We have only five loaves and two fish.” (Matthew 14:17 ESV) “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many?” (John 6:9 ESV)
John tells us that this miracle took place at the time of the Passover. This would place this event at about a year before Jesus’ crucifixion. Matthew places this event immediately after the beheading of John the Baptist by King Herod. Matthew tells us that “When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat to a solitary place.” The opposition to Jesus was increasing. The storm clouds of the cross were beginning to gather. Jesus was in the northern province of Galilee far from Jerusalem. His ministry centered around the Sea of Galilee and the fishing village of Capernaum. From Capernaum he got into a boat and sailed across the Sea of Galilee to the area known as the Decapolis (the ten cities). This was a Gentile area and a remote place. However, the crowds followed Him on foot from the towns. The multitudes walked around the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee to be with Jesus. Jesus could have just moved on, but he didn’t. “Jesus had compassion on them.” Mark gives us further insight when he tells us that Jesus had compassion on the people “because they were like sheep without a shepherd.” Jesus saw the people’s needs in terms of their larger spiritual needs. They needed to partake of the Bread of Life which would satisfy their deepest spiritual needs.
The disciples wanted the problem to go away. They came to Jesus, “This is a desolate place and day is now over; send the crowds away to go into village and buy food for themselves.” Even if there were a 7-Eleven, they didn’t have enough money to buy food for this multitude. Jesus replied, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” The practical nature of the disciples caused them to protest, “We have only five loaves here and fish.” What is so little in the face of so many needs? Don’t you often feel that way when you look at your resources? The needs are so great and I have so little, Jesus said, “Bring them to me.” And you know the rest of the story. He caused the people to sit down, and He said a blessing. He then gave the five loaves and fish to the disciples to distribute. I wonder how many of the disciples looked at the five loaves and two fish and then looked at the crowd and rolled their eyes. Jesus was able to meet their needs. There were five thousand men not counting women and children. The disciples distributed this pitifully small amount of food. Matthew simply tells us, “And they all ate and were satisfied.” More than that, “And they took up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over.” Immediately Jesus sent the disciples back across the Sea of Galilee at night.
We are assured that Jesus is able to know all of our needs and in His compassion is able to meet those needs. This should remind us that Jesus cares for us and feels our pain in every challenge of your earthly life. It also should strengthen our faith and trust in Jesus as our provider. This miracle invites us to cast all our care upon Jesus because He cares for us. This miracle also reinforces the truth that if God be for us who or what can be against us? Jesus also answers our protest, “What is so little when the needs are so many?” Our small resources and abilities highlight the power of Jesus. Jesus would teach us to look to Him instead of measuring our strengths. In our personal lives, we often despair of the meager nature of our resources. We look at the massive famines that threaten Africa, the poverty of India, and the financial crisis in our own country, and we throw up our hands, “What is so little when the needs are so many?” The problem is that we look to ourselves or to a conservative political revolution or our own intelligence. The truth is that we do have so little. Jesus answers the question by providing for our daily needs. Jesus had the power to feed the multitudes with so little.
More important, spiritually we have so little. All our imagined righteousness is like a filthy rag. We have no strength to come to Jesus or to believe in Him. We cannot by our own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ our Lord or come to Him. As we look at our work as pastors, we have so little to work with when we look at ourselves and our congregations. As ILC begins another year of training pastors and teachers, we have so little. We continually struggle to allocate dwindling financial resources and shrinking demographics to maintain the program at ILC. This also has an impact on meeting the need to go out and proclaim Christ to the nations. We look at the needs overseas and the shrinking base of congregation in the United States, and we like the disciples say, “What is so little in the face of such great needs.”
Jesus has so much. He is able to meet all our needs. He is able to send His Word into the remotest areas of the earth. Jesus who fed the 5,000 is able to satisfy all our needs and give us more than we need. “The disciples gave them (bread and fish) to the crowds. And they were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over.” The problem is not that our needs are so great. The problem is that in our minds our God is too small. Because of our pride and our egos we diminish God through our lack of faith.
Please remember the professors and the students at ILC in your prayers. Remember the lambs in our Christian Day School and their teachers. Remember your fellow pastors and congregations. Remember our missionaries and brethren overseas who have so little and yet do so much. Remember the miracle of the loaves and fish.
God has given us so much!