Jesus Feeds the 5,000; He can do a lot with our little
Updated: Jun 21, 2022
The second time Callie and I ever made the drive from Seattle to Dillon, we we’re getting off of 1-90 and turning South on 1-15 and about 2 or 3 minutes after making the turn, with still a good 45min or so to go, the gas light turned on. And Callie, sitting in the passenger seat, says to me, “You know, if I remember right, I don’t think there are a lot of options up ahead, maybe we should turn around and gas up.” I look at her and say, “I’m sure we’ll be fine. There’s got to be something up ahead. Let’s keep going.”
We get a little further down the road, crossing over the Continental Divide, Callie’s really starting to get worried now, even worse we’re kind of in a dead spot without cell service, truly unsure of where the nearest gas station is. We pass a mileage marker that says 47 miles to Dillon, I look at our car and it says we have 50 miles to empty. Great! We’ll have 3 miles to spare. I’ve always thought seeing how far you can stretch a tank of gas as a fun little game of sorts. Coincidentally, that just happens to be Callie’s least favorite game ever. We pass the rest stop, then the Divide exit, then Moose Creek, now I’m legitimately starting to worry a bit, until we were finally bailed out by the one pump town that is Melrose. And so maybe if you squint just right, we were both kind of right.
And I couldn’t help but think back to that “we’re in the middle of nowhere, what do we do?” moment as I was considering this moment in our passage today when the disciples were having their own “yikes, we’re in the middle of nowhere, what do we do?” moment, when they pleaded to Jesus …
“Send the crowd away so they can go to the surrounding villages and countryside and find food and lodging (and gas … okay, I added that last part), because we are in a remote place here.”
And to be clear, Callie and my driving story doesn’t map out all that neatly upon the feeding of the 5,000 story, since it puts Callie in the role of the skeptical disciple. “Oh ye of little faith, did you not know that the Lord would provide for us in Melrose?” To be clear, she’s was the responsible one, I was the fool. But regardless … let’s get to more important things …
This morning, we continue on in our series on the Gospel of Luke and we’ve now come to one the most famous stories in all of scripture, it’s classic story of Jesus feeding the 5,000. And in fact as a sign of just how famous and well known it is, it holds the title of being the only story that is included in all four gospels (outside of Jesus’s his death and resurrection, of course). Which leads us to believe that there’s something absolutely essential about this story and what it tells us not only about who Jesus is and what He is capable of, but yet also providing a critical lesson for us as his disciples as well.
And yet, in order for us to see this story for all that it is, and before we jump into our main story today, we need to look at what Jesus had told the disciples not too long before, the first part of our scripture reading that we just read. It’s essential for understanding the feeding of the 5,000 itself.
Shortly before this miracle story Jesus sends the disciples out to proclaim the kingdom of God, bringing good news and healing people of their diseases. And Jesus also gives them very specific instructions for how they’ll carry out this mission. He says, “Take nothing for your journey, no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, not even a second shirt.” Now, what’s that all about? Well, Jesus wants the disciples to start learning an important lesson, a lesson that every follower of Jesus and anyone who cares for and leads God’s people needs to learn. And it’s this -
Jesus can do a lot with our little. Jesus can do a lot with our little and can use it and multiply it to provide for his people.
And with that said, let’s see how this big idea unfolds within the story itself -
The disciples have been commissioned by Jesus, sent out to carry out Jesus’s ministry of preaching and healing, they return to Jesus to report back to him all that they have done, and from there, Jesus takes them to Bethsaida. Mark’s Gospel tells us Jesus was taking them there to get some rest. But instead of a nice weekend away, the crowds hear about their whereabouts and begin following them. And Jesus having compassion on them, began preaching and healing once more. Which is great and all, but for the disciples it creates a big problem. You’ve got a large group of people, it’s getting late, and they don’t have any food and they’re a long way from the nearest decent sized town.
And so they go to Jesus with their concern, “Send the crowd away so they can go to the surrounding villages and countryside and find food and lodging”
And this is a worthwhile concern. And I think for the disciples it’s coming out of a really good place. Jesus has called these disciples and sent them out to love and serve and care for His people. And the disciples want to do just that, they want them to get something to eat.
And so they share their concern with Jesus, and then Jesus tells them pointblank, “You give them something to eat.”
Which of course the disciples think is just crazy. They say, “We have only five loaves of bread and two fish—unless we go and buy food for all this crowd.” In their minds, being able find food for 5,000 people in the nearby villages would be nearly impossible, never mind the fact that to purchase such food would be the equivalent of 8 months of work if not more.
You see, their response exposes their unbelief. After all, this is the God who has just calmed a storm by the power of his word. Their response is rooted in this thinking of, “How can we make this happen?” when what they should be asking is, “God, how might you make this happen?” Their response shows their lack of faith, their lack of trust that God will provide, when in reality, Jesus has given us everything we need to provide for his people.
Because in midst of all of this, in Mark’s gospel, Jesus asks them one of my absolute favorite questions, “How many loaves do you have?”
I love that question. It’s such a simple yet powerful question. “How many loaves do you have?” Or to put it more generally, “What do you got?”
I know personally, I am often focused on what I don’t have, both in my personal life and when it comes to life here at church. Thinking, there’s not enough this or not enough that. Or I can’t do this because I don’t have that.
But yet, friends, that’s not what Jesus asked is it. He’s not over there saying to us, “Tell me about all the things that you don’t have.” Rather, he’s asking, “What do you got?”
Some of you are well off financially, and you’ve been able to steward that in incredible ways, investing it back into this church, our schools, hospitals, community. We thank God for that.
Others, maybe you don’t feel that you have much margin when it comes to finances. Maybe sometimes you even wish you could give more when you’re at a fundraiser or auction. And that’s okay. But what do you have? Maybe you have a home that’s an incredible space for hospitality and fellowship. Maybe you’re an incredible cook and you have the gift of creating community around a dinner table. Thank God for that.
Maybe you’re older and you don’t feel that you have the energy and stamina to serve as often you may like. That’s okay. But yet, what do you have? Maybe you are a prayer warrior who can hold the needs of our church in prayer. Maybe you can mentor some of the younger men and women here in our church, sharing wisdom that we desperately need. Thank God for that.
Some have plenty of money, some have a little. Some have a lot of time these days, some don’t. Some have a lot of energy and stamina, others not so much. Some of us are gifted in particular ways, others in other ways. That’s okay. Jesus asks us, “What do you have?” Focus on what you have and give it away freely, joyfully, trusting that Jesus can do a lot with our little.
Jesus tells the disciples, “You give them something to eat.”
And he’s asking us, “What do you got? Friends, what do you have?
Because check out what Jesus does next …
16 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 distribute to the people. 17 They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over.
Incredible! He takes 5 loaves and two fish and feeds 5000 men. Jesus feeds the whole town of Dillon. And 5,000 isn’t even quite right, that’s not even including the women and children. So we’re talking 10K, 15K, maybe even 20,000 people. And they all ate until they were satisfied.
Jesus will take what we have, whether a little or a lot, and give us everything we need to provide for his people. I’ve been thinking about what this means for us as a church and what it looks like to serve and bless our community. And to be clear, the example I’m about to share is not something that will or even should happen, but rather, just that, an example.
As many of you know, Callie is part of a nonprofit called the Early Childhood Coalition and one of the many things they are trying to do is to address the child care shortage here in Dillon. There’s simply more demand than supply at the moment - simply not enough child care providers who can serve working families with kids ages 0-5.
And as I’m learning more about this through Callie and others, I imagine Jesus asking our church this question, “What do you got?” And you know what we’ve got? A building, with a kitchen and classrooms and nursery that sit unoccupied more than 90% of the time. And there are hundreds upon hundreds of churches around our country that are using their facilities in such ways.
It’s an example of a win-win for both the church and the community. Not only is the church blessed by this infusion of young families, but the community is blessed through this trickle down effect. If a child care center isn’t paying rent as part of its overhead, it can pass off those savings in the form of more affordable enrollment for working families and higher and livable wages for employees.
Again, I am not broadcasting that we will do this or even that we should do this, but rather to share an example of this beautiful intersection of us asking Jesus this question of “What do the people need?” and Jesus asking us, as both individuals and as the church, “What do you got?”
Because friends, Jesus can do a lot with what we’ve got. He can do a lot with our little.
There is a comedian named Yakov Smirnoff who emigrated here from the Soviet Union back when it was still a Communist country. He said when he first got here he was shocked by how much stuff was in American supermarkets. He said, On my first shopping trip I saw powdered milk, you just add water and you get milk. Then I saw powdered orange juice, you just add water and you get orange juice. Then on another aisle, I saw baby powder, and I thought, “Wow, What a country.”
Man, if Yakov is wowed by us Americans, just imagine just how in awe he would be of Jesus. Jesus can do a lot with whatever we’ve got. Now, while we don’t know exactly how the food multiplied, (like was a Chia Pet, “just add water” and watch-things-grow situation?)
Well, it seems plausible that the following principle is at play here. That the food multiplied as the disciples gave it away. That as they gave the food away, the basket would continually refill. It’s in the act of trusting and joyfully submitting and freely giving what we have to Jesus that he is able to make a lot out of our little.
Even more, I love that Jesus gives the food back to the disciples who then pass it out to the people. He doesn’t say to them, “Alright, guys, step aside, I’ll take it from here.” No, he wants to use what they have and even more, gave it back to them to serve his people. It’s a reminder that Jesus wants to use us to accomplish his mission.
And then of course, just to really put an exclamation point on Jesus’s ability to provide, there are twelve baskets left over. Why twelve? We’re not totally sure, but you have to wonder if it’s because there are twelve disciples. And maybe just maybe, Jesus sent each disciple home with a basket, a doggy bag of sorts, and for each disciple it was this physical, tangible reminder of God’s provision, God’s abundance. That they would always remember, that Jesus can do a lot with our little.
Alright, friends, we need to wrap this up, one of the most incredible parts to me about the story is the crowd itself. They follow Jesus to a desolate place, to the middle of nowhere, and they bring no food with them. And they stay there late into the day, with no plans of where their next meal will come from.
This blows me away. Usually when I leave the house for any length of time greater than 3-4 hours, I am always thinking, “What and how much food do I need to take with me?” I will forget my gloves, my phone, my keys, my laptop power cord, but rarely my food.
You see, these folks were so enthralled by Jesus’s teaching and so desperate to hear more that they didn’t even think through where their next meal would come from.
Maybe they knew what the disciples didn’t - that Jesus could turn a little food into a lot. Or maybe they simply didn’t care and were okay going hungry for a while.
Or maybe just maybe, as Jesus taught them that day he told them that one day in heaven when Jesus returns, there will be a greater banquet, the greatest dinner of all, best food you’ve ever had, and that that bread and fish meal that day was just a foretaste of something better, something greater.
But at the very least we know this, they came for the teaching, so friends, let’s teach them. They came to be with Jesus, so friends, let’s give them Jesus.
Friends, you are the hands and feet of Jesus, carrying out his heavenly mission here on earth, sharing Jesus’s love and healing wherever you live, work, play or learn.
Some are running towards Jesus already, and some simply need to be invited in. We’ve got everything we need right this room to carry out all that God has for us. The people, the resources, the gifts and talents, you name it. With Jesus at work, we’ve got all we need right in this very room. And let’s step out in faith, trusting that God can do a lot with our little.