Luke 9: 11 – 17 NLT
“But the crowds found out where he was going, and they followed him. He welcomed them and taught them about the Kingdom of God, and he healed those who were sick.
12 Late in the afternoon the twelve disciples came to him and said, “Send the crowds away to the nearby villages and farms, so they can find food and lodging for the night. There is nothing to eat here in this remote place.”
13 But Jesus said, “You feed them.”
“But we have only five loaves of bread and two fish,” they answered. “Or are you expecting us to go and buy enough food for this whole crowd?” 14 For there were about 5,000 men there.
Jesus replied, “Tell them to sit down in groups of about fifty each.” 15 So the people all sat down. 16 Jesus took the five loaves and two fish, looked up toward heaven, and blessed them. Then, breaking the loaves into pieces, he kept giving the bread and fish to the disciples so they could distribute it to the people. 17 They all ate as much as they wanted, and afterward, the disciples picked up twelve baskets of leftovers!”
The miracle of the feeding of thousands is told in all three gospels. (Matthew14, Mark 6, and John 6) That would indicate its importance. It was the one miracle that addressed people’s everyday sustenance needs. Usually, Jesus was fixing a crisis or healing people in some way. We saw earlier in the chapter that Jesus calmed a storm, healed a man possessed by demons, healed a woman who had a bleeding issue, and brought Jairus’ daughter back from the dead. Here Jesus is feeding people – a basic life need.
The disciples had just returned from travelling in pairs, healing people and casting out demons while they spread the news that Jesus had come. Jesus instructed them to live as simply as possible during that time, and they could rely on the cultural practice of people giving them lodging when it was needed.
But how do you feed thousands of people? The disciples were being practical when they suggested to Jesus that he should send these people home. It’s not like they had banquet halls nearby or take-out restaurants. Besides, how could they afford to feed that many people?
But Jesus was going to show them that he could meet every need. In faith, the 12 disciples arranged the people in groups of about fifty, and then Jesus began to break the bread and fishes into pieces. That would have been fascinating to actually see. The twelve baskets didn’t suddenly get filled with food. Jesus broke the food likely over a period of time. It would have taken a while for the men to pass the food out to that many people. This wasn’t a sudden event with food appearing at everyone’s elbow. John is the only one who talks about the crowd’s reaction to this miracle.
“When the people saw him[a] do this miraculous sign, they exclaimed, “Surely, he is the Prophet we have been expecting!” When Jesus saw that they were ready to force him to be their king, he slipped away into the hills by himself.” (John 6: 14 – 15)
In typical human fashion, you could understand why the people thought about making him king. He would solve all their needs – health wise and what they needed to survive. That was not in God’s plan, so Jesus slipped away.
In some ways this miracle was for the disciples. They needed to learn that God could provide them with whatever they needed. They had just finished travelling as they healed the sick. I’m sure they were “pumped” from that experience. But now, they needed to know that their everyday needs could be provided too. It wouldn’t be too long from then that Jesus would go to the cross, and life would be totally different for the disciples.
Do you think God would provide your everyday needs? In this pandemic, some of you may have lost jobs, or had your income reduced. There has been government aid, but working full-time likely provided more money. In the western world, we expect to live well. Living just to get by is actually reality in most of the world. So … when we pare down our expectations about how much we actually need, does God provide for us?
Here is a psalm that assures us of that:
The Lord is my shepherd;
I have all that I need.
2 He lets me rest in green meadows;
he leads me beside peaceful streams.
3 He renews my strength.
He guides me along right paths,
bringing honour to his name.
4 Even when I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will not be afraid,
for you are close beside me.
Your rod and your staff
protect and comfort me.
5 You prepare a feast for me
in the presence of my enemies.
You honour me by anointing my head with oil.
My cup overflows with blessings.
6 Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me
all the days of my life,
and I will live in the house of the Lord
Our song for today is The Lord is My Shepherd by Stuart Townsend