“felt compassion for them because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and He began to teach them many things” (6:34).
Do you ever feel overwhelmed with all that needs to be done in serving the Lord? We live as needy people serving Christ in a needy world. I often feel overwhelmed with the immensity of the task and with my own feelings of inadequacy. How can I possibly meet the needs of the flock I shepherd, let alone the massive needs of a hurting world? No passage of Scripture has had a more profound impact on my service for Christ than the gospel accounts of the feeding of the 5,000. It could be argued that it is the most significant miracle Jesus performed, since it’s the only one God saw fit to record in all four gospels. The miracle itself is almost passed over. We are never told exactly how Jesus did it. The focus is not on the spectacular nature of the miracle, but on what it teaches those who serve Jesus about how He meets the needs of others through them. Four quick thoughts…
People are needy.
The apostles returned from their first preaching tour and reported to Jesus all that they had done and taught (6:30). Jesus perceived their need for rest, so He said, “Come away by yourselves to a lonely place and rest a while.” So they got in the boat and started off for the far shore, a distance of four to five miles across the water. But it turned out that the trip across the lake was the only vacation they got, since the people saw them going and ran there from all the cities and arrived ahead of them.
When the disciples saw that crowd of needy people standing on the shore, they must have felt overwhelmed. The fact that this many people would go to this effort to be with Jesus shows how needy they were. They had great physical needs, as many brought their loved ones for Jesus to heal (Matt. 14:14). By the end of the day, they were hungry, with no place to get food. But their greatest need was spiritual, as seen by Jesus’ response. He saw this great multitude and “felt compassion for them because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and He began to teach them many things” (6:34).
We are insufficient to meet the overwhelming needs of people.
The manner in which Jesus performed this miracle is significant. He chose to use tiered, busy, emotionally drained disciples with no resources. He wanted His disciples to understand its not how they were going to meet these people’s needs, but rather that He was sufficient to meet their needs.
Christ will give us His sufficiency when we yield our insufficiency to Him to use as He pleases.
There’s an important distinction between choosing to serve and being a servant. You can choose to serve when you are well rested, have the time to serve, are emotionally full, and have adequate resources to meet the needs. But Jesus doesn’t work through people who choose to serve. He works through people who are His servants. Servants don’t volunteer to serve; it’s not an option. Servants serve when they’re tired, busy, emotionally drained, and lacking in adequate resources. Servants serve because they’re under obligation to their master.
Christ’s sufficiency always satisfies.
I love verse 42: “They all ate and were satisfied.” Everyone had enough. All the tummies were full. They even had leftovers! Jesus always provides a full measure, nothing lacking! And don’t miss verse 43: “They picked up twelve full baskets of the broken pieces.” When we give our insufficient resources and abilities to the Lord to use as He pleases, He exchanges His sufficiency for our insufficiency. And He even gives each of us a basket full of leftovers for ourselves besides!