Thousands of people have gathered on a grassy hillside. The sun is beating down, and if it wasn’t for the breeze off the lake, the heat would be completely unbearable. Off to the side, a group of children play.
Many have come a long way, wearily plodding for miles through town after town, down dusty street after dusty street, until they finally reach the outskirts of this little fishing village. They drop down in the grass, thankful for a rest. They have left everything behind for the day so they could hear Jesus speak.
He stands at the front of the crowd. There is no microphone, so He is straining to make His voice heard. The people at the back of the crowd are straining to listen.
Hours pass, and He preaches on and on. The crowd is captivated. Every now and then, a restless child begins to cry out and a red-faced parent tries to shush him. Those nearby turn to glare. “Be quiet!” they hiss. “The rabbi is speaking!”
Tummies begin to rumble. Jesus’ disciples begin to get irritated.
“Why doesn’t he send these people home so we can eat? I’m starving!” One asks another.
“I don’t know. But I’m hungry too. Go ask Him!” is the response.
“I’m not asking. You ask!”
One of the disciples approaches Jesus, trying to keep the frustration out of his voice. “We are hungry. These people are hungry. We’ve been here hours. Send them into the town so they can buy themselves something to eat. Please.”
Jesus surveys the multitude thoughtfully, then turns to His disciples. “You feed them.”
The disciples stare at Jesus, mouths gaping, certain He has lost His mind.
“Just what are we supposed to feed them? We don’t have money to buy food for thousands of people!” He, of all people, should know that. After all, they’ve left everything to follow Him.
Tired and miserable, the disciples turn to the crowd. “Does anyone have food to share?” There is desperation in their voices. It has been a long, hot day.
Only a small, dark-haired boy steps forward. He holds out a basket. “It’s just a few loaves of bread and a couple of fish, but you can have it.”
Others must have food to give – after all, there are thousands of people on the hillside – but only one can see beyond his own hunger to the needs of others. He doesn’t have much, but he gives it freely.
Jesus blesses the food and begins to break it. Somehow, it multiplies. And multiplies. And multiplies.
Do you ever feel like you have nothing to give? As a mother of two young children, it’s easy to feel like I have nothing to offer – not even stale bread or stinky fish. At best, I can scrounge up some goldfish cracker crumbs from under the couch. And that’s on a good day.
For a long time, I was discouraged about this. Downright depressed, actually. My husband lost his job five months ago and has only been able to find part-time work, so we don’t have a lot of money. We have a toddler and a new baby, so we don’t have a lot of time. Or sanity, for that matter. We don’t have much of anything, really.
But yesterday, I remembered the story of the loaves and fishes. I realized that I do have things to give. I can take a couple of hours here and there to slip out for a coffee and a heart-to-heart with a friend. I can use my scraps of time throughout the day to sit down and write about the things that God is doing in my heart. I can pour into my children, day in and day out. I can bake cookies for someone, or make them a meal (although they would probably prefer that I not). I can open my home to people and say, “You’re welcome here”.
What do you have to give? Perhaps you feel like your life is broken and all you have are tiny, shattered pieces. Elisabeth Elliot once said, “If my life is broken when given to Jesus, it is because pieces will feed a multitude, while a loaf will satisfy only a little lad.”
Whatever we have, all that Jesus asks is that we look beyond our own needs and see the needs of others. Weary multitudes are hungry to know Him. He asks us to give freely. It’s up to Him to do the rest. It’s amazing, really. We give what little we have to Him and He blesses it. And then, somehow, it multiplies. And multiplies. And multiplies.