Questions for Littles: To what kind of place was Jesus trying to take the disciples, and for what reasons (v30-32)? But who got there first (v33)? How did Jesus feel about them (v34a)? Why (v34b)? Why do the disciples want to send the people to the villages in v36? Whom does Jesus say should give them something to eat (v37)? What does He ask them, and what is the answer (v38)? What does He tell them to do (v39)? What does He do (v41)? How many eat (v44)? How much do they eat (v42)? How much is left over (v43)? Where does Jesus send the disciples (v45a)? What does He stay behind to do (v45b)? What does He do when He is finished with that (v46)? What does He see in v48, and what is he about to do at the end of that verse? What do they see, and how do they respond (v49-50a)? What does He say (v50b)? What does He do (v51a)? How do they respond (v51b)? Why were they so amazed (v52)? What happens as soon as they arrive (v53-55)? What does Jesus do (v56)?In the Gospel reading this week, we see the greatness of Christ’s strength and the feebleness of our weakness.
Even though the disciples had done so much, they needed rest, and Jesus knew it. But, they really weren’t going to get any rest. The people get there ahead of time, and Jesus teaches a crowd of probably around 20,000 (including women and children). The disciples, it seems, have been employed in crowd management—quite a task in a group that numbers almost two thousand per disciple!
Then, when they understandably want to send the crowd away for food, Jesus’ tune seems to have changed. He who had recognized their need for some R&R was now saying, “you give them something to eat.”
These exhausted men pool their money, and there’s 200 denarii (a day’s wage each)—was this why Jesus told them not to take their money before in v8?—still probably not enough to feed the crowd?
Now, Jesus asks for a different inventory, one far more meager than the money. How many loaves? Five. Great, that’s something we can work with! So, Jesus tells them to get back into crowd control mode. Have the people sit down in the green grass—not back in the cities, where they would be even more tired, and covered with the dust of their travel, but right out here!
To their credit, the disciples obeyed. Sometimes, the Lord puts us in a position where there’s really no other option. If Jesus wasn’t the One sending them away like the disciples had said in v36, it seems unlikely that this crowd that races to meet Jesus at every point would go away. Truth be told, the crowd was not nearly as tired as the disciples, for whom this was supposed to have been a much-needed vacation!
But the Lord is dealing with them how He still often deals with us. All in all, our resources—our wisdom, our goodness, our character, our willingness, and then of course all of our physical and earthly resources—are pathetic.
Though we flatter ourselves otherwise, the Holy angels can see that what we bring to the table doesn’t even amount to five loaves v.s. 20,000 people. But we still have a Redeemer for whom “that’s something He can work with!” Let us learn to follow His instructions carefully, even though there’s no earthly expectation of things working out.
That’s just the point, isn’t it? Our expectations are not earthly. We are the ones who struggle and struggle and get nowhere, as in the boat. He is the One who can simply walk on the sea, and would easily just pass us by.
And this is why He brings Himself into view: that we might see the difference and abandon all trust in ourselves. That we might see ourselves, and see Him, and find our rest and strength and wisdom and hope, all entirely in Him.
If our hearts are hard to this, we will be of all people most to be pitied. Because even if He gives us a glimpse into what He is doing, we will be all the more troubled and terrified! But if our hearts are soft, we will rejoice merely that He is with us. We will recognize that His commands are empowered by His strength, and that the outcome is always sure.
In His human nature, when Christ fully exhausted Himself, one thing was needful above even physical rest—time apart to His Father to pray (v46). If this was true for Him in His strength, how much more for us in our weakness!
Delusions of our strength will only get us exhausted. But admission of our weakness means that we must readily obey Him upon whom we are placing our trust. Trust and obey, for there’s no other way, to be happy in Jesus, than to trust and obey!
In what situations have you been trusting yourself? When has Scripture instruction seemed to you like it couldn’t possibly work?Suggested songs: ARP111B “The Mighty Power of His Works” or HB307 “O Jesus, I Have Promised”