Matthew 14:15-17 (NIV) As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.”
Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.”
“We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,” they answered.
This disciples still had no idea what the kingdom of God was all about, nor about the possibilities that existed for them as members of that kingdom. They had already been given authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness (Matthew 10:1), and had recently seen that authority work itself out through them in the form of amazing healings and exorcisms.
But now they were faced with the need for food to feed a huge multitude, and they believed themselves to be totally without resources to meet that need. Jesus had been healing people for hours, and it was nearing nightfall. It was time to step out of the spiritual realm and back into the real world; to send these people away so that they could get some food to feed themselves with.
But the disciples erred here on a key point: the kingdom of heaven is not just about things in the spiritual realm, miracles and healings. The kingdom of God is about living in God’s presence in the real world.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus had told the disciples not to worry about what to eat, what to drink, or what to wear, but to seek first God’s kingdom and His righteousness, and all of these “real world” necessities would be provided for them as well. (Matthew 6:33) They had believed Him at the time, at least on some level. They at least believed that God could probably give them a bit of food for themselves if they ever really needed it. But the idea that He could provide real food for 5,000 men plus additional women and children was something that they could never imagine. Even the history of God providing daily manna for around two million Israelites in the wilderness for forty years was, in their minds, a historical oddity from 1500 years in the past, and had no real relevance to their present situation.
Their solution to the problem of several thousand hungry people was simple and earthly: send them away to find something to eat. Jesus’ solution was simple and heavenly: you give them something to eat.
They, of course, didn’t get it. They took a quick inventory of their resources: five loaves and two small fish, actually the provisions of a boy in the crowd (John 6:8-9). But they overlooked the greatest provision that they had available to them as people of the kingdom: God, and all of the power for provision that He could bring to the table.
Father, how often do we look at the resources that we bring to You, and reckon that we have come up short, and turn away from the opportunities that lay before us! When You asked Moses what he held in his hand, he answered simply, “a staff.” (Exodus 4:2) In Moses’ hand it was just a stick of wood. But when he acted in obedience, and threw it at Your feet, it became a miracle, and “the staff of God.” (Exodus 4:20) All of the stuff that we own is just stuff, including our very selves. But when we look to You instead of to us, to Your resources instead of ours, Your power flows through it all, and miracles happen, resources are provided, and Your kingdom grows. Amen.