When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns.  When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.  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. “Bring them here to me,” he said. Matt 14:13-18

The feeding of the five thousand is a very important event. All of the gospel writers record it. All of them use it to reveal important things about the person of Jesus Christ. The story begins with Jesus leaving the public setting and taking his disciples with him to a remote place. The crowds seek him out because he is the one who meets their needs. Jesus sees the crowds and has compassion on them. He heals many.

After a day of teaching and ministry, it is getting close to evening. The disciples come to Jesus and urge him to send the crowds away so they can find food, for there were no fast food restaurants in the dessert. It would mean that they would have to walk several miles to the nearest villages to find food. At first glance, it looks like the disciples are being both sensitive and practical. The crowds needed nourishment and it is getting dark, so it seemed prudent that they should travel immediately to the place that could meet their needs.

What Jesus said next must have shocked them: “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.” This caused the disciples to do a quick inventory of their resources. They found only five loaves and two fishes, which wasn’t enough to fill their stomachs much less the five thousand and more that were there. But Jesus had another solution: “Bring them here to me.” He then blessed the bread, broke it into pieces and gave it to the disciples for distribution to the crowd. As Jesus broke the bread it miraculously multiplied. Matthew recorded that all were fed and were “satisfied.” Not only were all satisfied, but there were twelve baskets left over. Each of the disciples had a basketful of bread left over to demonstrate the power of Jesus, to not only meet the needs of the crowds, but to do it with plenty left over.    

What are the lessons of the feeding? First, we see that Jesus is the Bread of Life. He is the one who satisfies our deepest hunger. [John 6] He not only has compassion on the crowds, he has the power to bless their lives to overflowing. No matter the size or the depth of their problems, Jesus’ ability to help is not taxed to the limit. There is no problem in our lives that is too big for God.

This story says something very important to all who minister in his name. We also look at the crowds and see great and overwhelming needs. We look at our resources and rightly conclude that we don’t have enough to solve their problems. That is when we are tempted to send them away. We are encouraged to do this by a Church that has largely lost its confidence in the power of God and his Word. We are told that the problems are too deep and complicated for our meager resources. We are told that only those who have been skilled in the secret movements of the soul can really help the hurting.

I have come to question that assertion. I believe Jesus is still saying to you and me, “They do not need to go away. You feed them.” That is just as surprising and shocking now as it was when Jesus first said it 2000 years ago. We don’t have the wisdom or the power to “satisfy” the tremendous needs that we find every day in the crowds that surround us. But Jesus says to us, “What do you have?” A quick and honest survey of our resources might reveal some faith, some gifts, some knowledge of God’s Word, and some experience in prayer. Honesty and humility would move us to say it is not enough. We think it is best to send them away to the “experts.” Jesus says, “No. Bring all those things to me. I will take your resources, break them, multiply them, and through my Word, satisfy the needy crowds with Myself.” That is the lesson of the feeding.

I know it sounds simplistic. It isn’t. It is simple. Jesus is alive. His Word is living and active. It can go deep, deep down into the soul of hearts and minds. It has the power to reveal the deep and dark struggles of our lives that cause our psychic suffering. It not only reveals the cause of our deep problems, it is able to bring us to the One can satisfy our hearts to overflowing. His Word, known, broken and distributed to the needy, brings healing to the hurting, glory to the name of Jesus, and great joy to our soul