32 And Jesus called His disciples to Him, and said, “I feel compassion for the people, because they have remained with Me now three days and have nothing to eat; and I do not want to send them away hungry, for they might faint on the way.” 33 The disciples said to Him, “Where would we get so many loaves in this desolate place to satisfy such a large crowd?” 34 And Jesus said to them, “How many loaves do you have?” And they said, “Seven, and a few small fish.” 35 And He directed the people to sit down on the ground; 36 and He took the seven loaves and the fish; and giving thanks, He broke them and started giving them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. 37 And they all ate and were satisfied, and they picked up what was left over of the broken pieces, seven large baskets full. 38 And those who ate were four thousand men, besides women and children. 39 And sending away the crowds, Jesus got into the boat and came to the region of Magadan.
I love reading the stories of Jesus feeding the multitudes. It gives me hope and comfort knowing that Jesus doesn’t want to do all the work Himself, but instead empower and encourage us to do so. He provides and we distribute. This isn’t just about food but time, energy, patience, and anything else that those in need come to us for.
Let us notice first that Jesus has compassion on the people. Many times we get disillusioned that God doesn’t care about those who are suffering. He does care and wants to do something about it. He has chosen us to do it though and too often we ignore His calling to be the bridge of blessing from Him. Notice that He reveals the issue to His disciples and then instructs them to serve the people? This is what He calls us to every day! The question is: are we listening to His compassion and following His instructions to serve? What is our human reaction to Jesus’ revelation and compassion?
The disciples focus on the obstacles. These are the same people who just watched Jesus over the past few days heal the mute, lame, crippled, blind and many others (Matthew 15:30) and now they are saying, “uh, how do you expect to feed all these people?” How quick are we to forget that as followers of Christ, we have the entire Kingdom of God at our disposal? Jesus immediately focuses not on what they don’t have but what they do have; this makes all the difference in the response of Jesus compared to that of His disciples. Jesus, with more faith than the collective of the disciples, took the steps necessary to feed the people. He thanked God for what they did have and started distributing the food. It wasn’t about Jesus’ power or the Holy Spirit converting some food into more, it was the faith of Jesus that God the Father would provide just as He had so many times before in the scriptures (think about the manna, quail, and water He fed Israel for 40 years in the desert). Jesus combined what He knew about God with what He had in front of Him and trusted God for what seemed to be the impossible. He then used the disciples to distribute the food, which was available in abundance.
How often do we fail to do this? Do we focus more on the obstacles and impossibilities of our situation or on God’s compassion for people and His providence? If He has compassion for someone and is calling us to serve and love them, then He will clearly provide for us to be able to serve them. To quote my pastor, “If it’s God’s will, it’s God’s bill.” We need to be less concerned about the obstacles and more concerned about God’s will. It is then that we will get to see His provision and direction in our life.