Theme: Withdrawal of the King
This week we see how God can use us, despite our empty hands.
And he said, “Bring them here to me.” Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass, and taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing. Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over. And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.
The fourth lesson of the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand is that God works through people. That is, although Jesus alone is sufficient for all human need, he nevertheless chooses to work through us as channels by which he meets that need. In this case, he worked through the disciples who were given the broken loaves and fish, distributed them to the people and then gathered up the leftover pieces.
Years ago I took part in a management seminar conducted by a company called ServiceMaster Industries. I found much of it helpful, but one thing especially i’ve remembered. It was a definition of management: “Management is getting the right things done through other people.” I have tried to keep that definition in mind and profit from it over the years. But I have also often thought of it in connection with the work of Jesus, especially in this story, though it applies to other examples of Jesus’ work too.
In this story Jesus demonstrated his managerial skill by working through the disciples in the distribution of the food. He could have called down manna from heaven, thereby imitating Moses; the fact that the miracle took place at the time of the Jewish Passover (John 6:4), which was meant to recall the Exodus and the years of wilderness wandering, might have suggested making manna. Again, Jesus might have caused a loaf of bread and a fish to appear in each man or woman’s pocket. There were probably other things he could have done. But Jesus did not proceed in any of these ways. Instead he worked through other people: through all the disciples, according to Matthew’s account, especially through Philip, Andrew and the boy with the live small loaves and two fish, according to John’s gospel.
In this respect, the distribution of the food by the disciples to the five thousand people of the story becomes an illustration of what jesus was doing when he sent them to preach among the cities of Galilee, as recorded in chapter 10, or what he will do at the end of the gospel when he declares: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything 1 have commanded you. And surely I am with you always to the very end of the age” (Matt. 28:18-20). We are to be the distributors of that blessing.
Here is a story that will tie this together. On one occasion Jesus described a man who was visited at midnight by a friend but who had no food to serve him. So he went to a neighbor, who was already in bed, and called out to him, “Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, because a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have nothing to set before him” (Luke 11:5-6). The host must have been truly without anything, or he would not have bothered his neighbor in the middle of the night. But he had nothing; he knew it, and he knew that his neighbor could help out.
We are in exactly that position. You and I have nothing. But we have a friend in heaven who is able to supply what our friend needs. we go to God with empty hands and cry out, claiming that double friendship; “Friend, a friend has come.” And God supplies that need as he has supplied our own.
What is the fourth lesson of this story?
In what ways did Jesus exemplify managerial skill?
Review the four crucial lessons learned this week from Jesus’ miracle.
Acknowledge your empty hands to God and ask him to supply your needs in your service to him.
You and I have nothing. But we have a friend in heaven who is able to supply what our friend needs.
In what ways can you go out of your way to help a friend in need?