container of cream cheese the other day. It looked at first like there was only going to be enough for half of a bagel. I managed to scrape and spread to make it cover both sides. Managing this feat really didn’t matter very much beyond convenience as I had another container of it unopened and sitting on the counter next to me, but it was a small win. Sometimes the things we have to make last are more significant than a bagel topping. You may have had to do it so that everyone in your family could eat or so that all the bills could somehow get paid…or both. The story of the feeding of the 5,000 is about a whole lot more than just this, but it does offer us some hope that in Christ, what we think is insufficient can prove to be more than enough.
Let me state that again just to be sure we’re clear: If you read this story about Jesus feeding an enormous crowd and come away with only the lesson that we should trust what we have to Jesus and He’ll make it more than enough, you’ve missed the larger point. This was a sign miracle that established Jesus’ identity as the Messiah. This was a direct allusion to God’s feeding the people of Israel manna in the wilderness for 40 years, but with the added bonus of fish pointing to the fact that Jesus was greater than Moses. Often, though, the big lesson from some story isn’t the only lesson in it.
Yesterday we talked about the disbelieving sarcasm of the disciples when Jesus took their insistence that He send the crowds away to go get some food for themselves right around on them and told the disciples to feed them instead. There wasn’t anything in them that believed such a feat was possible. Keep in mind, they had already seen Jesus demonstrate absolute power over the natural world when He spoke to the wind and the waves as a storm raged on the Sea of Galilee and they obeyed Him. After that experience, they should have been quick to accept that Jesus could do anything. I mean, if the guy I watched stop a storm tells me he’s going to feed a crowd of 5,000 people with almost no resources at his disposal, I’m just going to go with it. But again, I think like that because this story has created a frame of reference for such a category to exist in the first place. The disciples did not have such a category to draw on here. So, they simply doubted.
Jesus, to His credit (because, of course), handled their doubt with the same patient grace He did all the other times they doubted Him. Instead of fussing at them He sent them to scrounge for what supplies they could find. John adds the detail to Mark’s telling that it was Andrew who found a young boy who had brought a lunch he was willing to share with Jesus. Other than, you know, Jesus, his mom is the real hero of the feeding the 5,000 story. You kind of wonder how many times she told that story later. “I told little Simeon that he needed to bring something to eat with him to go see that Jesus fellow. He didn’t want to, but I insisted, and it’s a good thing I did too. That Jesus took his lunch and fed the whole crowd with it.”
And so He did.
Jesus took that snack, blessed it, and started breaking it. And the more He broke it, the more there was. The chemistry student in me wonders what the exact mechanics of the miracle were. He obviously made molecules come into existence out of nothing. I wonder if all the bread tasted the same. Were all the pieces of fish evenly salted? Was it all genetically the same fish as the original two? If one of the loaves was just a bit burnt, were all the pieces from that loaf equally burnt? Did Jesus fix any baking flaws? How many pieces did each loaf and fish produce? Was there a point at which one loaf finally produced its last piece and He started on the next one? Was there a small crowd watching it happen? If you had looked closely, could you have seen the bread or fish appearing in His hand as He kept breaking them? But the fact is, Jesus started breaking the bread and the fish and kept breaking it until the whole crowd – all 15,000 or so of them – had plenty to eat and there were twelve basketfuls of of bread and fish leftover.
And He was able to do it because someone was willing to give what they had to Him, trusting that He could do something more with it than they could. That makes you wonder how many other people had brought food with them but weren’t willing to share. This young boy’s name may be lost to history, but he isn’t. The story of his willing generosity in a situation when it didn’t seem like it was going to be able to make any kind of a difference is still being told almost 2,000 years later. All because he was willing to trust what he had to Jesus.
Friends, Jesus’ ability to take what we think is not enough and make it more than enough hasn’t changed. Now, that doesn’t mean if you have been irresponsible with your money and can’t pay your bills, He’s going to miraculously add money to your bank account to help you make ends meet. It doesn’t even mean that if you’ve simply been hit by a series of unfortunate events, that He’s going to make something out of nothing there either. What it means is just what I’ve said: Jesus can take what we think is not enough and make it more than enough if we are willing to trust Him with it. He is a God of abundance. Our God has always been a God of abundance. This was not the only time something like this happened in the Gospels or the Biblical narrative. Our God can take what we think to be not enough and make it more than enough because He is a God of abundance, not scarcity.
How exactly that looks I couldn’t possibly tell you. Here it looked like a miraculous multiplication of bread and fish. In another story out of 1 Kings, it looked like the miraculous multiplication of oil and flour. In your situation it may yet look like something else suited to your circumstances. His kingdom is governed by the law of abundance. There is no need there. Everyone has more than enough not only for themselves, but to share with others. Generosity is the rule. If we will entrust ourselves and all of our resources to Him, we will be able to experience that abundance for ourselves. This will not be for us alone, though, but so that we can share with others. His love and generosity always flow out. May you trust Him and know the abundance of His kingdom today.