The miracle of Jesus feeding 5,000 men with a few loaves and fish is the only miracle (apart from the resurrection) that appears in all four gospels.
This experience made such an impact on Matthew, Mark, Luke and John that all four felt compelled to write about it. Read the four accounts in Mt. 14:13-21, Mk. 6:32-44, Lk. 9:10-17 and Jn.6:1-13
Let’s refresh our memory about what happened that day. About 5,000 men and many more women and children had followed Jesus to a remote area. After a long day, they were hungry. There was very little food on hand – just five little loaves of bread and two fish. The disciples wanted to send the people away to get “dinner on their own” in nearby villages.
In summary, there was overwhelming human need and a woeful lack of resources. This, I believe, is the reason for the universal appeal of this miracle. Overwhelming human need is universal, as are woefully inadequate resources.
Overwhelming need and woeful inadequacy would be the epitaph of humanity – were it not for Jesus.
Jesus took charge and gave his disciples several commands. These are instructive for ministry leaders.
- Jesus said to his disciples, “you give them something to eat”
The natural response to overwhelming need is withdrawal (“send the people away”) . The faith response that God requires is to address the need. If there had been unlimited bread and fish that day, there would have been no need for faith. There would have been no need for a miracle. Ministry is faith in action, especially in the face of overwhelming odds. The opposition of circumstances never relieves us of our responsibility to serve. In plenty or in want we are to “give them something to eat”. Spurgeon said that, “to get, we must give; that to accumulate, me must scatter: that to make ourselves happy, we must make others happy, and that in order to become spiritually vigorous, we must seek the spiritual good of others. In watering others, we are ourselves watered.
- Jesus said to his disciples, “bring them here (loaves and fishes) to me”
It has been said that little in the hands of God is much. When we place the little we have – whether it be strength, ability, understanding, faith or finances – in His hands, the miracle begins to be disseminated. Jesus had the ability to unilaterally put a fish and loaf in every hand that day, but he chose to partner with his disciples and their meager resources. This was a lesson they never forgot. Note the important detail that Jesus took those 5 loaves and two fish, blessed them and then gave them to his disciples who, in turn, distributed them to the masses. This is the divine order of miraculous provision. Christ’s ministers must first wait at the feet of Jesus to receive his miraculous provision. Only then are they able to adequately meet the need of the multitude. The miracle only became visible when the disciples gave what they received from Jesus.
- Jesus said to his disciples, “Have the people sit down in groups of about 50 each”…….. “Gather the pieces that have been left over. Let nothing be wasted.”
The miracle must be administered. Miracles are not for momentary excitement or man’s exaltation. They are powerful parables of eternal truth. Jesus healed the blind man and then said “I am the light of the world.” He raised Lazarus and said, “I am the Resurrection and the Life”. The miracle must be seared like a brand on a man’s soul. It is to forever (not just during the momentary miraculous moment) transform men and women into the Lord’s image. It is to forever instruct them of His glorious nature. These truths are best learned in community. “Sit down in groups” and learn of me, the Lord says. “Let nothing be wasted” by forgetfulness, neglect or mismanagement. Every testimony to Christ’s glory must be preserved.
Has the Lord called you to ministry? Always be prepared to feed your people. But first bring what little you have to Jesus. And finally, preserve His glory by administering well His miraculous power among your people.