I’ve often wondered what was the disciples reaction when the fish and the bread kept multiplying before their eyes? When was it that they realized what was happening? Did they try to figure out the science behind it or make explanations of what might have happened? Or, did they just smile at the amazing power of God?
One of the few stories contained in each of the four gospels is the story of the feeding of the 5000. Most are familiar with the story. Jesus and the disciples have been busy, they are tired, and they are trying to get away for some peace and rest. They travel to the far side of the lake to get away, but word spreads of their departure and the crowds move on foot to find them. Soon, they are surrounded by over five thousand people: some coming to be cured, some coming to see a miracle, some just coming to be near Jesus. Seeing them, Jesus has compassion on them and begins to teach them and heal their diseases. As evening approaches the disciples encourage Jesus to dismiss the crowds because they have to be hungry and there is no food in this place. But Jesus has other plans. “You feed them,” he says. “But Master, there is no food here and we don’t have enough money to buy food for them. Sure, we found a boy with some bread and fish, but that will never feed this many people.”
But Jesus is planning a miracle. He has the people sit down in groups, prays over the small amount of food, and distributes it. Everyone has plenty to eat, and there is more food left over when it is done than when it started. It was an exceptional miracle. I wonder what was the reaction.
The church community I am apart of participates in a monthly food distribution to needy families in the area. One Wednesday night a month we give out food boxes and other items that should last a typical family about two weeks. We usually serve over a hundred families each time. It doesn’t feed everybody, but it is something. A few weeks ago, it was really cold and so our men’s ministry wanted to organize a coat drive for our friends who may not have coats in this cold weather. We knew we probably couldn’t collect one for everybody, but we wanted to do what we could. In two weeks eighty coats were collected. A large number, more than we had hoped for, but not enough to give one to everybody. Still, helping some was better than none so we went ahead.
Because we knew we couldn’t give everyone a coat we tried to be a little discreet about it, asking families as they came through the line if they could use a coat and then allowing them to go in and pick one out. Still, I worried that there wouldn’t be enough and asked the men handing out the coats to let me know when they were running low so we would not promise a coat that we didn’t have. At the end of the evening I went to look in the room and was slightly discouraged that so many coats were left over. The goal was to give them away, what had gone wrong. But when I asked what had happened, I was left speechless.
“Why didn’t we give out all of the coats?” I asked.
“We did.” came the reply. “Everyone that came in left with a coat, some with two. We refused no one. All night long people kept taking coats. We have no idea why there are so many left.”
As they talked, the first story that came to my mind was the story of the disciples and the feeding of the five thousand. I listened. I smiled. I thanked God. I’m sure if one were to think long enough and make calculations some “logical” explanation for the coats could be figured out. Honestly, I’m not going to try. Because I don’t think you can ever figure God out. And I’m not sure we should. Sometimes the best thing we can do is to just smile and enjoy the moment as we stand in awe of God.
I still wonder about the reaction of the disciples as they were handing out the food. Maybe its the sarcastic side of me that just kind of laughs about it. But there is another part of me that hopes they just smiled and enjoyed the moment of seeing God at work. We need more reminders to do that.