When Jesus Commands the Impossible

Dr. Ray Pritchard
Dr. Ray Pritchard

“He said to them, ‘Give them something to eat.’ They said, ‘We have only five loaves of bread and two fish’” (Luke 9:13).

This is the only miracle mentioned in all four gospels.
Clearly it made a huge impression on the first Christians.

Five thousand hungry men show up uninvited and then stay for supper. Imagine ordering 5000 pizzas. That would cost a pretty penny. It would be a huge order, and I don’t think Dominos would deliver either. Suppose you had to feed 5000 hungry men tonight. What would you do?

It’s late, the people are tired and hungry, the local Burger King is closed for remodeling, and Pizza Hut doesn’t deliver to the wilderness. The disciples make a very practical suggestion: “Send them away and let them find food.” That’s logical. The suggestion is not made from bad motives. In themselves the disciples had no resources to meet this enormous need. They had no food and no money. What else could they do? Answer: They could do nothing!

They didn’t see 5000 people; they saw 5000 problems they couldn’t solve.

Most of us would have said the same thing. We’re quick to see what we can’t do and quick to talk about what we don’t have. The disciples saw the crowds and realized their inadequacy. But they forgot that the Son of God was standing right there with them.

When Jesus said, “Give them something to eat,” the disciples were astounded and embarrassed because they didn’t have the means to meet such a request. No one could feed such a vast multitude! “Send them away, Lord, so they won’t starve here in the wilderness.” Jesus wants his men to realize that without him they can do nothing. They must be forced to realize their own inadequacy for the task at hand. As long as they think they can feed the crowds on their own, why would they need Jesus? You only need a miracle when you can’t do it yourself. 

We still need this lesson today. Without Jesus’ active involvement, our plans are doomed to fail. Until we realize how helpless we are, we will depend on our money, our organization, our staff, and our connections to make things happen. But when we at long last come to the end of our hoarded resources and cry out, “Lord, this is impossible. Help!” all heaven comes to our aid. 

The twelve baskets left over tell an important story. If we will trust Jesus, there will be plenty for those we serve, and more than enough left over to feed us also. 

Jesus is always more than enough for those who dare to trust in him. 

 Lord, thank you for showing us our weakness that you might show yourself strong to meet every need we have. Amen.

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Originally published March 13, 2018.

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