They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

God is Good? The Feeding of the Five Thousand

Note: I borrowed heavily and received the inspiration for this post from listening to a sermon from Andy Hein of the International Justice Mission.

feeding5000breadfishes400The phrase, “God is Good”, is a slogan that is frequently tossed around in Christian circles. It is a slogan you often see on bumper stickers and lapel buttons. As Christians in America we can certainly attest to this statement that God indeed is good. We live in the most plentiful country during the most plentiful time period in history. Advances in food, clothing, medicine, doctors, machines, equipment, and technology make life in America so much less strenuous than at any other time. Our tendency is to assume that everyone knows the obvious – God is Good! Everywhere we look it seems as though He has bountifully blessed His children.

However, if we look beyond our own little circle, problems arise. There are people in our own country and certainly all over the world that don’t have the things that we take for granted. Listen to just a few statistics:

  • 25,000 children under the age of five die every day because they can’t get medicine
  • Two billion people in the world have no access to any medical care. They are not discussing which doctor or which plan to be on, they just don’t have any doctors or care.
  • Most of the world’s population lives on less than three American dollars per day for everything they need.
  • Hundreds of thousands of teenagers are abandoned on the streets across the world to fend for themselves.

How do all these people know that God is Good? We know God is good, but do they? How will they ever experience God’s goodness? What is God’s plan to show these less fortunate people that He is indeed good? Our first thought is that the needs are so great and we are so unqualified that it seems utterly impossible to make any difference. How is this all supposed to work? The story of Jesus feeding the five thousand, found in all four gospels, sheds some light on how God wants us to approach these seemingly insurmountable odds. Let’s take a look at this age old story that is so familiar to us and see if we might have missed something that Jesus was saying.

In a summary of the gospels of this story, Jesus had been preaching to a crowd of five thousand for a long time and they had not had anything to eat all day. The disciples looked around at the great need and advised Jesus to send the people home so that they could get something to eat. Jesus told the disciples, “No, you feed them – give them something to eat”. The disciples immediately tried to throw it back in Jesus’ court by saying, “What? There are five thousand men here plus women and children. It would take eight months wages just to get enough bread for each person to have one bite! There is no way we could possibly fill this need” – back to you, Jesus! Then Jesus asked them, “What do you have?” The disciples could only round up five small loaves of bread and a couple of fish. “But what is this among so many”, they said. The disciples looked at the magnitude of the problem and saw the huge lack of resources to fill the need. Jesus didn’t ask the disciples what was needed to try to meet the problem, he just said, “What do you have?” Then Jesus took what they had in the way of food and had the people sit down to eat. With the paltry amount available, He fed everyone and had twelve baskets left over! What can we learn from how Jesus handled this situation with his disciples?

First of all, if the people were hungry, why didn’t Jesus just rain down manna from heaven and feed everyone at once? Why did he use a little boy’s lunch instead? Jesus told this story to show us that He doesn’t really need the stuff that we have, he just needs us to show up and be willing. He purposely had the disciples go through the process of coming to the conclusion that there was no way they could meet the need with their own resources. But Jesus used what they had to provide a lot! He doesn’t need us to do the providing, He just needs us to give what we have. We are just supposed to show up with our lunch and watch what He can do with it.

The answer to our question, “How do the hurting people of the world know that God is good?”, is that they will only know if we show them. If we will just show up with what we have and be available, God will take care of the solutions to the problems. 2 Corinthians 5:20 says,”Therefore you are Christ’s ambassadors, as though God was making His very appeal through us.” For the past two thousand years, since Jesus commissioned His disciples, His followers have been going out and trying to show the world that God is good. We are to be the agent that brings the food, medicine, and comfort to the people that don’t have it and they get to experience the body of Christ and understand firsthand the goodness of God. As God’s ambassadors, we have already tasted His goodness and we are the vessel that He will use to show that goodness to others. The next time you hear that well known phrase, “God is Good!”, remember that we are supposed to be the bearers of that great news to the people that don’t already know it.

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