The apostles returned to Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught. 31 And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. 32 And they went away in the boat to a desolate place by themselves. 33 Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they ran there on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. 34 When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things. 35 And when it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, “This is a desolate place, and the hour is now late. 36 Send them away to go into the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.” 37 But he answered them, “You give them something to eat.” And they said to him, “Shall we go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread and give it to them to eat?” 38 And he said to them, “How many loaves do you have? Go and see.” And when they had found out, they said, “Five, and two fish.”
39 Then he commanded them all to sit down in groups on the green grass. 40 So they sat down in groups, by hundreds and by fifties. 41 And taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing and broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to set before the people. And he divided the two fish among them all. 42 And they all ate and were satisfied. 43 And they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish. 44 And those who ate the loaves were five thousand men. – Mark 6:30-44
More taxes! Less spending! More laws! Freer people! Greater government programs. Less government! What’s your solution to the challenges we face these days? One Facebook meme had a gecko holding the mouth of a frog closed. The frog was identified as “Me about to comment on someone’s political post.” The gecko was identified as “The Holy Spirit.” It is not likely that our rhetoric will add much light to the dark days we are facing as a nation. Holy Spirit, help me to hold my tongue.
Typically our solutions fall short of solving the real problems. That’s not to say that political solutions, programs, cuts, spending, or efforts are without effect. Some no doubt will help some folks. But our vision is far too short. We don’t take a long enough view. Four years is a political eternity. But God works over the course of centuries.
So when the disciples come to Jesus and tell him to send the people away (Imagine telling Jesus what he should do!), let’s not be too quick to judge. Theirs was a short-term, short-sighted, short-shrift solution. So are many of ours. Our shrifts are all too often far too short! Our solutions tend to focus on alleviating our troubles. We want to solve problems. And too often that means getting rid of the people causing them.
Problems, in the economy of God are opportunities for his grace to shine. And even if his grace seems not to have an immediate impact, or not immediately to work, it doesn’t mean it’s time to give up. In this case, the disciples saw within a few minutes how God’s solution was far better than theirs. They saw God at work. They saw God provide. They saw God take care of those who were following him.
The crowds were not the problem. The disciples’ short-sightedness and misguided solution was the problem. I wonder if we might possibly remember that next time we bump up against any sort of problem. We might even look to see how God will use us for a far better solution than we might ever imagine.