The miracle of the feeding of the 5000 found in Luke 9:10-17 is a very familiar passage of scripture, but having sat down to write today’s reflection and look at it afresh, what leapt out at me was verse 10.
“When the apostles returned, they reported to Jesus what they had done. Then he took them with him and they withdrew by themselves to a town called Bethsaida”
Where had the disciples been? What had they done?
Those questions are answered in Luke 9:1-5. The twelve had been sent out by themselves to DO ministry. Not just observing but here was their chance to act in their teacher’s footsteps. We aren’t given details about how they went but you can well imagine that they were on a spiritual high when they returned and looked forward to being back alone with Jesus. However, they didn’t get the opportunity to do so for long as we read in verse 11:
“but the crowds learned about it and followed him. He welcomed them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who needed healing.”
Everyone else wanted a piece of Jesus too and he welcomed them. I suspect that the disciples were more than a little indignant at this point having to take a back seat when they were just getting started – but now Jesus was back in charge doing all the teaching and healing again and they were having to share him with so many others. No wonder in verse 12 the disciples say “send the crowds away”.
This part of the passage highlights a problem I think, if we are honest, we all face at some time or other. We all want a piece of Jesus for ourselves but others crowd in and we can resent that. How is this so? We are in the moment with God and then someone else invades our turf. It might be in church, during worship or in the ministry we are involved with or in our home group – someone comes in and upsets the moment, and we can be left feeling indignant. How do we respond at such times? We need to remember that we don’t have absolute claims on Jesus but he does have absolute claims on us.
The second half of the passage highlights that the while the disciples may have earned their P plates to do ministry – in this situation they were out of their depth and still had much to learn about Jesus, as shown in their reply in v 13 – “We have only five loaves of bread and two fish — unless we go and buy food for all this crowd.” Clearly catering for over 5,000 people was going to cost a huge sum of money – far in excess of what they had. No one would have expected what was to follow.
Out of all the miracles that Jesus performs this one I personally find the hardest to get to comprehend – producing such a massive feast out of just a few fish and loafs of bread – the physical impossibility of multiplying so little to feed so many. Verse 17 states “They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over.”
What makes this even more amazing is that Jesus repeats this miracle on another occasion sometime later for a crowd of around 4000 (Mark 8:1-9). And even then, the disciples still can’t comprehend all that has happened and are rebuked for their lack of understanding (see Mark 8:16 – 21).
The lesson I take from this passage is when I come to feed in my ruler’s restaurant, even though I might want a quiet table for two (just Jesus and me), there are so many other hungry diners but there is more than a plentiful supply of the bread of life to go around.
Lord, always expand my vision of your power. Never allow me to limit what you can achieve in and through me and others by a rational mind that thinks in terms of impossibilities. Never let me be so self focused as to not see your open arms welcoming in the stranger. Help me to learn to always be satisfied only in you. Amen
Stay faithful daily readers