That’s the question that comes to mind for me with the Feeding of the 5,000. Just exactly how did it happen? We have Jesus, twelve disciples and probably in excess of 15,000 people. Only the men counted so they were the only ones counted, with 5,000 men you may well have had 5,000 women and more than 5,000 children.
Imagine for a moment you are one of the disciples. Jesus takes one of the loaves, probably more like a roll than a loaf of bread as we would know today. As he takes the loaf he prays for his Father’s blessing on the loaf, tears it in half, gives you half and then says to you, OK now it’s your turn, go and feed the people! You look at Jesus, you look at the half-loaf you have just been given, you look at the people. Your half-loaf needs to feed about 1,500 people. What’s going on in your mind? What questions are you asking silently?
You have to do something so you start to break off a piece of the loaf and give it to someone. What happens then? You look back at your half loaf and see it is still a half loaf? Somehow, in someone’s hands the half loaves need to multiply so that every time they are broken they are restored to half loaves! Do you see what is happening and start to enjoy it? Are you bemused and confused? Do the people start to realise what’s happening and break their bits in half to give to others only to find their bit is still the same size?
Just how did the multiplication of the loaves happen?
If you experienced this miracle it would be something you’d never forget, it must have been amazing and astounding!
But there’s more!
Not only did 15,000 people eat, each getting at least a crumb – but they were all satisfied, that means they all felt that they had had their fill and couldn’t eat any more! Not just a crumb, but a full meal for 15,000 people from 5 leaves and two fish (by the way we never really hear what happened to the fish). If the ‘loaves’ were the small, flat, barley loaves that were common in that culture then one could easily eat several at a single meal. So each disciple started with half a loaf, and each person would have needed to eat say, 8-10 or more half loaves. Or perhaps the blessed bread was so good that only a small amount was needed to fill you up. Whatever way it is awesome!
But there’s more!
They started with five loaves and they ended with twelve baskets of leftovers! How big were the baskets? What did they do with the leftovers? How many of the disciples, or the people took home a sample of this ‘magic’ bread?
If God can feed 15,000 people from five small barley loaves and two small fish surely he can provide what we need today. Jesus had compassion on the hunger and needs of the people who came to receive from him. He is still a man of compassion on those he sees in need.
Jesus used the hands of his disciples to be the means through which he met the hunger of the people. He still uses the hands of those who will be his disciples to meet the hunger in our world today.