Good morning! I hope this day finds you and your family well, and I want you to know that you are in my prayers daily during this difficult time.
I invite you to take a few moments with me to reflect on today’s Upper Room Devotional below — as well as on the theology woven into “It is well with my soul.”
Matthew 14:13-21 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
Feeding the Five Thousand
13 Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. 14 When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick. 15 When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” 16 Jesus said to them, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” 17 They replied, “We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.” 18 And he said, “Bring them here to me.” 19 Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. 20 And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full. 21 And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.
Tim’s Devotional Reflection for Today
Today’s scripture is one of those few that are found in all four Gospels. The story of the Loaves and Fishes, often called the Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes, the Miracle of Multiplication, or the Feeding of the 5,000 is a story of multiplication through generous sharing. In Matthew and Mark, there are two such accounts—the other being an account of the Feeding of Four Thousand.
Jesus and the Disciples were in an isolated place by the Sea of Galilee. It was getting late. The crowds were getting restless — and hungry. The only solution Jesus’ Disciples could imagine was sending the crowds away to fend for themselves. But, Jesus could envision another possibility. He said to his disciples, “There’s no need to send them away. You give them something to eat.”
What an impossible task! Can’t you just imagine the Disciples looking at one another in disbelief? They surveyed the paltry amount of food they had brought with them and responded, “We have nothing here except five loaves of bread and two fish.” I can imagine them shaking their heads as they looked out on the crowd. What could they do with so little?
The crowd had swelled to 5,000 men—not including the women and children. A lot of hungry people were standing there staring at them, waiting.
So then Jesus asked the Disciples to hand him the loaves and fishes. He took them, and blessed them, and broke them apart. He then gave them to the Disciples, and the Disciples began passing them out to the crowd. They looked on with incredulity as the crowd passed the food among them, shared the food, and there was not only enough to go around, but there were 12 baskets left over.
In the accounts in Matthew, Mark and Luke of Jesus feeding the five thousand, the disciples raise the issue of feeding all those people. They point out that the people are hungry and that Jesus should send them away into the villages to fend for themselves. But Jesus has compassion for the crowds, so Jesus’ response to the disciples is to say, “You feed them!” The disciples are not amused. They point out that they only have five loaves and two fish.
These stories are remarkable. Those barley loaves—the bread of the poor—were likely very small—more like rolls, really. The fish were likely small as well—probably small pickled fish. Yet, when given freely to Jesus, it was enough. In fact, it was more than enough. When they sat down together and the food was shared there was more than enough—twelve baskets full left over.
It is the miracle of multiplication. Notice I used the present tense: it IS the miracle of multiplication. It still happens today. When we offer what we have and who we are to Christ, it is more than enough. What an important message to counter our attitudes of scarcity!
Sometimes we have a tendency to look around at the overwhelming needs around us and all that needs to be done and all the hurt and all the things the church needs to address and we feel helpless, we feel like there is no way we have enough. We can’t muster enough resources to deal with all of that. But in the hands of Christ it is enough. In the hands of Jesus, our own simple gifts can be multiplied a hundred-fold, a thousand-fold, five thousand-fold.
Barbara Brown Taylor once wrote of taking her youth group from Vermont to Arizona to minister on a Navajo reservation. She told that when they got there they joined other youth from around the nation. They were to accomplish forty-six projects that had been identified; but when they arrived, they realized that the people really weren’t ready for them because they weren’t expecting them. They explained that they had been disappointed so many times, they’d been let down, they’d had broken promises, they didn’t even expect them to show up.
So she said, “Here we were, not knowing how to build a goat pen or knowing how to put a roof on a house, any of the things we needed to do. But we did what we could and we gave what we had. And by the end of the week 42 of the 46 projects had been accomplished and we worked alongside the Navajo people there.” I was struck by what she said at the end of her piece: “We went into the week skinny, with five loaves and two fish, but we came out fat, with 12 baskets to spare. Because God made good to match our gifts, such as they were, with His. It’s something to remember when our own resources look too meager.”
There are many times our resources look exactly like that but we learn that God takes what we give and in God’s hands it’s enough.
Ultimately, what we know is this, when Jesus is around, the problem is not resources, it is faith. It is commitment. We can always do what Jesus called us to do.
The Letter to the Ephesians ends in benediction: “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever!”
We can do anything God has called us to do. We have the resources. Do we have the faith?
Thank you for sharing this early moment of your day with me, with God, and with the words and music that I hope you will carry with you throughout the coming day and night.
I am so grateful for you, for our church, and for the Love that will see us all through this very difficult time. Please stay safe and well and we’ll be together again in spirit tomorrow morning!
Grace and Peace,
Dr. Tim Bruster