Sometimes I have a higher priority on eating than I should—especially around the holidays. I can eat too much or too often. Even though my mind has very good reasons, my waste line says I’m guilty.
One time as Jesus was in the heart of his earthly time, he was so busy he and his gang of followers were so busy serving huge crowds of people, they literally didn’t even have time to eat. Since most of Jesus’ public work happened around a lake, he told his guys to get into a boat and get away from the crowds to rest and refresh for a while in a desolate place.
If you were with Jesus, how would you have responded to seeing a huge crowd waiting for you in your deserted vacation spot? Since the lake was only about 6 miles wide and 12 miles long, people figured out where Jesus was heading, spread the news, and a mob of people beat him there.
They wanted more time with Jesus. They wanted to be where he was to hear the things he was saying and see the things he was doing. They didn’t care that this was a much needed day off for him. They didn’t care that there were no restaurants around to take their families for dinner later. “We’ll figure that out—Jesus is talking and I need to hear that more than I need to eat food.”
I don’t know what comments were made inside of the boat as it got close enough to the dock for the guys to figure out what was happening. Maybe someone swore. Maybe one of the guys tried to turn the boat around. When Jesus, however, saw the crowds, his heart grew warm for them. He compared them to helpless sheep—needing food and protection—without having a shepherd. He got out of the boat on this long overdue day off and served and served the crowds as a spiritual shepherd, teaching them many things.
When the sun began to get low, the disciples thought about food—food for themselves and food for the crowds. There was no place to eat locally and no one really had prepared for this event in the first place. Any food available was what someone just happened to have brought along as they ran around the lake to meet Jesus. The crowd was probably twenty-thousands strong. Their hearts must have been full but their stomachs were, no doubt, empty.
The guys with Jesus wanted to send them away to make the best of the tough situation. Jesus told them instead to feed them themselves. While that sounded nuts, it did make a point to the followers of Jesus of how utterly impossible that would’ve been. One of the guys figured it would’ve taken 9 months out of someone’s pocket to buy food for such a huge group. All they came up with was five sort of hard dinner rolls and a couple of sardines.
Jesus had his guys get the crowd to break up and sit in groups of fifties and hundreds. In addition to making the situation well organized, this plan tells us the estimates of the huge crowd size were accurate.
Then Jesus prayed before the supposed meal. Jesus took those bits of bread and sardines and made a meal for all of those people. The Bible doesn’t tell us exactly what it looked like as he did it. It just says he kept breaking the bread and the fishes and passing them out to his followers who then distributed them to the groups of fifties and hundreds.
The thing that really amazes my too hungry self is that all of the people ate until they were satisfied. It would’ve been amazing enough, had Jesus been able to give so many people a nibble of food to get them over the hunger hump. But they ate until they were full. There were even leftovers (twelve baskets full).
Once again we are faced with a potentially familiar story that we ought to think more about. How does this story relate to your story?
Certainly we can gain some insight into the heart of Jesus. How tired I get. How I cherish days off to rest and be with my family. Jesus shames me with his heart to serve others. He didn’t see needy people as bothers but as divine opportunities. He thought more of God and others than himself and his stomach.
We can also get more confirmation into the identity of Jesus. After he taught and taught the crowds, he fed them all out of a little boy’s lunch. You can’t do that. Even the guys with Jesus couldn’t even imagine how to do that without a jackpot of cash.
But Jesus did it. He didn’t even do it half-way—they were all satisfied. Five thousand hungry men plus all of their wives and all of their children all ate and were all satisfied. Families with a couple of teenagers know that it is a minor miracle if everyone leaves the dinner table satisfied—how about twenty thousand people?
How seriously should we take Jesus? He knows who you are. He knows what you need. He is not too busy for you to come to him. He can and will meet your needs. Tell him what’s on your heart today, and watch how his story can change your story.
By John Crotts