Theme: The Sufficiency of Jesus
In this week’s lessons we see how Jesus was teaching his disciples to minister to the needs of others, and that our own service needs to follow in this way.
Scripture: Matthew 14:13-21
The second thing Jesus taught them is that they were inadequate to solve the people’s problems. Yes, Jesus is raising them up to be the vehicle by which the people’s problems are going to be solved, but the second thing he teaches them is that they are inadequate for solving the problems. After they told Jesus to send the multitude away because it was time to eat and the disciples had no idea where one could get so much food, Jesus tells the disciples to give them something to eat (v. 16). Why would Jesus do that? He knew they didn’t have anything near what was needed for such a large crowd. Yes, of course he knew that. The disciples saw the need but did not have the means to meet it. Jesus told his disciples to minister to the people so that they might confess their own inability and ask the Lord to act.
Sometimes Jesus taught them this truth directly, as he did in John 15 when he told them that apart from him they can do nothing (v. 5). Now we need to learn that, just as we need to learn that people are important and nothing is solved by sending people away. Without Jesus Christ we can do nothing. Jesus did not say, “Without me you can hardly do anything.” He said they can do nothing at all. And if this was true in terms of actually feeding thousands of people, it is even more so when it comes to the spiritual hunger of those who came to Jesus and his disciples. In matter of salvation, Jesus is saying that he is the one who regenerates. So when we go to people to help them spiritually in the name of Jesus Christ it has to be with this awareness that we do not have the solution. We cannot save them. We cannot even persuade them of spiritual things. We can’t even make spiritual things understandable to them, unless the Holy Spirit opens their minds to understand them and changes their wills to receive them and regenerates their hearts so there comes about spiritual life where before there was only spiritual death. That is the second thing he needed to teach them.
The third thing he teaches them is that Jesus is sufficient for all need. You see that is what follows. He said, “Give them something to eat.” They said, “We can’t. All we have are five loaves and two fish.” But then Jesus tells them in verse 18 to bring the bread and fish to him. The disciples could not do anything with what they had, but if they brought it to Jesus he will show them that the five loaves and two fish are sufficient and, indeed, more than sufficient. Jesus is going to take that little bit of bread and that little bit of fish and multiply it in order to feed this vast host.
I think there’s an interesting contrast there between what Jesus did and something Philip said in the account of this that occurs in John’s Gospel. When Jesus approached him Philip could not figure this out. He knew how many people were there, and he had done his computations, and so he said, “Two hundred denarii would not be enough to give every single one of them a little.” Even that much money would only get a very small amount of food for everyone. He was thinking of a little, you see, and that’s where his reasoning took him. But Jesus started with a little, and, of course, he gave them very much. He gave them so much that they were all perfectly satisfied. And after they were satisfied, Jesus sent the disciples around with baskets and the twelve of them collected twelve baskets of food that was left over.
Isn’t that marvelous how God uses the little things and makes it more than enough? You have to think of Scripture and think of God’s use of little things. What is less significant than dust? Yet God took dust, and out of that he made the first human being, into whom he breathed the breath of life. What could be less significant than a jawbone of an ass lying by the side of the road? But in the hands of Samson when God sent his Spirit upon him, he used it to kill a vast Philistine host. What could be more insignificant than a sling and a few small stones? But when God called David to do his work, David took that sling and the stones, and God guided his aim and he brought down Goliath.
So it is throughout history. We want to do a work and we say, “Well, we have to amass sufficient things to do it. We need money. We need a network of influential people. We need organization.” And sometimes some of that comes along and it helps. But God doesn’t need it. All God needs, you see, if for you to bring your little loaves and little fish and put them in his hands and say to him, “I can’t do anything. This is all I have, and that isn’t any good. But here it is.” And when you put it in his hands you find that he’s able to multiply that. The Bible teaches that the Holy Spirit has given to each Christian a gift as it pleased him. Whatever the gift, it is to be used for him, recognizing that God has given it to us to be used for his glory and not for our own promotion or pride.
My impression from the years of my ministry is that as I’ve looked about for those who are greatly used, it’s generally not the people with the overwhelming gifts, as we would tend to evaluate that humanly. But it’s the people who simply take what they have and yield it up to Jesus. Why? Because he is sufficient, and he alone will bless it.
What is the second thing Jesus taught his disciples through this miracle? How did he get that point across to them?
What is the third lesson the disciples needed to learn? Why is it so important, and sometimes so difficult, to learn this lesson?
Reflection: Are there any ways right now in which you are focusing more on a particular problem or challenge, and less on the God who is able to do great things in and through you?
Key Point: My impression from the years of my ministry is that as I’ve looked about for those who are greatly used, it’s generally not the people with the overwhelming gifts, as we would tend to evaluate that humanly. But it’s the people who simply take what they have and yield it up to Jesus. Why? Because he is sufficient, and he alone will bless it.