Focal Passages: Luke 9:10-17, 37-43a
My wife likes to cook. She has cooked many wonderful meals for church groups, missions trips and family occasions. Good planning is important to her in preparing to feed a large number of people. Panic certainly sets in if she feels she has not prepared enough food to feed everyone.
The disciples in today’s lesson felt something of that sense of panic. They thought they were planning to prepare a meal for 13 people (the 12 of them and Jesus), but instead, several thousand hungry people showed up! What in the world were they going to do?
As we look at the story of the feeding of the 5,000 this week, we find that the Lord used this incident to train His disciples. John’s account (6:6) tells us that Jesus was testing them (especially Philip). We are never told exactly how Jesus performed this miracle. It seems He was more intent on teaching those who serve Him about how He meets the needs of others through them.
Jesus was teaching His disciples and us that if we are going to serve Him, then we must notice the needs around us (9:10-12). Do you ever feel overwhelmed with all that needs to be done in serving the Lord? I know that as a pastor that many times I wonder how I can possibly meet the needs of the church, let alone the needs of our community and the needs of this hurting world.
Needy people are all around us. Jesus had withdrawn with His disciples and in Mark’s account (6:31) we are told the purpose of the getaway was rest. He explains that there were so many people coming and going that Jesus and the disciples did not even have time to eat. The fact that so many people went to so much effort to be with Jesus shows how needy they were.
Notice the contrast between Jesus’ attitude toward the multitude and that of the disciples. Jesus welcomed them (9:11), but the disciples said to Jesus, “Send the multitude away” (9:12). Maybe they were just being practical about how to meet the needs of the crowd. Maybe they were so exhausted and spent that they felt they had nothing else to give to people.
Whatever the situation was for the disciples, this story is a challenge for us. I have to ask myself which attitude do I demonstrate more towards needy people. Do I welcome them and show the love of Christ or do I not want to be inconvenienced? Do I even notice the needs of people around me?
It is not enough to just notice needs of others, we are to take action (9:13-17). Jesus said something to the disciples that seemed utterly ridiculous: “You give them something to eat” (9:13). “Say again, Lord?” There were 5,000 men plus women and children. All the food the disciples could come up with was five loaves and two fish, which came from a little boy (John 6:9). The disciples were utterly inadequate in meeting this overwhelming need.
Someone has said three things stand out in this story: the needy multitudes; the inadequate disciples; and the adequate Savior. Christ meets the needs of people through people. But notice it is inadequate people. He uses tired, emotionally drained people. Jesus uses busy people. Yes, He even uses people who lack resources. He simply wants us to take action and yield what we have and who we are to Him. In doing so, He will bless those in need and us also.
The last passage of Scripture is a challenge to trust God (9:37-43a). After a majestic moment on the Mount of Transfiguration, Jesus and His disciples encountered a mess on the plain. They encountered again a mob of needy people with this broken-hearted man and his convulsing son at the forefront. This encounter reminds us of the desperate needs of people, the destructive power of Satan, the delivering power of the Savior and the dependent faith and obedience believers need to lay hold of God’s power. Understanding these truths and acting on them will better equip us to meet the needs of others.
— Mallonee is pastor of Second Baptist Church, Union City.