Compassionate provision ∙
They do not need to go away; you give them something to eat! Matthew 14:16
1 After this, Jesus crossed over to the far side of the Sea of Galilee.
2 A huge crowd kept following him wherever he went, because they saw his miraculous signs as he healed the sick.
3 Then Jesus climbed a hill and sat down with his disciples around him.
5 Jesus soon saw a huge crowd of people coming to look for him. Turning to Philip, he asked, “Where can we buy bread to feed all these people?”
6 He was testing Philip, for he already knew what he was going to do.
7 Philip replied, “Even if we worked for months, we wouldn’t have enough money to feed them!”
8 Then Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up.
9 “There’s a young boy here with five barley loaves and two fish. But what good is that with this huge crowd?”
10 “Tell everyone to sit down,” Jesus said. So they all sat down on the grassy slopes. (The men alone numbered about 5,000.)
11 Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks to God, and distributed them to the people. Afterward, he did the same with the fish. And they all ate as much as they wanted.
12 After everyone was full, Jesus told his disciples, “Now gather the leftovers, so that nothing is wasted.”
13 So they picked up the pieces and filled twelve baskets with scraps left by the people who had eaten from the five barley loaves.
Lost was an American television series that originally aired on ABC from September 22, 2004, to May 23, 2010, over six seasons, with a total of 121 episodes. The show included elements of supernatural and science fiction. It follows the survivors of the crash of a commercial jet airliner flying between Sydney and Los Angeles. They are stranded on a mysterious island somewhere in the South Pacific Ocean.
The survivors must work together to survive on this seemingly deserted tropical island. It left many of its viewers dumbfounded and scratching their heads. It was convoluted and had lots of twists and turns. But ultimately, it boiled down to a straightforward plot: it was about people who were lost searching for answers. Upon reflection, that is the background against which the Scriptures are set.
Wherever the Lord Jesus Christ went, large crowds of people thronged Him. As the God-man, His humanity was exactly the same as ours. He grew tired, hungry, weary, and needed alone time with the Father.
In this story, the Lord Jesus Christ retreated by boat to a lonely, desolate place on the sea of Galilee’s northeast shore. But the crowds figured out where He was going and walked quickly around the sea to arrive there first. Time passed, and this large crowd found themselves stranded in a desolate place late in the afternoon without food.
Matthew 14:14 When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them.
The plight of the multitude pierced the heart of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Greek word translated as “moved with compassion” or “had compassion” is splagchnizomai. The English word spleen comes from this word. Splagchnizomai literally means “to have one’s inner being (viscera) stirred.” It is a far stronger emotion than sympathy. It means to be deeply affected in one’s innermost being, particularly that area characterized by pity, empathy, or compassion. It could be translated as “His heart was filled with pity,” “His insides were stirred up,” or “He felt very sorry for them” (UBS).
The disciples were very human, just like us. Can you imagine how they might have felt? What an embarrassing quandary. They realized there was not enough food for such a multitude of people. Their thinking was totally earthbound. Their human resources were exhausted. That was all they relied upon, so the response was quite natural. They concluded that there was nothing that could be done. Rather than turn to the Lord Jesus Christ for help and depend upon Him, they asked him to send the crowd away.
But the Lord Jesus Christ had a more excellent and instructive way to handle the situation. He directed the disciples to feed the crowd themselves. They were dumbfounded. Humanly speaking, it was impossible. They had no food among themselves. They had no money to buy food. And even if they did, there was no local, kosher McDonald’s anywhere to be found.
But Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, showing a smidgen of faith and initiative, spoke up. He noticed that there was a young boy with five barley loaves and two fish. But what good would that be with this huge crowd? In all probability, he probably thought that such a small amount of food could barely feed the thirteen of them.
To provide for this multitude would take a miracle. That is precisely what the Lord Jesus Christ intended to do from the beginning. It was a teachable moment. But He wanted His disciples to realize that what is impossible with men, using purely human resources, is possible from the resourceful hands of the living God.
The Lord Jesus Christ prayed for the Father’s provision; He took the five loaves and two fishes and supersized them. Using the creative power of His hands, the Lord Jesus Christ multiplied the meager offering into a superabundance of food.
REFLECT & PRAY
Often, a quick self-inventory of our resources and abilities finds us wanting.
Father thank You that You are indeed the creator God and can do the impossible. We call it a miracle. But for You, it is quick, easy, simple handiwork. It is far better to trust in Your provision than to strive to be sufficient on our own.
Initially, the disciple’s hands provided nothing. The hands of the Lord Jesus Christ multiplied, broke, and provided what was needed. Imagine for a moment a magician performing on stage. He whips off his hat and pulls out a rabbit – no big deal. Any magician can do that. But then he pulls out another, and another, and another ad infinitum. One after another, loaves and fish were instantaneously created and handed out in a similar fashion. But the supply never diminished.
Starting with practically nothing, the Lord Jesus Christ miraculously produced a great feast of bread and fish using only His own hands. It was not a magician’s trick!
Mark 6:41 And He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up toward heaven, He blessed the food and broke the loaves, and He kept giving them to the disciples to set before them, and He divided up the two fish among them all.
The Lord Jesus Christ then used the hands of the disciples to do what they could do. The twelve disciples were first assigned to distribute the bountiful provision and later to gather together all of the leftovers into twelve empty baskets. Why twelve baskets? One for each apostle. I can picture each of the disciples toting a large, overflowing basket.
This was intended as a literal “hands-on” object lesson regarding the compassion and miraculous power of the Father to provide for human needs. When the Lord Jesus Christ challenged the disciples to take care of it using their own resources, He wanted them to recognize their utter limitations and inadequacy. Only the Father has adequate resources.
The Lord Jesus Christ has given every child of the King the tremendous task of communicating His gospel message to others. He does not demand more from us than we have. But He does require all that we have.His message is simple and straightforward. “Come to me as you are; however, ill-equipped; bring to me what you have, however little, and I will use it greatly. Little is always much in the hands of Christ (Barclay).
The Father intended the story to teach faith and dependence upon Him. He provides steps of action to take to solve the everyday problems of life. It is pretty straightforward:
- Start where you are with what you have.
- Give what you have to the Lord Jesus Christ.
- Do what He asks.
- Conserve the results
Sadly, many of us reason that it is never the right place nor the right time for the Father to work. The Father has a totally different perspective.
Matthew 9:36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.
The Father responds to human need, failure, and suffering with love and compassion. The Father is always moved to shepherd us.
© Dr. H 2022