Feeding the Five-Thousand
“When I sit and imagine the moment of Jesus and His boys surrounded by thousands and thousands of people, I have a tendency to become overwhelmed with the thought of trying to fix that situation. I am learning to establish my inner life in the confidence of who God is and what He wants to be for us.” In Feeding the Five Thousand, Melissa Helser unpacks the significance of engaging our humanity and wonder while reading the Bible. As you read this excerpt from Cultivate Vol. III, we hope that you are inspired to re-approach parts of Scripture that have become familiar and invite the Holy Spirit to fascinate you again with the beauty of the Gospel.
“When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things. By this time it was late in the day, so his disciples came to him. “This is a remote place,” they said, “and it’s already very late. 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.”... Then Jesus directed them to have all the people sit down in groups on the green grass. So they sat down in groups of hundreds and fifties. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to his disciples to distribute to the people. He also divided the two fish among them all. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces of bread and fish. The number of the men who had eaten was five thousand.”
Mark 6:34-44, NIV
There are so many facets of relationship. Exhaustion, hunger, impossibility, testing, faith, joy and then wonder and the miraculous. As I grow in life and in my relationship with the Lord, I read the Bible completely differently. I have become more fascinated with the humanity of the Word and the hope it gives us as humans to live a life of radical love and adventure. If you stop and approach the word of God with a heart of wonder and understanding, you will find a story that is beyond anything we could make up. Jesus was always moved by the true nature of His Father in Heaven. He was moved with compassion for the people—not duty or striving or a need to prove Himself to His peers and His followers. He was so connected and rooted in His internal space that when He came to a moment of impossibility, it had to bow to the strength of His interior life. His interior life had consisted of thirty years of patient growth in His understanding of the love of a Father. His ministry was marked with the delight of the Father’s pleasure and smile. “This is my son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17, NIV)
When I sit and imagine the moment of Jesus and His boys surrounded by thousands and thousands of people, I have a tendency to become overwhelmed with the thought of trying to fix that situation. I am learning to establish my inner life in the confidence of who God is and what He wants to be for us. When I discipline myself to look beyond anxiety, I see the faces of the disciples watching the five loaves and two fish transform into an endless supply of provision. I see them looking back at Jesus laughing, with eyes of wonder and astonishment. I love to get lost in the idea that Jesus did this miracle not only to feed the thousands, but to inspire and fill His disciples with faith and joy. He did it to remind them that they serve a God who meets every need. I love thinking about the family that got the 2,000th piece of bread. They might not have known fully what was happening, but the disciples did. Every reach into the basket was building wonder and trust.
We must not take out of these stories the wonder and childlike faith that are the cornerstones of our faith. It is vital to the health of our “fly high” moments that we ask ourselves, Who is this for? We must have the patience and the awareness to stop and look beyond the obvious. Don’t you love that there were so many layers to this miracle? Jesus had the ability to see the multitudes and the ones He was leading and somehow maintain His inner world of friendship with the Father. If we don’t give our hearts to remembering the beauty of how Jesus facilitated these moments, we miss the lesson of simplicity and the need for relationship. Jesus was consistently demonstrating His love for humanity. Intertwined in this crescendo of the miraculous was a golden thread of the nature and intent of the God we serve. I believe that this miracle was as much for the friends of Jesus as it was for the thousands. It was as much about their journey of believing in Jesus as it was the corporate moment.
The way Jesus did ministry has compelled Jonathan and me to build ministry and life with people who we trust, to nurture and cultivate all of the in between, mundane life moments as well as the ones when the whole world is watching us. I can only imagine the conversation around the fire that happened when Jesus and His boys talked about that moment. I smile big and am filled with thankfulness that we serve a God who cares about friendship.
Prompt: Take a moment to read this story from Mark again. Read it through a lens of friendship. Imagine you are one of His disciples. Put yourself in the position of handing out the bread and fish. Look back at Jesus and see His smile. Ask Him to fill your heart with His desire to love and provide for His kids. Ask Him to let you become astonished again with the stories that seem so familiar.