10 On their return the apostles told him all that they had done. And he took them and withdrew apart to a town called Bethsaida. 11 When the crowds learned it, they followed him, and he welcomed them and spoke to them of the kingdom of God and cured those who needed healing.12 Now the day began to wear away, and the twelve came and said to him, “Send the crowd away to go into the surrounding villages and countryside to find lodging and get provisions, for we are here in a desolate place.” 13 But he said to them, “You give them something to eat.”They said, “We have no more than five loaves and two fish—unless we are to go and buy food for all these people.” 14 For there were about five thousand men. And he said to his disciples, “Make them sit down in groups of about fifty each.” 15 And they did so, and made them all sit down.16 And taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing over them. Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd. 17 And they all ate and were satisfied. And what was left over was picked up, twelve baskets of broken pieces.
The Return of the Apostles
Here come the apostles, back after an exciting time of healing and bringing the good news to the people. They might have been quite full of themselves. They might have thought they had arrived. You’d think that success on the level they had just experienced would have caused them to pause. Take a sabbatical. Assess what they had done. Write a book to help others.
However, Jesus is a teacher by nature and sees how they have grown and also sees how they need to grow. Their belief is not big enough yet. Their journey of faith is not over. They have mastered some ideas of quality but they have not understood quantity. They think that because they are few the people that they touch will be limited in number. When 5,000 men run out of food, when a legion requires feeding, Jesus says, “You feed them!” Any self reliance that they might have built whilst running around in pairs is shattered. They look at their meager inventory of 2 fish and five loaves and they are lost as to what to do.
Jesus draws them back into their dependent relationship with them. They can bear fruit as they are attached to the vine. The vine produces the fruit, the branches bear the fruit. In groups of fifty, each family is nourished and fed as the sustenance comes from the hands of Jesus. The blessings of God produce a bounty through disciples who are not self-reliant but who are dependent on God.
Are we self-confident or are we lost as to what to do without Jesus? True apostles will often be rejoicing about God’s work in one area in their lives when God presses into the inadequacy of our own resources to navigate life’s twists and turns. We end up broken, even in the moment of our apparent victory. We have to look at our meager resources to cope with grief, minister to the abused, or preach to the hardened. We then shrug and give the circumstances to Jesus. As we then pass the few fish or loaves we possess to the Son of God, he multiplies what little we see and there is a bounty.
Jesus, as we look into the future we can be overwhelmed by what we believe you are calling us to do and the limited resources we have. We have one car, a long commute, two children and so many opportunities. Help us to have faith and give these resources to you. Show us what you want to do in terms of housing, transportation, time, and money. Then let us walk forward in faith.
- What have the apostles just experienced?
- What does Jesus try and teach them next?
- How does this prepare them for Jesus’ departure?
- What success have you had in ministry?
- How might Jesus want to take you to the next level?