Luke 9:12-17 (NIV) Late in the afternoon the Twelve came to him and said, “Send the crowd away so they can go to the surrounding villages and countryside and find food and lodging, because we are in a remote place here.”
He replied, “You give them something to eat.”
They answered, “We have only five loaves of bread and two fish–unless we go and buy food for all this crowd.” (About five thousand men were there.)
But he said to his disciples, “Have them sit down in groups of about fifty each.” The disciples did so, and everybody sat down. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke them. Then he gave them to the disciples to set before the people. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over.
The disciples had compassionate hearts that legitimately cared about the needs of these people out in the wilderness. But as far as solutions were concerned, they were seeing with earthly eyes, and that severely limited them.
Keep in mind that these twelve men had just experienced several weeks of living on God’s provision. But that provision had always come through people in the towns in which they had proclaimed the gospel. There were no houses or shops out here, so they put this need in a different category – one in which they could depend on only earthly solutions.
They decided among themselves that the best solution was to send the people home, so that they could find some food for themselves in the houses and towns along the way. But Jesus’ solution was for the apostles to feed this hungry crowds of thousands themselves.
Taking quick stock, they found that they could come up with five loaves of bread and two small, smoked fish, the spoils of a young boys food supply (John 6:9). But, compared to the need, this seemed pitifully inadequate.
Since the disciples seemed unable to connect the dots, Jesus seized the opportunity as a teachable moment. He gave the twelve disciples tasks to do: first, have the people sit down in groups of fifty; then, after He had blessed the food, keep distributing it to the people until everyone had had enough; and finally, gather up the twelve baskets full of leftovers.
Notice that Jesus did not pray that the food would be multiplied to feed all of those people. The prayer that He prayed was the traditional barakah, or thanksgiving, that the Jewish people prayed before their meals. It is a prayer of praise and thanksgiving for what God has already provided, not a prayer looking for more. Jesus knew that the Father had already determined that He would feed all of the people with the scant provisions available, just as He had promised. So, in faith and trust, Jesus thanked the Father for His adequate provision, and then directed the disciples to start distributing the food.
Father, all too often we are just like those apostles, seeing the enormity of the needs, and the paucity of our resources. You have promised to provide for our every legitimate need, if we will seek first Your kingdom and Your righteousness (Matthew 6:33), just as Jesus did. Help me in every situation to never determine what is possible based on my resources, but to listen carefully while You tell me what is possible with Yours. Then help me to move forward with faith, trust, and thanksgiving for what You have promised, and what You will surely do. Amen.