More Than Enough
“And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over” (Matthew 14:20).
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!
Every time I hear the story of the feeding of the five thousand, I’m reminded of my Grandma Moeller. No matter what hour of the day or how many people showed up unexpectedly, she could feed them and take care of them. No one ever left her table hungry. Perhaps you had a mother or grandmother like that. In the days before microwaves and pre-packaged foods, Grandma was a wizard at improvising and stretching a meal. Although she never would have been mistaken as a gourmet chef, she could turn a small beef roast and a few potatoes into more than enough for twelve. A loaf of Old Home bread, a brick of cheese, and a quart of ice cream made the made the most delicious “lunch” when people came visiting at night. How she was able to do that, I don’t know. It’s probably a lost art.
But as good as Grandma was at setting a table on short notice and with limited resources, her skills pale in comparison to Jesus’ miraculous feeding of the five thousand, where He took the contents of a little boy’s lunch basket and used it to feed thousands of hungry men, women, and children.
Having heard the news of John the Baptist’s death, Jesus withdrew by boat to a solitary place near Bethsaida. He spent some time up on the mountain alone with His twelve disciples. But before long, the people learned where Jesus was and came to Him, making the long trek around the Sea of Galilee on foot.
As a shepherd cares for his flock, Jesus had compassion on the people, feeding their hungry souls with His Word of life and healing their illnesses and infirmities with His divine power. As the day wore on, however, these men, women, and children also began to experience physical hunger.
Realizing the lateness of the day, Jesus’ disciples came to Him: “This is a desolate place, and the day is now over,” they said; “send the crowds away to go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” Notice how Jesus’ disciples try to tell Him how to take care of the problem. We do that too, don’t we? But Jesus is not unaware or unconcerned about our needs. He just has His own ways of dealing with them in His own time.
The disciples seemed to be more concerned about their own relief and rest for the Lord than about the needs of the multitude. But the compassionate Savior did not send the crowds away. He desired to satisfy their earthly needs as well as their spiritual, to fill their growling bellies as well as their hungry hearts. And He planned all along to use the opportunity to test His disciples once more. “They do not need to go away,” Jesus said, “You give them something to eat.”
It was an astonishing reply to these dull-witted disciples, and yet they should have seen through it. All the clues were there plainly in Jesus’ words if they only listened closely. Simple common sense should have told them if they were to give food to this tremendous crowd with no food in their possession, and if there was no need for any of them to go away in search of food, Jesus must mean that they, the Twelve, had a source of supply that they had so far overlooked.
But the disciples failed Jesus’ test. Not one of them understood the nature of His instruction. Not one of them recognized that Jesus can and will provide, even in the most difficult circumstances. Even when the need seems to be so much greater than the available means. Even when it seems impossible. His previous miraculous signs had not been enough to convince the disciples that Jesus was able to accomplish anything He said. Rather than focus on God’s past provisions, the disciples instead dwelt on their lack: “We only have five loaves and two fish,” they moaned.
But such meager supplies are more than enough for the God who created everything out of nothing but His Word. Five loaves of bread and two fish are much more than the people of Israel had on hand during their wilderness journey, when God fed over 600,000 men and their families each day for over 40 years with manna from heaven and water from the rock. With Jesus, five loaves of bread and two fish are more than enough to provide a banquet in the wilderness. “Bring them here to Me,” Jesus said without the least explanation. The disciples, who heard this peculiar order, and those who went to hunt up the young boy with the bread and fish, must have wondered at Jesus’ intention. But they eventually went, found the boy, and brought his lunch back to Jesus to use to feed the crowd.
Taking up the five loaves and two fish, and looking up to heaven, Jesus gave thanks and broke the loaves. As Jesus broke the bread and fish, both multiplied in His hands. Then He gave them to the disciples, and they distributed the pieces to the crowd. Everyone ate until they were satisfied. Each had as much as they could eat, and when everyone had eaten, the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of leftovers. There was more than enough!
You’ve probably heard this story so many times, it almost bores you. You might be saying to yourself, “That’s a great story! It surely proved to Jesus’ disciples that He is true God, the same God who took care of Israel in the wilderness. It once again proved that Jesus is compassionate and that He cares for His people. But what does it have to do with us? What does a two-thousand-year-old miracle mean for me in my every day, ordinary life?
A number of applications come to mind. But the one that jumps out at me is the fact that God often challenges us to do what seems impossible for the work of His kingdom. Just as Jesus commanded His disciples to give the people something to eat when they only had five loaves of bread and two fish, God challenges us to do the impossible even if we only have what seem to be limited resources.
Our response to that challenge varies. All too often, like the disciples who urged Jesus to “send the crowds away to go into the villages and buy food for themselves,” we try to tell God what to do. Or we’ll demand that God take away the challenge. “Just make our problem disappear,” we’ll say. “I don’t want to deal with it now.” Or we’ll try to pretend that it’s beyond our control. “I don’t see how I can possibly do anything about this. We just don’t have enough resources!”
Very seldom does God immediately respond to such demands. He is not our personal servant, standing at our beck and call. He doesn’t have to prove anything. The task set before us, the impossible test is for us, not for God. He has already proven His ability and His willingness to help. It is we who need the training. We are the ones in need of the lessons about relying on His provision and ability to do whatever needs to be done in order to accomplish His purposes.
And so, God often waits until we come to the end of our own resources. He waits for us to turn to Him and trust in Him to accomplish His purposes. He waits for us to ask for further instructions. He waits for us to quit making excuses. God waits for us to realize that He really doesn’t need anything from us, that we really have nothing to offer, and that such challenges aren’t so much a test of our willingness to work or carry out His assignments, but a test of our faith.
What God wants more than anything else from you is your trust—to trust in Him completely and His ability to provide for you in all areas of your life. For it’s when you realize our own shortcomings and limitations, that He is able to best demonstrate His complete sufficiency. Then you are ready for God to demonstrate His ability to provide for the work of His kingdom even when your senses or common sense tells you the situation is impossible. And provide He does—far beyond your wildest hopes and dreams. Out of little He makes much. He sends you more than enough.
That shouldn’t really be a surprise. That’s how God always works. He demonstrates His power by using weaknesses and limitations. That’s why He came to earth as a man and contended with the same sinful desires and temptations we all face. That’s why Christ endured the scorn, shame, and pain of the cross. That’s why He rose from the tomb on the third day. For in these weak things and impossible situations Jesus demonstrated His power over sin, death, and the devil. Through all these limitations, God shows that He Himself is more than enough to meet any of the challenges He places before us as individuals or as a congregation.
Whenever you have doubts about God’s power to supply your needs, whether physical or spiritual, recall this miracle. Jesus is able to provide. And He does—more than enough. The Lord has provided for you and I in some difficult times in the past. And I have no doubt that God will provide as you face even greater challenges in the future. For such challenges exercise our faith. They stretch our ideas of discipleship, and they encourage us to be better stewards of God’s riches and treasures. What those challenges may be, I cannot say. I’ve been learning not to try to outguess God. I do know, however, we must keep our eyes and minds open to those areas for service when God lays them before us. We must be willing to step out in even greater ways as they arrive.
As you go forward as Christ’s disciples, may God in His grace and mercy enable you to faithfully carry out the challenges He lays before you. May you never pass up the opportunity to serve because you somehow think you just don’t have the resources. May you always realize that for the work to which God calls you, there are plenty of available resources. There is more than enough.
And for those times when you fail to trust Him, remember: Jesus died for that sin, too. In Him, there is more than enough forgiveness. Indeed, for Jesus’ sake, you are forgiven for all of your sins.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.