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Loaves and Fishes



“Now the day was ending, and the twelve came up and said to Him, “Dismiss the crowd, so that they may go into the surrounding villages and countryside and find lodging and get something to eat; because here, we are in a secluded place.” But He said to them, “You give them something to eat!” But they said, “We have no more than five loaves and two fish, unless perhaps we go and buy food for all these people.” (For there were about five thousand men.) But He said to His disciples, “Have them recline to eat in groups of about fifty each.” They did so, and had them all recline. And He took the five loaves and the two fish, and, looking up to heaven, He blessed them and broke them, and gave them to the disciples again and again, to serve the crowd. And they all ate and were satisfied; and the broken pieces which they had left over were picked up, twelve baskets full.”

-Luke 9:12-17

 


I love this story. One of my very oldest journal entries is about this passage, because this story has had so much meaning to me. So let’s look at what happens…


Evening was beginning to set in, and the disciples urge Jesus to tell the people to go get food and lodging. That would have been the normal, human thing to do. Go tell the people to fend for themselves. But Jesus’ response is so interesting to me. He says “You give them something to eat.” Isn’t that a surprising response?


We must not rush past this moment of tension in our desire to see it resolved. Imagine how the disciples must have felt. They had almost no money or food. And Jesus is telling them that they should feed 5,000 men plus the women and children gathered with them. It feels a little unfair, doesn’t it?


But how often we feel this way! How often do we feel that Jesus is asking something of us that we cannot do? How often do we feel that we aren’t given enough time or energy to do what Jesus has laid before us? How often as mothers do we come to the end of ourselves and feel there is nothing left to give? How often as friends do we sit across from a hurting friend and feel completely inadequate to help? How often do we look at our work tasks for the week and feel there is far more than we can possibly accomplish?



We are not so very different from the disciples. I know that I feel my inadequacy often. I look at the responsibilities and ministry to others set out in front of me and I see only my lack.


So how do the disciples respond? “But they said, “We have no more than five loaves and two fish, unless perhaps we go and buy food for all these people.” (For there were about five thousand men.)” I don’t know if the disciples were being sarcastic or just stating the facts. There almost seems to be a hint of sarcasm as if they were saying, “We only have five loaves and two fish, unless you want us to go buy food for the thousands of people here with all the extra money we have lying around.” How often we judge Jesus as though he were trying to squeeze blood from a turnip. We can fall into thinking that he is “a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed” (Matt 25:24) like the wicked servant in the parable of the talents. It is easy to see Jesus this way when we see all that we are called to do and see how insufficient we are for the task.

What is the answer when we feel this way? Let’s keep reading:

“But He said to His disciples, “Have them recline to eat in groups of about fifty each.” They did so, and had them all recline. And He took the five loaves and the two fish, and, looking up to heaven, He blessed them and broke them, and gave them to the disciples again and again, to serve the crowd.”

Jesus responds by taking the five loaves and fish and blessing them. In other words, he prays. He knew that the disciples couldn’t feed the crowd. But He wanted them to know who could. He showed them how to respond when they saw needs that are far beyond their own ability. Take those needs to the Lord. I imagine that Jesus was thinking ahead to the ministry the disciples would carry on years in the future without his bodily presence with them, and how often they would need to remember that the strength to walk in God’s calling never comes from ourselves.


When we look to our own abilities to do the things God has prepared for us to do, we will only see lack because we are never enough for God’s work. But what happens when we pray? What happens when we acknowledge our lack and run to Jesus for help?


“And they all ate and were satisfied; and the broken pieces which they had left over were picked up, twelve baskets full.”

What abundance! Not only did Jesus multiply the loaves and fish to fully feed the entire crowd, but there was a large amount left over. Let’s think again about the parable of the talents. What kind of a Master is Jesus? Is he a hard man, reaping where he did not sow, and gathering where he scattered no seed? (Matt 25:24) Or is He a generous Master who supplies all that we need without reproach? We have only to see the baskets of surplus to give us our answer.


But there’s something else to notice here, too. How many baskets did they collect? Twelve. Twelve, one for each disciple. Jesus does not only give generously so that we can distribute it to others, He cares for us, too. He sees you.


Entrepreneur, you are not only given enough to serve your clients well. Jesus sees YOU. Jesus provides for your needs personally. Jesus does not need our work, anymore than He needed the disciples to pass out the food. He does not use us up and cast us aside, He allows us to be a part of His work, He supplies everything we need to do it, and He cares for us personally and uniquely. What a beautiful privilege! As entrepreneurs, we need to remember the reality that our work is merely loaves and fishes. We should strive to work with excellence and do our very best. But at the end of the day, our work is still a humble offering of loaves and fishes. As my friend Shelby said, “No matter how good my work gets, it’s still just loaves and fishes.” Isn’t that so true? But Jesus takes our humble best and multiplies it. He uses it for His kingdom, and what a privilege it is when we see that happen! Jesus will use your humble best, too. Admit how insufficient you are, and pray for God to use your business loaves and fishes in His way.


Finally, as we read of Jesus passing out these loaves of bread, we can’t help but think of Jesus Himself, the Bread of Life. Providing bread to satisfy the crowd’s hunger was a shadow reality that pointed to the greater satisfaction He could provide.


Just as He said to the woman at the well: “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst.” (John 4:13) When we look to Jesus as our sustaining bread, our satisfaction, we find such abundance, our hearts will never be able to fully take it all in.


“In Christ’s gift of Himself as the Bread of Life there is ever more than at any given moment we can appropriate.” - MacLaren’s Expositions

You will never come to the end of Jesus. He is abundantly more than you can ever exhaust.

In your business this week, I can promise that you will come to the end of your abilities, your strength, your wisdom, your motivation, your desire. What a sweet gift that is when we recognize it, take our inability to Christ in prayer, and see Him multiply our humble work for His kingdom.


“If they will but take their poor stores to Jesus, with the acknowledgment of their insufficiency, He will turn them into inexhaustible supplies, and they will find that ‘there is that scattereth, and yet increaseth.’ What Christ blesses is always enough.” - MacLaren’s Expositions

Where are you seeing your insufficiency today? As the old hymn reminds us “Take it to the Lord in prayer”. Stay tuned to The Voca Society Podcast to hear this read by the author and to get more content like this! 👇



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