The miracle of Jesus feeding the 5000 is the only miracle of His earthly ministry recorded in all four of the gospels. It is a great picture of the Christian life. In this miracle we see Christ as the Bread of Life, our spiritual food. This is the food that satisfies and sustains us and also the food we distribute. In this miracle we see the connection between ministry to the natural needs of man and at the same time touching man’s greatest spiritual needs.
In comparing the various accounts of this miracle some interesting observations are presented to us. We see great crowds following Jesus because of the healings He was performing. They had been following Him for three days and the food supplies were greatly diminished. The disciples, always aware of the natural circumstances, wanted to disperse the crowd. They realized there was no way to deal with the needs of the growing crowd. Jesus took this opportunity to “test” His disciples. “You give them something to eat,” He said.
The disciples were astounded. What could they do? They did not have the money to buy food. They were far from the nearest markets to buy food. His request seemed impossible.
“You give them something to eat”. John said that Jesus was testing His disciples because He knew what He was going to do. Jesus was trying the hearts of the disciples, attempting to get them to look beyond themselves, their own resources and abilities. He wanted them to turn their eyes upon Him, the creator and sustainer of all things.
Today, the Lord loves to test our hearts, challenging us to look beyond the limitations of the natural world. We all tend to get stuck with our limited resources rather than looking to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.
In 1990 I was in a desperate place, our church was in the midst of a financial crisis. We had experienced the demise of the oil industry in New Orleans, which was catastrophic to our economy. We had also been at the epicenter of the religious scandals that rocked Christianity in the 1980’s. (By epicenter I mean Airline Highway in New Orleans. No one in our staff was personally involved.) I was desperate and looking for a financial solution to our immediate problems. The Lord heard my cry and gave me an answer, the way out of our trouble. This answer was not what I was expecting or looking for, His ways are not our ways.
What the Lord told me to do was to hold a Free Food Festival for the hurting people of New Orleans on July 4. This was the beginning of Feed the Multitudes which we have been putting on for the last 21 years.
That first event was incredible. We had several thousand people from the poorest of the poor areas in New Orleans. They come from the projects, from the missions, and homeless from the city streets. What a great celebration.
The business community embraced this event and most of the food and supplies were given for free. The Lord provided and fed the multitudes just like the days of His earthly ministry.
But that was not the greatest miracle that happened that day. Something special happened in the hearts of our people our hearts were changed by God. That was the miracle that we needed. Physical provision is easy for the Lord, but what He is after is our hearts. That is why He tested His disciples, “You give them something to eat.” He knew what He would do, He was changing the hearts of His disciples.
Today our region is in crisis again. There has been another catastrophic human failure that is threatening our way of life in Southeast Louisiana. Especially effected are the fishing communities in the bayou region south of our city. Recently I attended a Pastors gathering in Bayou Blue and listened to the Pastors from the bayou describing the effects of the oil spill on the people in that region. Many of these precious people are totally dependent on the seafood industry. Their families have lived this way for generations. They have no other way to support themselves.
While I was listening to these Pastors, I felt like the disciples so long ago. Thousands of people who cannot feed themselves in need and then came the familiar voice, “You give them something to eat.”
Of course I immediately began to search for reasons and arguments to eliminate His request but there was no escape. “You give them something to eat.”
After this strange meeting we decided to respond. Feed the Multitudes 2010 is already upon us. This year we are connecting Feed the Multitudes to the crisis in the gulf. We will add to outreaches to Feed the Multitudes this year both taking place on the bayou in Dulac. On July 8 we will be having a rally at 6pm and distributing 1000 bags of groceries. At a later date, we will be having a second outreach in Dulac distributing 5000 bags of groceries.
We are looking forward to these events as an opportunity to be a blessing to the bayou community and watch the Lord open people’s hearts. How will we pay for these groceries? The Lord knows what He is going to do; all we can do is respond to His request, “You give them something to eat.”