About this time another large crowd had gathered, and the people ran out of food again. Jesus called his disciples and told them, “I feel sorry for these people. They have been here with me for three days, and they have nothing left to eat. If I send them home hungry, they will faint along the way. For some of them have come a long distance.”
His disciples replied, “How are we supposed to find enough food to feed them out here in the wilderness?”
Jesus asked, “How much bread do you have?”
“Seven loaves,” they replied.
So Jesus told all the people to sit down on the ground. Then he took the seven loaves, thanked God for them, and broke them into pieces. He gave them to his disciples, who distributed the bread to the crowd. A few small fish were found, too, so Jesus also blessed these and told the disciples to distribute them.
They ate as much as they wanted. Afterward, the disciples picked up seven large baskets of leftover food. There were about 4,000 men in the crowd that day, and Jesus sent them home after they had eaten. Immediately after this, he got into a boat with his disciples and crossed over to the region of Dalmanutha. – Mark 8:1-10
They were not the first to ask the question: these disciples of Jesus in the third day of the wilderness sojourn with Jesus. Zacharia had asked it. So had Mary. But even the father of faith had asked, “O Lord God, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” (Genesis 15:2).
Maybe you’ve asked it too. The challenge is too great. How am I supposed to work that many hours? How am I ever going to get caught up with my bills? How am I to give 10% of my income to the church? How am I able to memorize all those Bible passages? How am I supposed to forgive someone who won’t even admit he’s done something against me? How am I supposed to get peace in my heart in the face of all these troubles we’re facing in the world?
On another occasion Jesus told his disciples that the mission field was large and ready, but there were not enough workers. He told them to “pray that the Lord of the Harvest would send laborers into his harvest” (Matthew 9:38). Next he sends out the twelve on their first mission. They become the answer to their own prayer. There would be others as well. The 72. Paul. Silas. Luke. Mark. Peter. Phillip. All were sent to gather people into his kingdom.
On this occasion, the task is more seemingly mundane. They need to set up a mobile soup kitchen, and there is no way they can imagine it being successfully accomplished. With only some loaves and fish their resources were so meager, they ask, “How are we supposed to feed this crowd? You’d think they would have remembered the feeding of the 5000, recorded in Mark 6!
Perhaps their exclamation, “How are we supposed to…” was actually a prayer. And Jesus answers their prayer by leveraging the resources already at their disposal. He’ll use what they have to feed the multitude. That’s what Jesus does.
Sometimes we think we’ve got to have all the answers in order to witness to a friend. We might believe our finances cannot make a difference in the great needs of the church or the world. There may be serious doubts about whether or not we have the resources to forgive a friend’s betrayal. But when we give Jesus what we have and let him bless and use it the results will be Jesus-shaped. And that’s always good. Very good indeed.
How are we supposed to…(you fill in the blank)? Give what you’ve got to Jesus and let him shape it for his glory and our neighbor’s good.