The feeding of the 5,000 is a story we hear often; it like most of Jesus’ miracles, is talked about in countless Sunday school classes. But it wasn’t until I read an article that was satirically given the title that I really got it. In the piece the author had told about coming upon a homeless person, and became enraged that he was being bothered for some coins. The article angered me, I found myself angry at this author for his attitude. It was then that it struck me, I had been in the same situation before and I’d walked on by. Granted, I came up with a hundred different excuses and when I see the things on the nightly news that bother me I ease my conscience by reminding myself that I’m only one man.
We find the disciples acting the same way; this huge crowd has appeared before them, and they are like “sheep without a shepherd.” And while the crowd’s needs were spiritual, everything was alright. Christ could teach and preach all day and they could sit on the side lines. It was when their needs went beyond the spiritual to the physical that things became a problem. When money might be an issue. When it may require a lot of work and organization. When countless amounts of resources need to be collected. Now, there’s a problem.
They look at the problem, decide it’s too big for them to tackle, so what do they do? They turn to Christ, and say “this is a remote place, and it’s already very late. Send the people away so that they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.” Essentially, they’ve looked at the problem, and decided it’s too big of a problem, and choose to walk away from it. But to walk away makes sense, that is quite a crowd of hungry people. The disciples are by no means wealthy men and to feed such a crowd is, by human standards completely unrealistic.
But Jesus, looking out at the masses, responds, “You give them something to eat.” Wait, what? Jesus’ disciples are but a few men and to feed such a crowd would take more than a year’s wage to pay. This problem is way too big for them to deal with. When Christ asks them to take an inventory of the food that is available, it seems hopeless, only five loaves of bread and two fish. No way they could feed such a crowd on such a meek offering. Surely Christ, will see that it’s impossible now.
But He doesn’t, He knows exactly what will be happening in the coming moments. He disperses the crowds into smaller groups, blesses the food and has it served to them. The end result? Not only did everyone get their full but there was plenty of food left over. Christ knew what He was doing, and their meager supplies would be blessed and multiplied. Therefore, it is a challenge for each of us; are we to act like the disciples and look at a problem and decide it’s too big for us to tackle or are we to act out in faith and to serve?
Jim McDowell is the youth director at the United Methodist Church of Mantua, a former camper and a volunteer for several summers at Delanco Camp. Image credit: James Tissot, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons