12 Now the day was ending, and the twelve came and said to Him, “Send the crowd away, that they may go into the surrounding villages and countryside and find lodging and get something to eat; for here we are in a desolate place.” 13 But He said to them, “You give them something to eat!” And they said, “We have no more than five loaves and two fish, unless perhaps we go and buy food for all these people.” 14 (For there were about five thousand men.) And He said to His disciples, “Have them sit down to eat in groups of about fifty each.” 15 They did so, and had them all sit down. 16 Then He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, He blessed them, and broke them, and kept giving them to the disciples to set before the people. 17 And they all ate and were satisfied; and the broken pieces which they had left over were picked up, twelve baskets full.
Mark places this incident after Jesus learns of John the Baptist’s death, while Luke places it after the return of the apostles from their first evangelical trip without Jesus, so the chronology of the gospels again isn’t really a linear one.
Both Mark and John also gives us insight into the mind of Christ during this incident. As later afternoon begins to give way to twilight, the disciples realize that the nearest village is miles away and want Jesus to send everyone away so they can still travel and return to their homes or find food and lodging for the night.
Mark tells us that Jesus was moved with compassion as He looked at the crowd. They were hungry for more than bread. They were hungry for spiritual meaning and direction in their lives. They were wandering about in the dark about God, trying to do what they were told was the things God wanted, but they didn’t know. They trusted their leaders who misled them. We’re not that different sometimes. Paul describes our current spiritual state as seeing things in a mirror in a dark room. Even this side of the resurrection of Christ, we still sort of stumble about blindly when it comes to spiritual things.
It’s comforting that we have a God who looks upon us with compassion rather than condemnation.
John tells us that at the disciples insistence, Jesus decides to test them by asking them, specifically Philip to feed the crowd. Philip exclaims that it would take 200 days wages to feed everyone (and that’s assuming he could travel to a bakery, load up food for 5,000 men [and who knows how many women and children], cart it all back and distribute it to everyone.)
Peter’s brother Andrew approaches with five loaves of bread and two fish offering them to Jesus with the caveat: There’s not enough here to give everyone in a crowd this size a single crumb of food.
I know that I act this way in the situations in my life. Challenges arise. My first response is to start to think and plan my way through them or around them. And I don’t think that’s a bad thing, but I do think that I tend to lose sight of Christ in my planning.
You see, Philip and Andrew was right. There was no good solution to the problem. They could spend their savings (if they even had it) and face a logistical nightmare or they could try and go with what they had and it would be hopelessly insufficient to the task.
But Philip left Christ out of his planning. Andrew thought of Jesus enough to offer Him what Andrew had on hand, but he didn’t think it would amount to anything.
I think Andrew is more our model here. I think practically, we should offer our plans to Christ ask for wisdom, and then choose what we think our best option is (in so far as it doesn’t contradict God’s character), trusting that Jesus will help guide us through.
It’s also nice to see that Andrew’s comment and his doubt don’t impact what Jesus does. Jesus takes what’s been offered to Him, has the disciples organize the crowd, and then does the impossible. He does something so outside of the disciples’ plans that they’re shocked and amazed.
I don’t think the test was on giving. Nor do I think it was about sharing per se, as it was about facing an impossible challenge and giving your best plans to God trusting that He will get you through it. The solution may not always be so miraculous or instantaneous and it definitely might not be the solution we expect. But I do believe that God will get us through the challenges we face, if we think practically, offer Him what we have, and do the work that we can do in meeting the challenge.