Luke 9:12-17

The day was drawing to a close, and the twelve came to him and said, “Send the crowd away, so that they may go into the surrounding villages and countryside, to lodge and get provisions; for we are here in a deserted place.” But he said to them, “You give them something to eat.” They said, “We have no more than five loaves and two fish—unless we are to go and buy food for all these people.” For there were about five thousand men. And he said to his disciples, “Make them sit down in groups of about fifty each.” They did so and made them all sit down. And taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke them, and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd. And all ate and were filled. What was left over was gathered up, twelve baskets of broken pieces.

Apparently it’s been a long day of teaching and healing. And at the end of it all, the disciples are ready for the crowds to go. Not, I think, because they resented the crowds intrusion into their time with their teacher, but rather for entirely practical reasons: after a long day, this massive crowd would certainly be hungry…and they didn’t have nearly enough food. Perhaps fearing the mob mentality that can take over a hungry crowd, or maybe just daunted at the prospect of this much need, they ask Jesus to send them away. After all, they are not that far from a town, and the people can find food there. It would seem an eminently reasonable solution.

Jesus doesn’t agree, and his response is interesting for two reasons. First, he desires to care for the people where they are. Whether because he is less optimistic about these five thousand finding adequate resources in the neighboring towns or whether he is simply determined to care for all of their needs, we don’t know. But he is determined to take care of them.

Second, he first instructs his disciples to provide for them. They are perplexed, if not astounded, by the proposition. They have barely any food, hardly enough for the twelve of them…and it’s five thousand people. No doubt we can sympathize with their reaction. But keep in mind that the disciples have just returned from a time away when Jesus had equipped them to perform all manner of miracles and had instructed them to rely on the generosity of others. And they had. They themselves had healed and cast out demons and had not once gone hungry. So perhaps Jesus, confident of their abilities and eager to root them in the bounty of God’s kingdom and stretch them even more, offered these instructions in all sincerity, firmly believing them capable of fulfilling his charge.

They, however, are not confident; indeed, they can’t imagine rising to the occasion. And so Jesus himself provides – provides for the crowd and sets an example for his followers – by taking what is available, giving thanks to God for it, and sharing it with full confidence that through God’s grace and power it will be enough.

I wonder what the disciples learned that day as they witnessed another miracle of God’s bounty and provision. Did they learn to trust that if you merely offer what you have, God will make it enough?

Just as importantly, have we?

Prayer: Dear God, invite us always to trust your desire to care for your children, and embolden us thereby to offer what we have knowing that you will bless and multiply it.


Post image: Eularia Clarke’s Feeding the Five Thousand