THERE’S NOTHING TO EAT
Pastor Barry Kerner
34 When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.
35 By this time it was late in the day, so his disciples came to him. “This is a remote place,” they said, “and it’s already very late. 36 Send the people away so that they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.”
37 But he answered, “You give them something to eat.” They said to him, “That would take more than half a year’s wages! Are we to go and spend that much on bread and give it to them to eat?”
Having children in the house can prove very challenging. We go grocery shopping often so most of the time we have plenty of food around the house. I have been amazed whenever I hear my kids say to Cheryl and me – “There’s Nothing To Eat.” How many times have you heard this from your children while they’re rifling through the refrigerator and cupboards on a food foraging mission? How many times did we ourselves say that to our own parents while we were growing up? And the usual answer that comes from mom or dad is this – “there’s plenty of food in this house for you to eat!”
Sound familiar? More often than not, there is indeed plenty of food to eat that’s right under our nose. It might not be exactly what we wanted or what we were looking for, but there is food right there, if we’re willing to accept it
And that’s where the problem lies – we’re not sure we are willing to accept it because it’s not what we were looking for. This helps to set the stage for today’s Gospel lesson as Jesus feeds the 5000 with five loaves and two fish. Other than Jesus’ resurrection, the feeding of the 5,000 is the only miracle to occur in all four gospels. This repetition gives it a high degree of importance. I want to focus on just one detail of the narrative. When the great multitude came to Jesus in the wilderness, he was moved with compassion because he saw they were tired and hungry. Late in the day his disciples suggested he send the people home so they could find something to eat.
Let me take a moment to back up to ensure we know why Jesus and the disciples were there and how they encountered so many people who wanted to hear him. John The Baptist had become a thorn in the side of the monarchy and an enemy of those who believed they didn’t have to be accountable for their actions. Out of hatred and jealousy, King Herod’s wife and daughter demanded – and received – John’s head on a platter.
In grief and sorrow, Jesus withdrew to a place apart; a place where he could spend time alone praying and recovering from his heartfelt anguish. But solitude was something which was rare for him, and it was not to be found this time. The crowds followed him. And his compassion overrode his fatigue and he moved about them, Preaching- Teaching – Touching – Healing
When evening came, it was obvious they were hungry. After all, even the most compelling of teachers – even the Son of God – can’t hold a crowd’s attention indefinitely without a break now and then for food and a bathroom run. There were five thousand men there that day. The miracle that is about to happen only increases in amazement when you stop to consider there were probably more than 5,000 people there – the text says 5,000 plus women and children.
Let’s make the assumption that many of those men were married. They would have had their wives along. In addition, there would have been children as well. All in all, we may be talking about 15 to 20,000 people – a huge crowd.
The disciples, not being all that creative, didn’t see any way they could feed all these people. So they began to encourage Jesus to send them away while it was still light enough that they could make their way into town to find food and shelter. Jesus told them sending them away wasn’t necessary. He told the disciples to feed them. Wait a Minute, What….Really?
The disciples in essence were saying to Jesus, the crowds hunger was not their problem. Jesus floors, them by saying – “Give Them Something to Eat.” Don’t be too hard on the disciples, after all, what would we have done? It’s late, and the people are tired and hungry. The local Burger King is closed for remodeling. The nearest Walmart is miles away in Jerusalem. Pizza Hut doesn’t deliver to the wilderness. Door Dash needs a physical address.
The disciples therefore make a very practical suggestion — “send them away and let them find their own food.” That’s the logical plan. The suggestion is not made from bad motives. It was just that in themselves the disciples had no resources to meet this enormous need of the people. They had no food and no money. What else could they do There was nothing THEY could do, nothing! So they tell Jesus, “There’s nothing to eat.”
Most of us would have said the same thing. We’re quick to see what we can’t do and quick to talk about what we don’t have. The disciples saw the crowds and realized their inadequacy. Somehow, they forgot that the Son of God was standing right there with them. In the days of Jesus, take out and prepackaged snacks weren’t an option. There were basically two food groups – bread and fish. The disciples looked around, rummaged through their pockets, canvassed the area, talked with other folks present and discovered that all they could come up with were five loaves of bread and two fish. Nowhere near enough for such a large crowd!
This is how Jesus often works with his followers. Over and over again he puts us in positions where we are helpless, and then he says, “do something!” In our desperation we cry out to heaven, “How?” and he replies, “I’m glad you asked.” It’s not that Jesus wants us to fail, but he does want us to know that without him we can do nothing. In fact in John 15:5 Jesus makes that clear when he says, “Apart from me you can do nothing!” Our success depends totally upon him, and the sooner we learn that the better off we will be.
John’s account of this miracle tells us it was Andrew who found the young boy with the five loaves and two fish and brought him to Jesus. We should not miss the obvious lesson here – don’t ever despise the day of small things. Job 8:7 reminds us, “Though your beginning was small, your latter end will greatly increase.”
Just because something is small or seemingly insignificant doesn’t mean God can’t use it. He used a baby’s tears to attract Pharaoh’s daughter, and the infant Moses was saved from certain death. Later he used Moses’ rod to deliver the children of Israel. And still later a teenage boy named David used one smooth stone to defeat the mighty giant Goliath. Now Jesus is about to feed 5000 men and their families with just five loaves of bread and two fish. How little we have doesn’t matter with God. He can use anything we offer to Him.
Along with not being very creative, the disciples didn’t remember their history very well. They had heard all of the narratives of the faith. They had been told about the exploits of their heroic ancestors. They grew up knowing they could trust God. But at that particular moment, they forgot. I guess there is nothing all that unusual about that. We forget about God from time to time ourselves. In our times of distress we often forget how God has delivered us in the past, time and time again. So the Disciples forgot their history. They forgot about, among other things, the prophets Elijah and Elisha.
During the ministry of the prophet Elijah, there was a drought in the land. He found himself up in the city of Zarephath, in modern day Lebanon, on the Mediterranean coast. There was a widow there who was down to her very last bit of flour and cooking oil. She was planning to make one last meal for her and her son and then prepare to die. But Elijah asked her to feed him first. After he selfless sacrifice, Elijah promised her that as long as the drought lasted, she would always have flour and oil. The writer of I Kings tells us during the course of the drought, the woman’s jar of flour was never empty and her jug of oil did not fail. The disciples had forgotten about that.
In 2 Kings:42-44 we can read about the time the Prophet Elisha was down in the Jordan Valley during a severe famine. He happened to be in the company of about a hundred people when this fellow came along with twenty barley loaves and a sack of grain. Elisha told the man to give his provisions to the people to eat, but he said there was no way this food would feed a hundred people. But Elisha repeated his instruction, everyone ate, and they had food left over. The disciples had forgotten about that
So, Jesus’ disciples had come up with a just a little bread and a couple of fish from a little boy whose mother thought enough to make her son a small lunch for one, saying to him, “if you want to go with the crowd to hear Jesus, I better fix you something to eat, because I heard He can be long winded.” Jesus knew that little boy’s lunch would be enough.
First, Jesus had all of the people sit down on the grass. After blessing the food, Jesus gave it to his disciples to pass out to the crowd. Not only was there enough to feed everyone, but after dinner was finished, they collected twelve baskets of leftovers.
We become concerned that we won’t have enough. We worry over our limited resources, and we forget Jesus’ words,“Bring them here to me.” Jesus invites us today, as he did his disciples then, to bring what we have to him, trusting that little is much in the hands of our Lord.
Will we bring what we see as small and insignificant to Jesus that he might bless them and us? Will we follow Jesus’ command so that he might do what seems impossible to us? God asks us to do the impossible and then he gives us whatever we need to obey his command.
Jesus often told people to do impossible things.
- To a Lame man he said, “Rise, pick up your bed, and walk”
- To a Dead man, he cried out, “Lazarus, come forth”
- To 10 Lepers he said, “Show yourselves to the priest”
- To Peter he said, “I bid you come walk out on the water”
There is a sense in which every command of the Lord is impossible for us to obey. On our own we will always lack what we need to obey God’s commands. But when we partner with God he is faithful to give us whatever we need when we ask. We then bring it to him to accomplish the impossible. What God demands, he supplies. He bids us to rise up like eagles and gives us not just wings but the air beneath those wings to soar.
Jesus tells us to give them something to eat. He knows we have resources we don’t yet realize. When the Hungry come looking for a bit to eat. When the Grieving come looking for comfort and reassurance. When the Lost come looking for a new direction. When the Weak come looking for strength. When the Resentful come looking for understanding. When the Afraid come looking for courage. When the Addicted come looking for freedom. And, when the Hopeless come looking for hope. It is up to us to remember the words of Jesus, “YOU GIVE THEM SOMETHING…”
When there are needs around us, people do not need to be sent away. We have it in our power to help them see God through us. When people wonder what God is like, let them look at us as we model godly behavior. Let them see God through our eyes. Let them understand the lengths God will go to to meet their needs. When someone needs to hear the Gospel, let them look no further than our lives.
If the Lord can feed 5000 plus people with five loaves and two small fish, can’t he provide for all our needs today as well? We live in a time of great uncertainty. There are all kinds of things going on in our lives and in the world today that can make it hard to sleep at night. What are we to do? There is a call to each one of us. Instead of worrying ourselves sick, we need to trust that the Lord will indeed provide. The Lord, whose ways are not our ways and whose thoughts are not our thoughts, invites us to put our trust and confidence in him. He may well choose to provide for us through means that we would never have imagined in our wildest dreams. And when we are called, like those first disciples, to do what seems Unlikely – Improbable – even Impossible by human wisdom and worldly standards, we look to Jesus to do what is more than possible. I can do all things through Jesus Christ who strengthens me!
I can’t recall if it was a book I read or a Bible Study some years ago entitled “How To Prepare For A Miracle.” There were four steps recorded in the process of receiving miracles in people’s lives.
- Admit that you have a need;
- Assess what you have to work with;
- Give God whatever you have;
- Expect God to multiply whatever you give him.
More often than not, the Lord is not able to bless us or send miracles for our situation because we are too quick to shout – THERE’S NOTHING TO EAT! Sometimes, it seems to me that Christians can be a little self-centered, selfish, and arrogant. Those attitudes can keep the miraculous from happening.
I do believe Jesus came in order that we might have life and have it more abundantly. But I don’t believe that OUR abundant life is first on the agenda. The more that I read the Gospel, the more that I come to understand that our task is to ensure the abundant life of others first. When we are so occupied with meeting the needs of others, it seems to me, our own abundant life will take care of itself.
Our calling therefore is to give them something to eat. I believe when Jesus tells us to do that, we always underestimate our resources. We always tend to believe that –
- We don’t have enough
- We can’t do enough
- We don’t know enough
- We’re not smart enough
- We’re not creative enough
Years ago one of my favorite TV shows was “MacGyver.” Anyone remember that show! He was pretty cool. He was some sort of special, super-duper secret agent who always went on assignments with nothing in his pocket except his Swiss army knife. In every show, he would get into trouble and would be facing a situation of certain death. But he would always find a roll of duct tape somewhere and some other little items. With those things and his pocket knife, he was always able to solve any problem he faced. The guy could build a 747 with duct tape and a pocket knife!
Do you know that we have provision enough though the hands of Jesus? Thanks be to God that Jesus provides not only food for the body, but food for the soul as well. Jesus is our Bread of life, who died for us that we might live for him.
God, who did not spare his own Son, but freely offered him up for us all, calls us to trust that he will do what we ask him in faith to do in the Lord’s Prayer — “Give us this day our daily bread.”
Jesus will give us what we need for this day. When all is said and done, isn’t that all that any of us has – this day? May our use of this day bring glory to the Lord Jesus Christ by serving the needs of our neighbors in Christ’s Name
The thing that Christians need to realize is that we already have been given abundance. Sharing that abundance with others is our task and our joy. Miracles occur in our life when we help others see the miracles in their own lives.
But, like the crowd that followed Jesus we must have a Hunger for It. If you want success in life – you must be Hungry for it. If you want your relationship restored – you must be Hungry for it. If you want to grow in this Christian Journey – you must be Hungry for it. Can I tell you that there is plenty to Eat if you are Hungry enough.