“Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?”
– John 6:9
This story of the boy with five loaves and two fish is mentioned in all four gospels (Matthew 14:13-21; Mark 6:30-44; Luke 9:10-17; John 6:1-15). Here is Andrew’s question to Jesus in John 6:9, and I love how Jesus responds by multiplying the boy’s lunch!
The context of this miraculous feeding of the 5,000 is set in the bleak backdrop of Herod’s gruesome execution of John the Baptist. John the Baptist was Jesus’ cousin and the prophet (greatest of all as rated by Jesus) and forerunner who ushered Jesus’ ministry on earth. Jesus, mourning the loss of John the Baptist, withdraws himself to a deserted place, but the crowds follow him there. Jesus has compassion when he sees the multitude and heals them and teaches them.
It is now quite late into the evening and his disciples recommend that he dismiss the crowd so they could get themselves food to eat. Instead, Jesus commands the disciples to feed the people. Philip has an accurate assessment of what that would take. In John 6:7, Philip answered Jesus, “It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!”, concluding that it was impossible. Jesus gives them a task, and we see that this is the start of the miracle as the disciples find the boy who hadn’t eaten his lunch.
I have imagined a lot about this young boy, so enamored by Christ, listening to him all day that he possibly forgot to eat. His mother diligently packing him food – 5 barley pieces of bread and 2 small fish – knowing he was going on this journey to meet Christ. Whether anyone had food or not and did not share, we don’t know, but this boy willingly offered his food to the disciples.
Well, everyone ate this boy’s lunch that day! Jesus took the bread and the fish and multiplied it to feed the crowd. Jewish people only counted men, and 5,000 were present, but we know there were kids and women as well. So all in all, there could have possibly been 10,000 or more people fed!
Often times, we can be overwhelmed with the task at hand: our large families, our colleagues, our neighbors, all who have yet to know and trust in Christ. We cry out just as Philip did, “It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!”. In other words, “Lord, with my mere knowledge, my little experience, what have I to offer to all of these people that you have me surrounded by?” This little boy’s lunch could be part of the answer.
It is not what we have, it is what we have and in whose hands they are given to. It’s not our skill, talent, or gift that we posses, but when given to God, His power is demonstrated in the multiplication and feeding. Our prayer should be, “Lord, help me bring the little I have and give them to You to multiply them!”.
As those serving Christ, we are encouraged to contribute our gifts and obey Jesus’ command to “go and see” and find the boy with the lunch and bring it to Jesus. In other words, find the person with the gifts that can be brought to Jesus for His kingdom. Perhaps the person themselves may not think what they have is significant, but as we understood, it is not in the holder of the gift but it is the power of the Operator of the gift. May whatever gift we offer, however big or small, be used for God’s glory.
Donald Thampy is an Elder at GRC.