As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things. When it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is now very late; send them away so that they may go into the surrounding country and villages and buy something for themselves to eat.” But he answered them, “You give them something to eat.” They said to him, “Are we to go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread, and give it to them to eat?” And he said to them, “How many loaves have you? Go and see.” When they had found out, they said, “Five, and two fish.” Then he ordered them to get all the people to sit down in groups on the green grass. So they sat down in groups of hundreds and of fifties. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to his disciples to set before the people; and he divided the two fish among them all. And all ate and were filled; and they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish. Those who had eaten the loaves numbered five thousand men.
This is one of my favorite retreat stories. I love it for the lessons that it teaches. And although we have reflected upon this same story so often in the past several months, there is always something new insight to be had, and you will absolutely love this one. But, first, a brief background. Jesus has just heard that his friend John the Baptist has been beheaded. He goes off to be on his own, but people follow him.
Seeing that they were like sheep without a shepherd, he forsakes his own need for personal time, and begins ministering to them, teaching them and healing the sick. If you ever wanted to see God’s compassion in action, here it is. We often get so caught up in our personal pain, we can’t see the pain in others. We don’t realize that when we look at the pain in others, our own pain is often forgotten. That’s something to dwell upon, but what I want us to reflect on is what happens next.
The apostles are people of compassion too. They see that it is getting late and the people are undoubtedly hungry. They tell Jesus to stop talking, so the people can go and get something to eat. Now listen to what Jesus tells them. He says, YOU give them something to eat. The apostles were probably dumbstruck. They saw the need to people, they understood that this need had to be addressed, but they never imagined that the solution would involve THEM! It is the same with us.
I am sure there is not a single person watching this who hasn’t lamented the state of the world, and definitely more than once. We talk about how bad things are, constantly saying something needs to be done, but never imagining that WE can do something to fix it. Well, Jesus is saying to us now: YOU fix it. Our reaction is probably the same as the apostles. Total bewilderment. How? The apostles only had a few loaves of bread and a few fish. We don’t have a lot either.
But, see, we don’t need a lot. The little we have is enough, if we really want to make a difference to the world. Because when we start doing things with the little that we have, God gets into the act and provides the rest of what is needed. See what happened on that mountainside. Five thousand men (aside about the women and kids) ate from those few loaves of bread and fish.
So, do you think the world is a terrible place? YOU change it!