There are so many valuable lessons to learn in life. Wouldn't it be nice if we learned those lessons the first time they were taught to us? Unfortunately we don't always learn the first time. Sometimes we even have to suffer discomfort or pain on some level before we really learn. We've all been there. Jesus' disciples were no different.
Jesus chose 12 men to help him change the world. These men were common and ordinary. Some were fishermen and one was even a tax collector who worked for the opposing Roman government. They all came from different walks of life but had several things in common: they were sinners who stood in the need of God's grace, they were all given an invitation to abandon the ordinary and follow Jesus, and they all had lessons they would need to learn. In other words, these men were like you and me!
One such lesson they would need to learn is the lesson of the loaves. In Mark 6 we read where Jesus sent his disciples out in teams of two. He instructed them to take nothing on their journey except the shoes on their feet, the clothes on their back, and a walking stick. No money, no extra clothes, no food, nothing. Nada! Zip! Yet, he assured them they would have a place to sleep and food to eat. Later, when the disciples returned to Jesus, they gave him a glowing ministry report and bragged of all they had accomplished (Mark 6:30). Notice: Jesus called them, Jesus empowered them, Jesus gave them his authority over evil spirits, and Jesus provided for them. Yet when the disciples reported back to Jesus, they were quick to share all that they had done. So how did Jesus respond? He told them to get in a boat with him and they set off on cruise across the lake. Oh did Jesus have a lesson to teach his friends!
Supposedly heading to a solitary place to get some rest, Jesus led his disciples straight into a hungry crowd of people. Jesus saw the needs of these people and he had compassion on them. First he met their spiritual need by teaching them about the Kingdom of God. Then he met their physical need of hunger in such a way as to teach his disciples the lesson of the loaves. Noticing the hunger, Jesus' disciples suggested that Jesus send the crowd away to go get food. Jesus had a better idea. "You give them something to eat," he instructed. "What?! It's not in the budget! We can't afford to feed all these people?" Ok, the disciples didn't necessarily say it that way, but that's the idea (Mark 6:35-37).
It was as if Jesus was saying, "You came back and told me all that you had done. So feeding several thousand people shouldn't be too difficult for you." You see, the disciples failed to realize they hadn't accomplished anything on their own. It was Jesus who called them, empowered them and provided for them. They stole his glory. They took credit for what God accomplished through them. But instead of rebuking them harshly, Jesus essentially said, "Apparently you don't me. You can do this on your own. So go ahead, you feed the people." When the disciples saw the impossibility of accomplishing such a task, Jesus told them to gather what food was available: 5 loaves and 2 fish. Jesus blessed it and fed the crowd. Then he instructed his disciples to gather the leftovers: 12 baskets to be exact. Hmmm...one basket for each disciple.
Surely the disciples learned the lesson of the loaves by now! Or did they? In the very next set of verses (Mark 6:45-52) we learn that the disciples were in a boat when a storm blew up. They were terrified and didn't recognize Jesus walking on the water towards them. Jesus climbed in the boat with them, and the wind died down. The disciples were shocked at this. They still had not learned the lesson of the loaves because their hearts were hardened (v.52).
So what is the lesson of the loaves?
- God is sovereign. Jesus calmed the storm.
- God is our provider. Jesus provided for the disciples when he sent them out in teams of two. Jesus met the spiritual needs of the crowds of people. Jesus met the physical needs by feeding the masses.
- God empowers us to do all that we do. Jesus called and equipped his disciples. He sustained them for success.
- We should never attempt to steal God's glory. It's so easy to brag about the good we've done. However, living with an awareness that it's God who empowers and provides for us keeps us humble, protects us from an inflated ego, and positions us to receive God's best.
For more on this, watch the full message!