Jesus feeds five thousand men, plus women and children of an undetermined number with the lunch of a young boy. Close to 10,000 people were following Jesus just to see what he would do next. They had heard about his miraculous signs with the sick and had followed him around the Sea of Galilee. Jesus stops to rest with his disciples and as they watch these 10,000 people coming towards them, filling the horizon, Jesus turns to Phillip and asks what he thinks they should do about these hungry people.
There was a need. The people had followed Jesus for days, who knows when they had last bought bread, or even if they had money to do so. They were hungry. Jesus knew it, the disciples knew it; these people needed to eat.
Phillip answers Jesus that it is impossible, eight months wages--200 denarii--would be needed to buy bread for each one to have just a bite. When we look at that number it seems disconnected from our daily lives. What would eight months wages look like for the average worker today? $8,000; $10,000; $12,000--or more would be today's equivalent. For each person to have a bite, they would need a small fortune.
Andrew offers a little help, but in his mind not enough. He shows Jesus a lunch packed by a young person--five loaves, two fish--maybe enough for Jesus and the disciples to have a bite, but not much more. No wonder he asks, "How far would that go among so many?" But the gift is offered, no matter how small.
Now Jesus takes that tiny offering, and he uses it to fulfill the great need by filling in with a miraculous provision. He breaks the bread and tells the disciples to distribute it and the fish to this great crowd. As he breaks off chunks of bread, they just keep coming. He says, "Give them as much as they want."
Jesus does not ask for a resume, or a portfolio. He does not even turn within to his own knowledge of the people's sin and righteousness. There is a need, and he is filling it. The only prerequisite is hunger. And the people do not turn the provision away. No one is sitting around saying, "Sorry, I only eat rye bread and this is barley." The gift is freely given and freely received.
The world is full of seemingly impossible problems. Just looking at the year 2010 so far we have had an earthquake in Haiti, an earthquake in China, an earthquake in South America, tsunamis from the earthquake in South America, flooding in Nashville, wars in the Middle East, countless children and women being forced into the sex trade, an oil well disaster that threatens the lives and safety of countless people, animals, an entire ecosystem. Closer to home are personal tragedies, people with lost income, lost loved ones, lost hope. So often we have a hard time seeing how we can be a part of the solution.
What we have is so small compared to the enormity of the problem. Just like that young person with their lunch, five loaves and two fish to feed thousands, we have a limited amount of resources. But if we will offer what we have, we can see God do something great. If we will be obedient to give what we can, we will see God do what we cannot.
What do you have to offer? A small gift of your time, energy, and resources can be the beginning of something great. You can't bring someone's loved one back to life, but can you make a cup of tea? You can't mop up the oil spill, but can you walk instead of drive? You can't repair all the damage from natural disasters, but can you give $5 to an organization who is at work in those areas? Whenever there is a great need, when we are faithful with a little, God can take that small gift and miraculously provide the solution.