As we saw yesterday, Jesus is back on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. He has been on the mountain top healing all who were brought to Him for three days now. The whole mountain is ablaze with praise to God for all the wondrous works Jesus has done. Things appear to finally be winding down.
Jesus calls His disciples to Himself and tells them that it is time to feed the people. They have been with Jesus for three days now and He is concerned for them. I don’t know if they have all been without food for the entire time or if they have run out of what they brought, but Jesus says they are hungry. He says they are so hungry that they might faint while on the way to find something to eat.
Jesus just fed 5,000 men, plus women and children, a short time ago. So you would expect the disciples to react with faith. “Ok. Let’s gather what we have on hand and let Jesus bless it. He did it before, I’m sure He can do it again; especially since He initiated the conversation.” Nope. They acted as if He were again asking them to go scrounge up dinner on their own for the crowd. “Where are we to get enough bread in such a desolate place to feed so great a crowd?” (verse 33).
In Jesus’ address to His disciples, He didn’t ask them to feed the crowd. He simply stated the facts. They have been there three days, they are hungry, and He doesn’t want to send them away without first meeting their need for food. Since the disciples asked though, now it is time to take stock of what is available.
“How many loaves do you have?” (verse 34). They told Him they had seven loaves, plus a few small fish. If I was in this group, I would have been thinking, “Jesus fed 5,000 plus with five loaves and two fish. This should be no problem for Him since we have even more.” I doubt anyone had done a head count yet so maybe they were thinking there was more here than at the last banquet.
At this point, I would think the disciples memory kicked in or they at least had a feeling of déjà vu. Too bad it didn’t kick in immediately when Jesus said He wanted to feed the crowd. What a faith moment that could have been:
Jesus calls the disciples to Him and says He wants to feed the crowd. Peter, eyes wide with excitement, says, “I know just what You need. He runs over to where they have left their food and scoops up everything there. He runs back over to Jesus and hands it all to Him. Andrew, John and James start getting the crowd to sit down in groups. Jesus sits there with a smile on His face watching His boys jump into faith mode. Everything is automatic because they have witnessed Jesus do this miracle before. They know He has this one well in hand.
But instead they responded to the physical realm of impossibilities:
Jesus calls the disciples to Him and says He wants to feed the crowd. Peter, eyes wide in surprise, says, “And just how do You expect us to do that? Have You seen a store nearby? There aren’t even any berry bushes about to get a morsel from. And have You seen the size of the crowd? Seriously Jesus, what were You thinking!?” Jesus shakes His head sadly at their lack of faith and memory. How could they so easily have forgotten.
I was just wondering about something else. Did the disciples act this way about every miracle? When another blind person was brought to Jesus, did they wait to see IF He could heal them? With the next person who Jesus was preparing to raise from the dead, did the disciples bite their nails in anticipation? I SERIOUSLY doubt it! I believe they expected Jesus to heal everyone brought to Him. They had seen Him do so on numerous occasions. They had even done so in His name when He sent them out. So why was this miracle, that they had witnessed Him do before, so hard to buy into? They had to be led to the point of simply following step by step instructions again.
Let’s get back to our place in the story. The disciples have given Jesus ALL they had for themselves. Jesus had the crowd sit down, and He blessed what the disciples had given Him.
Another side note that just popped into my head. Jesus didn’t bless the bread or the fish until the disciples gave them to Him. Can you imagine if their bread was always blessed like this? They would never have to go shopping or fishing again. They would always have an abundant supply. Jesus’ miracle would have lost its significance too. They had to put everything in Jesus’ hands FIRST to make this miracle happen. Jesus certainly could have had it rain mana from Heaven, but He wanted to work through His disciples instead. That way He could bless them too in the process. The blessing of building their faith.
He also can’t bless what we hold back from Him. Jesus won’t force your hand open to surrender what you are holding back for yourself, but He won’t bless it either. He especially won’t bless it if He has asked you to surrender it to Him.
I wonder if His prayer was any different today than it was at the last banquet. Did His prayer include asking God to imprint this miracle permanently on His disciples’ hearts? The people who had been praising You for three days, did they begin a new praise session for the meal? Were any of these diners in the first banquet? How long did this miracle memory stay with them?
Jesus again used His disciples to serve the people, requiring them to again step out in faith and serve. Did they hesitate when breaking off pieces in the beginning, or did they boldly go about serving? They had done this before.
There were fewer leftovers after this dinner than after the first one. Is it because the people had gone longer without food and were hungrier? This time there were seven baskets taken up, more than enough for the next meal for Jesus and His disciples.
This time Jesus dismissed the crowd with the disciples and they all got into the boat together. I wonder why Jesus didn’t ask for time alone to pray this time. After three days of ministry I would think He would need time alone more than ever. Maybe the boat ride provided Him with adequate privacy to pray.
Lord Jesus, You show compassion every time we approach You. You stayed with this crowd for three days meeting every need that was brought before You. Then You dealt with their everyday needs. Not everyone needed healing but they all needed feeding. Thank You for thinking about their unspoken need. They were probably all willing to go in search of food on their own, if need be. Had any of them heard of the other dinner You served? Were any of them present at that one too? Did they secretly hope You would feed them too?
You also were able to bless Your disciples and build their faith during this meal. I imagine after their déjà vu moment that they went, “Oh yah. I remember this. I can’t wait to see the look on the faces of the people when Jesus has us start passing the bread! Remember last time? It was AMAZING to see. Now we get to do it again. How awesome is that!!”
Lord Jesus, You also only worked with what the disciples surrendered to You. I’m sure they didn’t hold anything back, but I sometimes do. Please forgive me for this. I want Your blessing on everything in my life, not just a portion of it. The thing I most often a portion back from You is my heart. I have places in there that have “Do not enter” signs posted. There are less of them than there were before, but the fact that they are still posted means we still have work to do. I want to surrender all the keys to all the doors in my heart. You have proved Yourself so faithful with what I have surrendered, help me trust You with the rest. Maybe that is why You repeated this miracle for the disciples. They needed another trust lesson so they could move deeper into surrender with You.