Last week we looked at the lectionary gospel reading for that day and today I would like us to look at it again.
Jesus Feeds the Four Thousand
Matthew 15:32-39 (NIV)
29 Jesus left there and went along the Sea of Galilee. Then he went up on a mountainside and sat down. 30 Great crowds came to him, bringing the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute and many others, and laid them at his feet; and he healed them. 31 The people were amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled made well, the lame walking and the blind seeing. And they praised the God of Israel.
32 Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry, or they may collapse on the way.”
33 His disciples answered, “Where could we get enough bread in this remote place to feed such a crowd?”
34 “How many loaves do you have?” Jesus asked.
“Seven,” they replied, “and a few small fish.”
35 He told the crowd to sit down on the ground. 36 Then he took the seven loaves and the fish, and when he had given thanks, he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and they in turn to the people. 37 They all ate and were satisfied. Afterward the disciples picked up seven basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. 38 The number of those who ate was four thousand, besides women and children.
There have been times in my ministry that the day has been long. Maybe it was a wedding, or a funeral/memorial service or a Friendship Sunday or a Vacation Bible School program and lunch at the church. The day and preparation began long before people showed up and the clean up lasted long after people had left. I am very impressed with Jesus, who after serving the crowds for three full days still had compassion on the people and wanted to feed them. If it was me, I would just want to dismiss them and go home and get some rest.
But even after three days of intense ministry (see verse 30 above) Jesus still had love and compassion on the people and shared that concern with the disciples.
The disciples asked where in the world could they get enough bread to feed such a crowd. I'm sure they were ready to go home. I'm sure they were tired. Jesus said he had compassion for the people, but the scriptures do not record the disciples having the same concern - and I can relate.
So the question about bread was presented to the Bread of Life. It appears that right after the feeding of the 5,000, which happened before this feeding of 4,000, Jesus told the crowds and the Jews in the hearing of the disciples that He was the Bread of Life. As a matter of fact Jesus used the word, bread, 14 times in that account in John 6:24-70. I'm sure the disciples must have thought Jesus was speaking metaphorically, but still I think if I were one of the disciples I would have used a different word than bread, like food, to the One who said, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry…".
But Jesus answered their question with a question, "what do you have?" Before with the feeding of the 5,000 they used the bread and fish from a little boy. Now Jesus is asking them, “How many loaves do you have?”
It is easy to share someone else's resources, but it is a little harder, when times are getting tough, to offer the little we have to the Lord for Him to use and share, especially when the need is so great. "How can my sharing of so little even make a difference? I might as well just keep it for myself. Jesus, you need to ask one of those millionaires or billionaires how much they have. You could really make a difference if You had their resources to work with instead of my small amount. I don't even know if my limited supply is even going to get me through the month let alone this crisis."
I guess the question still stands the span of time, "What do you have?" Don't worry about what others have. In the midst of a shortage don't even hoard the little that you have for yourself if Jesus is asking for it. Offer what you have up to Jesus and watch Him do a miracle that will satisfy everyone - including you.