13 When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns. 14 When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.
15 As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.”
18 “Bring them here to me,” he said.19 And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people.20 They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. 21 The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children. -Matthew 14:13-21 (NIV
Normally when you read this you think about the miraculous power of Jesus and how He fed the thousands of people (because the Bible counts the number of men at 5,000 and doesn’t add in the women and children, which would greatly increase the total number fed) with only five loaves of bread and two fish. Certainly this is a reasonable perspective but as I read it over I caught something that I hadn’t noticed before.
This event takes place immediately after Jesus finds out that John the Baptist was beheaded. Jesus withdrew to grieve the loss of John and came back to find that a large crowd had followed Him by foot. Despite being weary and in mourning, Jesus takes the time to minister and heal the crowd. The disciples, recognizing Jesus’ exhaustion as well as realizing that they didn’t have the resources to feed the crowd, recommend that Jesus sends the crowd away for the night.
Jesus’ reply is simple. “You give them something to eat.”
So they look around and scrounge up what they have which is just a meager amount of food.
Have you ever been put in a position where you can minister to others? I’m not talking thousands, but maybe just the friend that is hurting or the stranger in church that nobody is talking to? Have you ever felt totally unprepared to do what you’ve been called to do? Has the size of the problem seemed so overwhelming that you thought that there was no possible way that you can handle it?
Recently we started the Pure Desire Ministry. This ministry is for men, women, and wives that are struggling with sexual addiction and bondage. The sex industry is a $57 billion dollar industry worldwide and intentionally targets people using billions of dollars of advertising, websites, and other methods. Every second $3, 075 is spent on pornography with 28,258 viewers and the most popular day of the week for viewing porn is Sunday. The men and women coming in are struggling with an addiction that has devastated their lives and left them and their families in shambles. They can’t walk outside without some sort of reminder of the pervasiveness of the sex industry. Even walking to SIBC on Sunday morning you’ll find people on the streets following a night of partying and often times wearing what they wore the night before. How do we combat this juggernaut? How do we throw out a life preserver in the middle of a hurricane? How am I qualified to help people that are struggling? These are issues that Mary and I still struggle with years into recovery and we’re far from perfect. How can we be light in this darkness?
Answer: With 5 loaves of bread and two fish.
So Jesus takes these meager offerings and offers them to the Father. God blesses them and then, here’s the key, gives them back to the disciples, who hand them out to the people. Jesus didn’t go around handing out the food, He used His disciples to do it. In the end, all the people were satisfied and there was even an abundance left over.
One month into running the Pure Desire Ministry I am seeing God changing lives. I have seen men be able to say that they are sober for 30 days and they say that they have never been sober for that long since they can remember. I see men that say they don’t want to come but each week they are there and each week God works just a little bit more in their lives. I’m seeing men start to reconnect to God in their lives after struggling to hear His voice. It is incredible and it began with five loaves of bread and two fish.
The point isn’t about what you bring to Jesus. It’s not about the amount of education or money that you have to throw at a problem. It’s not about having the perfect plan or all the pieces falling into place at just the right time. The point is that you bring what you have to Jesus and He’ll equip you to take care of His flock, whether it’s facing a giant industry or just saying “Hello. How are you doing?” to a person in need. He will make you into His hands and feet, you just have to step forward and offer your fives loaves of bread and two fish.