There are two separate stories in the gospel accounts of Jesus miraculously feeding a multiple of people. In Mark’s gospel account the first is found in chapter six and the second is found in chapter eight. The first time he fed five-thousand men (not including the women & children!), the second time four-thousand men. One interesting difference is that he fed more with less in the first feeding and they had more left-over than the second time!
There are many lessons/reminders we can learn from these stories, such as how quickly we tend to forget what God has done in the past in a way that builds our trust and faith in the present. When faced with a similar situation and need (actually less than the first time) the disciples don’t remember at first what Jesus had done before. Instantly their minds are overwhelmed by the need and lack of resources and they have no faith. Likewise, we can witness God provide in one situation, but later when faced with a similar situation (sometimes smaller in comparison!) we panic rather than remember his past provision. Take a financial need. God came through for us and met our need in one situation but then in the next we panic all over again rather than remembering his past provision and trusting he will provide again in this present situation!
But the one lesson that just “jumped out” to me during a recent personal time I had in the gospel of Mark, is how in both situations Jesus posed this question to his disciples as they were overwhelmed with where to begin and what to do as they saw the need before them. He asked them in both cases: “How many loaves do you have?” (Mark 6:38, 8:5).
Think about that question for a moment. Think about what Jesus did not ask them. He didn’t ask them what the difference was between what they had and what the need was. He didn’t focus on what they couldn’t do or didn’t have. He simply asked them what they did have. And when they simply focused on what they did have and could give, he took it, blessed it, broke it, distributed it and did more with it then they ever could have imagined or dreamed or done themselves!
That’s the question before each of us. There is overwhelming need in this world and all around us. At times Jesus even will put it in “our lap” and before “our eyes” to “test us.” This is exactly what John 6:6 says was the case in one of these very feedings: “He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.” Philip and the disciples were completely overwhelmed and stressed out over this (as it stretched their faith beyond what was humanly possible!)…but the reality was, Jesus was not asking them this to stress them out…but to include them in the process of him working in a miraculous way that would end up being a story we are still talking about and being inspired from over 2,000 years later! When Jesus puts overwhelming need with humanly impossible means/resources to meet it, He is testing our faith and granting us the privilege of being involved and included in a testimony he is developing! Remember the first word in testimony is “test.” There is no testimony before there is first a “test!”
Our job is not to focus on what we can’t do or don’t have. Jesus is not asking us what we can’t do or don’t have. He is asking us what we do have…and asking us to give it to him. He uses the little we have to work wonders in ways we can’t imagine!