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Loaves and fishes

We rightfully pay significant attention to what the biblical text says, but I wonder if there aren’t times when what is not said isn’t equally compelling (and perhaps intended by the writer to be that way). After all, there are times when what someone doesn’t say can be as important as what they do say.

What had starts out as a time of retreat for Jesus and His apostles in a remote place turns into a time of teaching and healing as the crowds follow them. As the day draws on, the disciples approach Jesus about dismissing the people so they can find food. Jesus challenges the twelve to give them something to eat. They protest and He asks them to find out how many loaves there are. John’s account tells us that Andrew finds a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish.

I don’t get the idea that the disciples made an extensive search among the multitudes. There were five thousand people (just counting the men), so I think we’d be safe is estimating the total crowd to be at least twice that. It would have taken some time to canvas that size crowd. I think they take a quick look around them and all they can come up with are the boy’s loaves and fishes.

It’s interesting that the only person they find with food is a boy. This leads to some questions that aren’t answered by the text but are hard not to ask:

  • Are the boy’s parents there with him?
  • If so, why is it that he has the food rather than them? 
I suppose it’s possible they were there and perhaps visiting with others and left him with the food or that he is sent by his parents to take the food to the apostles. But I tend to think the most natural reading of the narrative is that the bread and fish belong to the boy.

And if he’s there by himself, that’s another story isn’t it—a boy following the crowd following Jesus or maybe even feeling compelled to follow Christ Himself (young hearts can be so tender and trusting!).

So here are the apostles asking the people around if they have any food. No one who has food is willing to share—except the boy. It’s not hard to see the people being guarded about what they have because it’s only enough for them. You can almost hear them thinking, “What good would it possibly do to give what we have to the apostles? Then we won’t have anything.” Furthermore, no one was going to starve to death—the most they would face was a journey home on an empty stomach.

I think we face these same kinds of temptations today. There’s a tendency for us to be over-cautious about what we give to Jesus whether it’s our time, money, or something else. We’d like to understand all of the details of the arrangement and have certain assurances. We want to know if we do this, what will happen? What should we expect?

But the truth is, so many times He calls us to be like the boy—to freely give in faith. He calls us away from our wise investments to simply trusting in what He can do with our gifts—whatever they might be.

If we’ll just trust Him, He will do some amazing things with our loaves and fishes!

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