Where shall we buy bread…?
The Spice Box
by Sharon Robertson, Lt. Colonel –
When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?”
A practical man, Philip panicked! No need to consult with Judas, the treasurer, on this one. “Eight months wages would not buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!”
Philip didn’t try to refute the need to feed the crowd—but he recognized the hopelessness of the situation: they simply had not the resources to accomplish what Jesus wanted to do. Then Andrew spoke up, his input no more encouraging: “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?”
Let’s face it: far too often the good we would gladly do in Jesus’ name is thwarted by the simple fact that we have not the resources to accomplish it. Neither the dollars nor the available personnel are adequate to the task. We are defeated by the magnitude of our dreams for ministry and the reality of our own inability to accomplish them. Like Philip and Andrew, we fail to realize that we are neglecting the only possible resolution to our dilemma. Jesus was standing by. In fact, it was who had brought the need to their attention. And it was he who knew the answer.
Interestingly enough, Jesus did not discuss with his disciples what he intended to do. He laid out no clear plan—but when the time came for action, he gave them their instructions, step by step, as the need arose. When he told the disciples to have the crowd be seated in sections, they didn’t know why—but they did it. When he took the bread and fish and gave thanks, they knew he had something in mind, but what? As he told them to take the loaves and distribute them, they simply acted in faith—how could they know that as they passed out the bread and fishes they would somehow multiply to satisfy the needs of every individual in the crowd? And if Jesus could so amply satisfy the needs of the people through such a miraculous means, why was it so important to gather the leftover bread, so that nothing would be wasted?
And how does all of this apply to us? Sure, we know that God is able to supply all of our needs, according to his riches in glory. Sure, we understand that the word of Jesus is sufficiently powerful to accomplish his purposes. Certainly we are amazed at his concern for our physical needs, his love for us as individuals, and at what he has been able to accomplish in our personal lives. But is that it?
Look again at the simple facts:
1. There were people who had a real need.
2. Though Jesus’ followers recognized the need, they despaired of any way to satisfy it.
3. A realistic evaluation of their own resources showed that they could not meet the need, no matter what they did.
4. Jesus knew all of these things, but had in mind a resolution that only he could have brought about.
5. The success of Jesus’ plan required absolute obedience to his instructions, whether or not the disciples fully understood what he had in mind.
6. Only as the disciples acted in unquestioning obedience to his instructions did they begin to have an inkling of the miraculous manner in which he resolved the problem.
7. The results were beyond anything they could have imagined. Not only were the people fed, but enough food remained to satisfy their own needs and allow continued ministry to others.
Too often we allow our material resources to dictate how we respond to God’s call to ministry. From the moment we commit to him, we tend to ask not only “what can I do to further your purposes, Lord,” without articulating the underlying assumption, “knowing how limited are the resources I have to offer?”
Jesus challenges us to a new assumption: the assumption that if he is leading us into ministry, he will provide the means of accomplishing his purposes. We who think of ourselves as Christian leaders are nothing of the kind. Jesus is the leader. We are simply disciples, committed to obedience to his leading, no matter what it may require of us.
And with that kind of commitment—a moment-by-moment, step-by-step faith response to his guidance (even when we don’t understand the whys and wherefores) will without fail lead to our participation in the incredible, amazing, miraculous accomplishment of his plans.