“He said to them, ‘Give them something to eat.’ They said, ‘We have only five loaves of bread and two fish’" (Luke 9:13).
The location of this miracle is described in various ways:
“A desolate place” (Matthew 14:13).
“A solitary place” (Mark 6:32).
“A town called Bethsaida” (Luke 9:10).
“The far shore of the Sea of Galilee” (John 6:1).
From this we gather that Jesus and his disciples crossed the Sea of Galilee from west to east, landing near the village of Bethsaida, in a remote area, near a hillside, where thousands of people gathered to hear him speak.
Bethsaida was not a city. It was not even a town. It was just a tiny fishing village. The fact that 5000 men (not including the women and children who must have been part of the crowd) followed Jesus to this desolate area shows the magnetic appeal of our Lord to the masses.
When Jesus said, “Give them something to eat” (Luke 9:13), the disciples were astounded and embarrassed because they did not have the means to meet such a request. No one could feed such a vast multitude! “Send them away, Lord, so they won’t starve here in the wilderness.”
Two things are happening at once in this story. First, Jesus wants his men to realize that without him they can do nothing. They must be forced to realize their own inadequacy for the task at hand. As long as they think they can feed the crowds on their own, why would they need Jesus? You only need a miracle when you can’t do it yourself.
Second, Jesus wants the great crowds to see that he is the Bread from Heaven who can meet their deepest needs. He feeds them physically to show them that he can also feed them spiritually.
We still need both lessons today. Without Jesus’ active involvement, all our plans are doomed to fail. Until we see that our human resources are bound to fail, we will depend on our money, our organization, our staff, and our connections to make things happen. But when we at long last come to the end of our hoarded resources and cry out, “Lord, this is impossible. Help me!” all heaven comes to our aid.
The twelve baskets left over tell an important story. If we will trust Jesus, there will be plenty for those we serve, and more than enough left over to feed us also.
Jesus is always more than enough for those who dare to trust in him.
Lord, thank you for showing us our weakness that you might show yourself strong to meet every need we have. Amen.