We have come to a story that put’s Olive Garden’s special to the ultimate test; the TRUE “never ending salad bowl.” I know Jesus didn’t really serve salad in our story but that is what came to my mind when thinking about this story. Jesus feeds 5,000 men today, plus women and children.
Matthew and Mark shared this story with us too. Matthew tells us of another miraculous meal where Jesus fed 4,000 plus people. So what made these meals possible?
We’ve told the logistics of the story twice already from a couple of different angles. With Matthew’s telling we took the personal view and looked at doubt v faith scenarios. In Mark’s account we looked at the fact that EVERYONE ate, regardless of their opinion of Jesus. So I want to take a different approach with Luke’s version. He shared all the same information, but I want to focus on one aspect of the story instead of the whole. Kind of like seeing the tree instead of the forest approach.
There are many wonderful and critical pieces to the whole of this story. Jesus’ prayer of blessing, or the group’s willingness to follow Jesus’ instructions, or even the disciples moving out into the crowd without enough food for one group of people. All these were critical points in the story, but I want to look at an even earlier one. The moment Jesus’ disciples handed over what they had in their basket.
In our story the disciples came to Jesus and asked Him to send the people away so everyone could eat, including themselves. The disciples had come to this place prepared to share a meal with Jesus. It wasn’t a big meal, but it was enough for their little group. So when Jesus told them to feed the crowd they immediately thought of their own stores. They didn’t have a lot and knew it wasn’t enough to feed a crowd this size. So what should they do?
This is the critical point I want to look at. The point where they have to choose whether to place everything they have into Jesus’ hands or hold onto it.
The disciples are hungry. What happens to them if they give ALL their food to Jesus? “Whatever He is going to do can’t He do it with one fish and four loaves of bread? That would at least leave something for us. Why do we have to give Him everything? Doesn’t He know we are hungry too?”
“I know, maybe we can give Jesus the leftovers after we eat. Then we can help Him pray for the safe passage of the crowd as they go on their way to find their own food.”
What would have happened if either of these were their attitude? How would Jesus have reacted to this selfishness? Would it have stopped the miracle?
The awesome thing is that they didn’t act this way. They willingly laid EVERYTHING they brought into Jesus hands to do with it as He saw fit. They had no idea what Jesus had in mind when they gave Him their provisions. They didn’t know if He was going to separate out the children and feet them alone or if He was going to use the bread as bait to catch fish. They simply trusted Him.
This is a picture of our lives. When we come to Jesus do we hold back part of our heart or do we give it all to Him? I can tell you from personal experience that I didn’t put everything in His hands immediately. I am not 100% certain He has all of me even today, but I pray He does. Why is it that I, and probably the rest of you (if you are honest with yourselves) didn’t and don’t give Him ALL?
When thinking over this question I was reminded of something. When this event was happening Jesus’ disciples had just come back from their amazing first missionary journey. They had been walking with Jesus for a while. They had seen Him in action and personally been involved with some of His miracles. He had built within them enough faith and trust that they could surrender all that they had. If He would have asked them to do this the first time they met their reactions would most likely have been a LOT different.
Another thing that occurred to me was the value of what they were surrendering. I’m sure they had gone a day or more without food before. It wouldn’t be comfortable, but they could do without, if He really wanted or needed what they had. They loved Him that much. Later in their walk with Him they momentarily denied Him of their support because they thought the price too high.
Jesus didn’t rip the fish and bread from the disciples’ hands. He asked and they gave. We don’t know how long it took them to turn loose of their meal, but we know He waited patiently for it. Jesus does this same thing with us. When we come to Him we are desperate. We have somehow come to the end of ourselves and recognized our need for Him as our Savior. We don’t have a full understanding of what we are “buying into.” We just know He is the only option that can truly work.
As we grow to know Him we begin to surrender more of ourselves. We let Him see some of the hidden places in our heart. We begin to trust that He won’t throw us away when He sees what is hidden behind the closed doors. We also begin the value what it is that we are holding onto differently. We realize that He is more important and our love for Him allows us to give to Him more freely what we previously held back.
The amazing thing is that He patiently waits while we go through these changes. He doesn’t demand we give Him everything immediately. He never pries our hands open to take what we have hidden inside. He tenderly loves us into a deeper relationship with Him. He never criticizes us for moving too slow or gets bored waiting. He quietly shows us what waits ahead for us, when we are ready to take that next step. And there is always a next step, right up until our final breath. Jesus wants the very best for us and is willing to wait for us to want exactly what He wants.
Lord Jesus, I know I have kept You waiting a LONG time for many things. Thank You for Your patience. Thank You that You didn’t run away when the doors were unlocked and the ugliness hidden inside was revealed. Thank You that You don’t pry my hands away from the things You ask me to turn loose of. Sometimes You make it uncomfortable for me to hold on but that too is always done in love. Some of the things You have helped me turn loose of were actually harmful for me. Those were often the ones You took the greatest care getting me to release. Please forgive me when I pick them back up and play with them again. Thank You for protecting me from the dangers they bring too. I know that is not always going to be the case. I pray I can leave them alone FOREVER before real damage is done.
Thank You most of all Jesus for Your love. The love that brought You to this very earth. The love that kept You walking the streets of Israel sharing Your plan with all who would listen. The love that brought You to the cross where You willingly took my place. The love that conquered Satan and secured my place with You forever. I know I’m not worthy of that love, but You gave it to me anyway. I am FOREVER grateful and FOREVER YOURS. I value Your love above ALL else.