Identifying the Problem

As evening fell his disciples came to him and said, “We are right in the wilds here and it is very late. Send away these crowds now, so that they can go into the villages and buy themselves food.”
 “There’s no need for them to go away,” returned Jesus. “You give them something to eat!”
“But we haven’t anything here,” they told him, “except five loaves and two fish.”

-Matthew 14:15-17, J. B. Philips translation

The wind-beaten faces of the fishermen divulged weariness and concern.  The raised brow of the tax collector questioned the late hour.  The steady gaze of Jesus’ inner circle of twelve fastened on him expectantly.  The men waited for their teacher to speak the words that would close the day.  It had been such a long day.  Hundreds, no thousands, of men had showed up to meet Jesus, some with families tagging along.  Sick family members had reached out to this gentle Healer and Teacher, and now they lingered cured of their sicknesses, curious, and fascinated with this man of compassion.  biblical crowdJesus’ disciples really wanted him to send the sea of listeners away. The men urged Jesus to tell the people to leave, using the crowd’s hunger as a reason.  Their argument highlighting hunger was just a sophism.  Jesus knew that.  The people didn’t need to go away. On another occasion, these same men had pushed children away from the teacher to protect him from being bothered.  But surprisingly, Jesus wanted the little children to be around him. Jesus didn’t push people away. The “sending-away” actions disclosed the disciples’ own impatience and self-protective desires.  It was hard to be around the crowds who continually overflowed with a river of needs.  Send them away.  Let them go get food.  Then, the problem would go away.  But, Jesus didn’t view people as the problem.

“There is no need for them to go away.”

No need?  Didn’t the crowd need to eat? Had the men spoken fact that was also untrue?

Then Jesus asked the disciples to do something startling; he asked them to feed this gathering of thousands, quietly unveiling their greatest need.

Feeding of the many. John 6:1-21. 1999 Mark A Hewitt. Lino cut & water colour.

Feeding of the many. John 6:1-21. 1999 Mark A Hewitt. Lino cut & water colour.

Again, the men spoke fact and fiction, “But, we haven’t anything here, except five loaves and two fish.”  True, but not true.  Let the men remember the Creator of the fish and the grain, the one who had already exhibited great power in healing disease.  Let their minds comprehend the fullness of the godhead that stood beside them with dusty feet in flesh and bone. Would they only rely on a single donated lunch to feed a crowd?  Would their vision remain limited to what they could see?  Would they understand the true need?
a need far greater than what they saw now.

Jesus simply replied to his friends stating the remedy, “Bring them too me.”  bread brokenness

Then the Lord of Creation blessed the food, broke the loaves, and gave back to his disciples enough bread to fill the crowd’s bellies full. The men walked through the vast crowd seated on the grass- giving and receiving-giving until all were satisfied, then receiving back the leftovers.  Each man looked down at the basket they were carrying. Each basket rim touched by the leftovers.  Though the offering was small, when it was surrendered to Jesus there had been more than enough to meet the need. Discerning the true need opens the eye to the remedy.

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4 thoughts on “Identifying the Problem

  1. Sheila, thank you for sharing this touching insight of how the word of God is always alive and active, truly discerning the complexity of attitudes and intensions within each heart (Heb. 4:12). Bless you also for helping me realize that Isaiah 42:16 became alive for Jesus’ disciples in that moment; and for encouraging me to ponder how Isaiah 42:16 is just as alive for me today.

    Like

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