Matthew 14:13-21 Jesus Feeds the Five Thousand
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.”
16 Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.”
17 “We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,” they answered.
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.
The story of the Feeding of the Five Thousand provides many challenges, not the least, is that there are still large masses of people hungry for the meaning of life; the bread of life and Jesus entrusts us to serve and feed them.
Over and over again in life, we stand in the shoes of the disciples in this
passage: surrounded by human need, faced with a challenge, knowing we do not have the resources, in our own wisdom, wealth, and strength, to meet the need or to stand up to the challenge. Of course, it takes faith to act upon the belief that no matter how small or ridiculously inadequate the resources seem, if there is a compassionate need Jesus will make our resources sufficient.
Whatever their initial scepticism, or doubt, the disciples had, Jesus does not allow them to dismiss the crowd in need. You give them something to eat,Jesus says. Jesus’ action of compassion gives assurance of God’s power to feed and heal. The disciples enact their part as they distribute what they have and participate in the wonder and joy that, “all ate and were filled.” The real wonder of this story is that it continues: God still cares deeply and passionately for those who are most vulnerable – the poor, the immigrant, the refugee, the vulnerable, the mentally ill, the hungry – and God continues to use us to care for them. You give them something to eat.