WHEN SOMEONE STARTS handing out free food to a hungry crowd, common sense says that it’s best to be at the front of the line, because you don’t know how long the supplies will last. But I can think of at least one occasion when it could have been better to have been at the back.
I have in mind the feeding of the five thousand, of course. When the disciples were first given their share of the five loaves and two fish to parcel out among the crowd, they might have been forgiven for being cautious in the amount they initially gave away. Did they become more generous when they saw their meager supply somehow become inexhaustible and their early Kids Meal portions getting supersized?
Admittedly, the Matthew 14 account of the event notes that “they all ate and were satisfied,” so perhaps the disciples had more faith from the outset than I give them credit for. After all, they had just returned from their first missions trip, when Jesus had given them authority and sent them out to do what they had seen Him doing—healing the sick and casting out demons. Not long before the mass feeding, they had “told him all that they had done” (Mark 6:30).
Note that their emphasis seems to have been on their part in things. They didn’t appear to quite get that they were just the glove for Jesus’s healing hand. For when Jesus told them to feed the throngs of people with what they had, they demurred: “We have only five loaves here and two fish” (Matthew 14:17). They focused on their lack, not His Lordship.
Coming hard on the heels of the disciples’ triumphant return from their debut ministry trip, this lesson seems to have been very important to Jesus. He wanted to be sure that they got the point that it wasn’t about them, but about His supernatural ability. Why do I say that? Because the whole incident seems like a bit of a setup.
He knew as well as anyone that the day had been long, and that the people were hungry and tired. Surely the super-compassionate Son of God didn’t need His disciples to point that out to Him. But He kept quiet. He left it until the situation demanded divine intervention. He didn’t just provide the solution, He apparently instigated the problem.
And to underscore the point, He gave them yet another object lesson just a few hours after the miraculous feeding. When the disciples set off across the lake on their own, He walked out on the water to them and invited Peter to join Him outside the boat.
Appropriately, given Peter’s momentary slipping below the water, we might say that it seems to have finally sunk in for the disciples. Earlier that day they had been full of what they had done when they had replicated Jesus’s healing miracles, forgetting it was He who made them possible. Now all they could say was, “Truly you are the Son of God” (Matthew 14:28). They went from Look at us to Look at Him.
May we have similar vision.
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