30 The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. 31 Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”
32 So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. 33 But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. 34 When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.
35 By this time it was late in the day, so his disciples came to him. “This is a remote place,” they said, “and it’s already very late. 36 Send the people away so they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.” 37 But he answered, “You give them something to eat.” They said to him, “That would take eight months of a man’s wages! Are we to go and spend that much on bread and give it to them to eat?” 38 “How many loaves do you have?” he asked. “Go and see.” When they found out, they said, “Five– and two fish.”
39 Then Jesus directed them to have all the people sit down in groups on the green grass. 40 So they sat down in groups of hundreds and fifties. 41 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 his disciples to set before the people. He also divided the two fish among them all. 42 They all ate and were satisfied, 43 and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces of bread and fish. 44 The number of the men who had eaten was five thousand.
1. What is the rhythm of your life? Jesus had an in-and-out rhythm to his ministry that he sought to instill in his disciples. After they returned from their mission, Jesus took them to a quiet place for rest. For the introverts, this is a welcome reminder that it’s okay to retreat, that ministry is marked by seasons. For the extroverts, retreat might seem unnecessary, even like the rejection of responsibility. But notice that even though Jesus knew the great amount of work to be done, he still took his disciples away for rest. Ministry happens even in the seemingly dormant seasons of our lives.
2. How do you view a crowd? Jesus was always moved by people’s brokenness. Compassion welled in him as people crowded around him because he sensed their lost-ness. The disciples wanted to send the crowds away, but Jesus welcomed them.
3. What is your level of desperation for Jesus? This crowd was so desperate that they followed him to a remote place without thought of food or shelter. Maybe that’s irresponsible, but I see it as the strong pull of Jesus. People were drawn to him. They wanted to hear him teach—they needed him in such a way that they forgot the essentials of life. Might we have that same hunger?
4. What is your first response to the request of Jesus? The disciple’s first response is a: reason (“that would take eight months” wages) and b: selfishness (“are we to go and spend that much?”) To be sure, reason is a gift from God and to be used, but reason must be subject to God, just like emotion. There is a time for reason and there is a time God calls us to reach beyond the rational to a greater, heavenly reality. That which is seen will pass away, wrote Paul, but that which is unseen is eternal.
5. “How many loaves do you have? Go and see.” Jesus engages the disciples in the miracle by giving them a part. This is the moment they are called to obedience. Many of us seem more comfortable on the sidelines watching when Jesus is trying to push us into the game.
6. What is the significance of Jesus looking to heaven, giving thanks, and breaking the loaves? It’s a moment fraught with symbolism. The breaking of bread pounds us with the image of Christ, the Bread of Life. Looking to heaven reminds us of the Dove descending on Jesus after his baptism. The connection between Father, Son, and Spirit seems especially significant in this moment. How many times does Jesus tell his disciples that he only does what he sees his Father doing? And how many times were the Jewish leaders offended by the way Jesus connected himself to God, the Father? This public giving of thanks and looking to heaven is yet another instant where Jesus shows the intimacy between him and the Father. And what flows from such intimacy? A miracle.