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My wife and I have found ourselves watching the Food Channel lately, including the show “Iron Chef.” It is actually quite entertaining to watch celebrity chefs compete. And as I have watched this show, I have thought, That is the job I want when I grow up: I want to be a judge on “Iron Chef,” trying out some of that food.
I love to eat, and I can set a clock by my stomach. I am a three-meal-a-day kind of guy. I am amazed by people who don’t eat breakfast. My wife is one of them. Then, when lunch time comes around, it seems to come as a complete surprise to her. I wish I could be more like that.
Yet Jesus liked to eat, too. We read in Scripture of so many occasions when he would share a meal with people. When he visited the home of Mary, Martha and Lazarus, a meal was prepared in his honor. Martha worked hard in the kitchen, putting together a feast fit for a king. Even after his resurrection, Jesus’ disciples found him sitting on the shore of the Sea of Galilee with a fire going and fish cooking. He asked them to bring him some of the fish they had just caught so he could prepare those too.
Jesus also used eating together as a metaphor for his desire to have fellowship with us. He said, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.”
The Bible also records a miracle in which Jesus actually multiplied food. In fact, it is the only miracle that is recorded in all four Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Therefore, we can conclude that God really wants us to understand this miracle, known as the “Feeding of the Five Thousand.” (In total there may have been actually more than 5,000 fed. If you factor in women and children, there could have been as many as 10,000 people, perhaps even more.) We have four camera angles on this miracle, if you will, to give us different insights as to what happened on this particular day. This miracle is given to us in quadraphonic.
Chronologically, Jesus was at the peak of his ministry. His popularity was spreading, and he was the talk of the town. Multitudes of people anxiously followed him. On the day of this miracle, a large crowd had gathered to hear him, and they were hungry. Interestingly, we read that when Jesus saw the great crowd that had assembled, he “was moved with compassion for them, and healed their sick.”
Here is why I find this fascinating: These people were not following Jesus because they believed he was the long-awaited Messiah of Israel. They were following him because of the miracles he was performing. John gives us this detail: “A huge crowd kept following him wherever he went, because they saw his miraculous signs as he healed the sick.”
Effectively, these people were thrill seekers. They were in it to be dazzled, to be entertained. Giving sight to the blind and removing leprosy was all fine and well. But a free meal? Now we are talking. Despite the fact that these people were fickle and their motives maybe were mixed, Jesus had compassion on them. And compassion is not just caring; it is caring enough to do something. It is not just pity. Compassion is pity plus action. Jesus had compassion on these people and saw they were hungry.
Now if I were Jesus and knew these people were in it for the wrong reasons, and not only that, knew that some of those who were singing my praises on that day would be crying out, “Crucify him!” on another day, I would have not fed them. Would you? In fact, I probably would have eaten in front of them. But not Jesus. He was moved with compassion. He cared about them. To Jesus, these people were a call and an opportunity. Yet to the disciples, they were an embarrassment and a burden.
Two disciples in particular are mentioned in this story: Philip and Andrew. Jesus was testing them on this occasion. He turned to Philip and asked him, “Where can we buy bread to feed all these people?” Obviously, Jesus did not need help in this regard, but he wanted to see if Philip would come up with the right answer.
Philip told him, “Even if we worked for months, we wouldn’t have enough money to feed them!” Philip didn’t do so well on his test. We may look at him and think, Well, he should have known better! But do we ever need to relearn things that we have supposedly learned? Does God have to retest us? Of course he does.
Now Andrew did a little better with Jesus’ test than Philip. Jesus did not ask Andrew for his help, but Andrew had been listening in on the conversation. Andrew surveyed the situation and said, “There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two small fish, but what are they among so many?”
Andrew came close, but not quite. He was getting it. Andrew was a spiritually perceptive guy. Initially, he was a disciple of John the Baptist, When Jesus came on the scene, Andrew began to follow Jesus. And as we read about him in Scripture, we see that he was always bringing people to Jesus. In this story, we find him bringing a little boy to Jesus. Andrew had an idea that the little boy could help, but he didn’t know what to do.
The boy is not named for us in Scripture. We simply read that he was a young boy with five barley loaves and two fish. We know he was poor, because he had barley bread, the cheapest bread imaginable. He didn’t have a lot to bring to the table, but he gave what he had to Jesus.
In the same way, God wants us to bring what we have to the table. This boy gave his lunch, as insignificant as it was, to Jesus. But that which was insufficient from the hands of the insignificant became sufficient and significant when placed in the hands of Jesus. It is not what you bring. It is whom you are bringing it to. God can do a lot with a little. So bring what you have.