“And he kept giving them to the disciples to set before the people.” (Luke 9:16 NAS)
Such a familiar narrative, this feeding of five thousand hungry men and their needy families perched on a mountainside while they listened to Christ’s every word. Their longing for truth pinned them to the grass for days on end while their stomachs rumbled, waiting in line to be satisfied.
These well-known verses still provide us truth we can digest and integrate into our lives; insights are spread through this miracle like platters at a sumptuous banquet. The Bread of Life willingly and effortlessly fills spiritual bellies with his provisions; he flings open his pantry door of supplies and beckons his children to partake. Good fathers always make a point to supply.
The loaves and fish that the disciples discovered and brought to the Lord were inadequate until they reached Jesus’ hands. The one responsible to bless, break, and furnish more than enough food for the multitudes, he made the multiplication possible. The Lord still creates this type of miraculous math. In the way he “kept giving” the bread to his disciples to pass out, he is the one who will continually hand us the spiritual food he wants us to pass along to our families, our ministries, and those we rub shoulders with at our jobs and in our neighborhoods. We don’t have to labor and strive to manufacture what we think they might need; he will perfectly provide.
The disciples had to be present with Christ in order to be part of the miraculous. They were right beside him on that hillside and not pouting in some secluded spot and slouching cross-armed. They were in the middle of the hungry crowd when Jesus called on them to care. We are much like those twelve when we stay close enough to hear Christ’s voice giving us directions and commanding us how to manage the impossible details. The disciples obeyed Jesus and had the people sit down in specific size groups on the grass. By our obedience to his Word, we too will know the precise steps required to accomplish the difficult tasks he has assigned.
The disciples were responsible to put something into Jesus’ hands; he looked to them for something to work with. They brought a meager offering – this boy’s bag lunch; it was enough for Christ. The size of the contribution was of no consequence; the hands that received the bread and fish made the miracle possible. Nothing is different now. As his followers, we are responsible to place something in his hands, some small, ordinary resource that might not seem like anything special to anyone else. We have a part to play that Christ considers significant. His hands are waiting for us to bring him our gifts, our inadequacies, and even our dreams.
The disciples saw problems – the enormous amount of hungry people, the inadequate food supply, the impossible funding required. But the solutions were already present – the boy with the lunch, and the Lord with all the power and compassion necessary. We should remember that Christ, all by himself, will always be the solution to any problem we must tackle.
Hungry multitudes are still around us. Jesus has a job for us to do. Problems will become overflowing picnic baskets when Christ supplies.
Elizabeth Karram Mitchell