Five small loaves and two small fishes. The story of a little boy’s faith where Jesus turns something meagre into a miracle. From flannel boards to pulpits we see the wonder of this story. The active faith of the boy to bring what little he had. The importance of giving God the Father proper thanks.
We see the centrality of Jesus in this miracle, rightly so. But the role of the other characters in the story are nearly of equal import. Even though he would have been entirely able, I’m not sure that Jesus would choose to do this miracle without this full cast of characters.
It appears that including simple, broken people in his story brings him joy. Somehow.
The crowd and the disciples. Their submissive belief of Jesus’ divinity, despite their skepticism.
Jesus used them all to underscore the truth that he is capable of spiritually feeding everyone beyond full.
“Jesus said, ‘Have the people sit down.’ There was plenty of grass in that place, and the men sat down, about five thousand of them. Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted.”John 6:10-11
Before they received bread, the crowd was given a choice. Listen to the suggestion to sit down, or, simply, not.
Look at the phrase, “those who were seated.” This implies that there were also those who were left standing, some who chose not to sit down. And as a result, they weren’t given any bread. Theoretically, they watched those who sat down eat as much as they could.
These people left standing had listened to the same message as all those who sat; they had seen miracles and spent the majority of their day in the presence of Jesus. But for some reason, they didn’t sit down.
There is no mention of any who saw their mistake, came out of the fringes of the watchful, and rushed to sit down and receive. Perhaps they were given the chance to eat if they truly saw their error in letting the impossibility of the situation cloud their perception of Jesus’ power. A picture of Jesus’ grace toward the contrite. But that’s not the story here.
Those who sat down were given “as much as they wanted.” The crowd was allowed to want. They were allowed to be greedy with the Bread of Life. They were allowed to say they wanted more.
They had come face to face with reality, accept their inability to feed themselves, assume a posture of submission, and just receive.
The crowd’s decision was crucial for this miracle’s execution.
“Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people.”Matthew 14:19
Jesus chose to use the disciples, however bumbling they were. He handed them the bread, in whatever broken form that 5 loaves could be divided up among 12 men. And then the disciples gave them to the people. So it is conceivable that the miracle was happening even between their very own hands.
It wasn’t Jesus; it was the disciples who walked among the gathered crowd and literally handed out the miraculous bread.
It was the disciples who required faith to hold nothing and begin passing it around like it was something.
That is the way Jesus had decided to do it. Not to send the crowd away before suppertime, not to spend 8 month’s worth of wages they didn’t have to host the thousands. But to use the faith of the 12 men who laid down their pride and instead took up crumbs, walking among the crowd in expectation of passing out enough for all.
The disciples had to resolve to trust that Jesus had a plan they couldn’t see. They had to be willing to do what he had asked before it made sense.
The disciple’s obedience was critical for this miracle’s completion.
And Now Us
Jesus is the bread of life – the only thing in known and unknown existence that can fill, much to our soul’s parched relief. But we have to consciously, decidedly, sit down to receive.
Once we have received, we are blanketed with the immediate felt significance of passing it on to others. A task that is always way beyond our capability. A task that is never to glorify me, me, me. A task that Jesus has already decided how it will be done.
First, we must sit down and receive all that we are able. To stuff it in our mouths, mound it in our hands, and heap it on the grass around us. Feast. Unashamedly devour the Bread that can transform heart, soul and mind.
It is a bread we cannot work for; we cannot even stand up to receive it. We must choose to sit down on the grass of the pasture and trust we will be fed to beyond full.
Second, we must see the crowd around us. The neighbors. The coworkers. The carpool. Our families. Then we give out what pittance of crumbs we feel we have, trepidatiously even, knowing that Jesus has enough bread for them all.
A conversation. A compliment. A favor. A dinner. An invitation. Even just a smile in the grocery lineup, letting someone you truly see them.
Bread is so deliciously simple, and that is all Jesus requires us to share.
Giving this Bread of Life to others is simultaneously within and without our capability, our idea and fully His, our responsibility yet not at all.
Joseph couldn’t have saved his entire family from starvation if it weren’t for where God placed him. “It was not you who sent me here, but God” (Genesis 45:8), he explained to his brothers when he finally revealed himself. He was in that position in time, out of jail and into a place, to save not just his family but his nation. Crumbs into a feast.
You are already in the spot where a miracle will take place, and God has already decided how he will do it. He might ask you questions to engage you in the impossibility of it, to fully surrender all your skills and ideas. But my goodness, is there ever a plan.
The crowd didn’t know the plan. Yet they chose to sit down and receive whatever it was they couldn’t yet see.
The disciples didn’t know the plan. Yet they walked into the crowd with what appeared at first an insufficient amount to satisfy a multitude.
The Bread of Life chooses to use us. We are not required to have an elaborate plan or remarkable skills. What Jesus has for you is larger than both. It is meant to nourish the crowd and feed the nation.
Let us sit down and receive, and then open up our hands and all those around us to take. As Jesus chooses to use simple, broken, skeptical people like us, allow Him.
Let us allow Jesus to transform our insufficiencies into sufficiencies, and even a miracle, as only He can.