You Feed Them!
I’m a Yankee. I had never been farther south than a short jaunt into northern Virginia until I went to Texas with my wife to visit her step-family. Our first night in her stepmother’s home provided me with an important insight into the difference between northern and southern meals.
There were only the three of us, but the table was covered with food. Instead of one entrée there were at least three, one of which was a large bowl of shrimp. There were vegetables galore, including some I didn’t recognize. I ate as much as appetite and belt would allow and barely made a dent in the table. A couple of other family members dropped in and ate their fill, but there was still a lot left over.
Don’t get me wrong: my family never starved, but we never had a refrigerator-full of leftovers either. Mom would cook enough for the three of us, but with little extra. We ate well, ate enough, but she cooked for those she knew would be there, and that was about all. If we had company for dinner the amount of food increased, but only by enough to feed the guests and us.
Jesus had spent the day preaching, teaching and healing the crowd that had gathered around him. Now evening was drawing near, and because of the seclusion of the place, they were far from any source of food. The disciples came up with a practical solution.
“Send the crowd away,” they said. “Let them go into the nearby villages to buy food and find a place to stay for the night. We’re too far away from civilization to deal with this.” I’m sure they envisioned little towns with plenty of restaurants and motels—right?
Jesus had a different solution: “You give them something to eat,” he said.
Can’t you see the disciples’ faces? Wouldn’t we have looked the same? I can imagine my mother’s face if my father came through the door saying, “I hope we have enough food. I’ve invited the whole congregation for supper.”
How could Jesus have been so impractical? How could he have expected the disciples, who often couldn’t find their hands at the end of their arms, to come up with enough food to satisfy five thousand men plus women and children? Where were they going to find that quantity without so much as a McDonald’s or Colonel Sanders nearby—and even if they could, how would they pay for it?
Of course the disciples hadn’t taken into consideration God’s power to provide. We know what happened. Jesus took the five small loaves of bread and the two fish the disciples were able to find and blessed them. Not only did Jesus’ power provide enough to feed the multitude, there was more food left over than on our stepmother’s table in Texas.
Like the disciples, some people try to come up with practical solutions. They claim that the real miracle that evening occurred when people saw the selflessness of the one who had offered his meager dinner. Everyone took out their own provisions and shared them. Perhaps—but who says the solution has to be practical? Jesus saw the problem, said to the disciples, “You fix it,” then applied God’s power to bring about the solution.
Are things any different today? We say, rather glibly at times, “God helps those who help themselves.” But it’s true! God expects us to go as far as our own resources allow. We may feel that our problems are impossible to solve, but God knows better. “You fix it,” God says. Then, when we have done what we can, God supplies the power necessary to give us what we need—and more! Much more!