Here’s an interesting bit of Biblical trivia: aside from Jesus’ resurrection, there’s only one miracle that’s mentioned in all four gospels. Do you know which one it is?
Well, the the title of this post is a bit of a give-away, isn’t it?
Now I’ve read some interesting theories as to why this particular miracle resonated so much with early Christians that all four gospel writers felt it necessary to include it (it has to do with manna and a non-Biblical Messianic promise). I’ve also seen some bizarre theories that supposedly explain how Jesus performed this miracle. Some people think that it’s actually a miracle the crowd performed; they were so touched by the boy’s generosity in sharing his lunch that they all decided to share the food that they had been hoarding. Others have suggested that Jesus simply tapped a hidden cache of supplies socked away by the Zealots in case a revolution broke out. The best ridiculous theory I’ve heard, though, is that this story proves that Jesus is Norwegian. He simply took the bread and the fish and made lutefisk.
The fact that they were able to gather twelve baskets of leftovers shows that no one liked lutefisk back then either.
Okay, so that last one isn’t serious. But what I find fascinating about this story is how, in some ways, what this miracle actually was was a test of the disciples’ faith.
Take a look at the run-up to the actual miracle:
Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick. When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” Jesus said to them, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.”
The disciples are justifiably concerned about what’s going to happen to the crowd. There’s a whole lot of people who came out to listen to Jesus, but there aren’t any food vendors out there. They think it’d be best if Jesus just dismissed everyone so they can go eat.
But Jesus doesn’t do that. Instead, he turns it back on the disciples. “You give them something to eat.”
The disciples probably panicked. How are they supposed to feed a crowd of over 5,000 people? After all:
They replied, “We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.”
How are they supposed to do anything with so little? It’s impossible! Jesus was obviously expecting too much of them.
And we can sometimes feel the same way, can’t we? We freak out because we don’t think we have nearly enough. We show God what little we do have and say, “God, how can You expect me to do anything with the resources I have?”
It’s a test of faith. The disciples missed something important, but Jesus was quick to remind them:
And he said, “Bring them here to me.”
It may seem like Jesus is simply giving the disciples some instructions and, on one level, He is. But I think He’s also issuing them a reminder that it’s really not up to them. It’s always been up to Him. All they had to do to provide for that crowd was rely on Him.
And look at what happens when they do:
Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full. And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.
Jesus not only provides for the disciples’ needs, but He gives them even more than they could have possibly asked for. The key was to entrust their need to Him right from the start.
That’s the lesson that I think we can learn from this story as well. The point of the feeding of the 5,000 isn’t Jesus’ ethnicity. It’s not about the crowd or 1st century politics. Instead, it’s a reminder that our Lord and Savior is still ready to provide for us if we would only entrust our lives to Him.