But Jesus said,
“They need not go away; you give them something to eat.”
17 They said to him, “We have only five loaves here and two fish.”
Matthew 14:16-17, (context, vv. 14-21)
The people are hungry. The disciples are worried. A very large number had come to listen to Jesus speak/heal. Earlier that day (in verse 14,) He responds and heals all that were sick, ministering to everyone out of deep, deep compassion (also found in verse 14.)
The crowds wanted to see some healings, (which was pretty much their ‘entertainment,’ breaking up a fairly dull existence,) And perhaps some of them scoured the streets to find the really hard cases–just to see if Jesus could pull it off. (“Let’s get ‘Joshua,’ he’s blind, and crippled and a leper besides–he’ll be a real challenge!”)
The dusty day was done (v.15.) The surroundings were “desolate,” and the crowds were getting antsy. But the merchants were happy, they’d sellout and make a bundle! And the disciples–well they were concerned about the crowd dispersing. They hoped that Jesus would dismiss everyone before it got too dark. (Apparently, not only did they forget to bring food, but they left their flashlights at home.)
It’s interesting to note that Jesus seems to look for new ways to teach His disciples. (They need to learn the Kingdom.) Jesus wants them to become involved in this particular miracle. They would distribute the food, and perhaps mingle a bit. (No sidelining for you, Thaddeus.)
And could it be this is how He operates with all of His disciples? Could it be our response all these crazy-life thingees we have to deal with are revealing to us–and to everyone–how deep, and wide, and far our discipleship really does go?
Jesus throws out a challenge, but in order to make this happen, the disciples had to shake down a kid, and take away the lunch mom had packed. All this for two fish, and five loaves of bread. Apparently no one else thought to bring bring any food. Perhaps no one expected it to be a long day, and packing a dinner basket around was a hassle. Who knows?
Five loaves, two fishes.
The official count was 5000, plus the women and children. I imagine that the disciples were a little confused. Maybe intimidated too. Perhaps there was an effort among them to discourage Jesus from keeping the crowd hanging around? “Surely Jesus wasn’t serious, He just needed to understand these things.”
The disciples think taking away the boy’s dinner was completely idiotic in the light of the situation. Then maybe Jesus would then understand all this silliness, and make an announcement that the day was done. The crowd was milling around, perhaps ‘catching up’ with friends and distant relatives–the kids were playing tag nicely for a change. And maybe they stuck around to see if Jesus would heal (or teach) again. They certainly didn’t want to miss the show.
The disciples had already seen a ton of miracles. They had heard tremendous teachings. (Those parables were mystifying though.) But everything about Jesus as the real Messiah seemed to click (at times.) And I do think they understood–at least to a degree. And yet Jesus is stretching His disciples even further into this whole idea of discipleship.
I think Jesus wanted them to learn about the two tools they should use:
- One–for each one to understand God’s amazing love for people.
- Two–for them to grasp God’s almighty power in every situation they will face..
The disciples must learn to use these. In order to pull off this idea of making disciples throughout the big blue earth–they’ll definitely need lots and lots of compassion, and a really strong confidence in God’s power. After all they merely had to break through every bit of darkness they came across; and carry in the light. Just like Jesus! Easy, right? (“Holy Spirit, we need all the strength you can spare.”)
The twelve really have to become aware, and snatch up these two–they’re not trivial. They seem to be the very steady heartbeat of discipleship. Understanding these two principles causes the deep nature of the Kingdom to enter these hard human hearts. (Some of us need a ‘transplant.’) We have to apply His compassion again, like a bandage on the wounds. We need to wield His power once more, cutting away the lies.
Both dear one–are really, really needed right now.
“God’s work done in God’s way will never lack God’s supplies.”
-Hudson Taylor, Missionary to China for 51 years