As mealtime approached following an impromptu lakeside church service, Jesus’ disciples came up to him.
“‘Send the people away so that they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.’ But He answered, ‘You give them something to eat.’ They said to Him, ‘That would take more than half a year’s wages! Are we to go and spend that much on bread and give it to them to eat?’ ‘How many loaves do you have?’ He asked. ‘Go and see.’ When they found out, they said, ‘Five — and two fish.’” (Mark 6:36-38)
More than 5,000 people had gathered around Jesus and the disciples. You can imagine the scene and how tired the disciples were probably getting with all the hustle and bustle of the crowds. When they said, “Send them away,” they in essence were saying, “We are gassed and these people are wearing us out, get rid of them so we can chill.” But I love Jesus’ response: “You feed them.”
“With what?” Can you sense the frustration coming out as the disciples reacted incredulously to Jesus’ outrageous instructions? Whenever I get tired and want to chill, I become grumpy and short, lacking compassion — I can relate to the disciples. Jesus sends them out to find food and I imagine they didn’t look too hard because they wanted to prove they were right in having Jesus send the crowds away. So they came back with five loaves of bread and two small fish.
I picture the scene: “OK, we found a tiny amount of food. Now let’s stop playing games and send the people out of here because they are driving us nuts!” The rest of the story shows that Jesus took the little food they had found and gave it to the crowds, satisfying them all.
What’s the application for our lives? If Jesus could do this much with so little, He can do the same with our little lives. What we ourselves have to give others may be insignificant, but when we put it in Jesus’ hands, He can do great things with our gifts, our talents and even our weaknesses to touch the lives of others.
So the question at hand is: Do you lack compassion? If so, why? The lack of empathy is the essence of evil. If we continue to refuse to place ourselves in the shoes of others, we won’t see people as people. Instead, we’ll see them as obstacles in our way. Jesus didn’t see these thousands of people as nuisances, but as sheep without a shepherd.
The disciples were able to share in this great miracle — the only one recorded in all four of the Gospels. And why is it the only one recorded? I think it’s because it moved them in a unique way; they got to participate in this one. If the disciples had their way, they would have missed this great opportunity to bless others.
This challenges us to think about how we need to give up our own agendas so that God can give us opportunities to bless those around us as well.
—Brian Hommel, Arizona Diamondbacks chaplain
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