“Loaves and fishes that is what I tell my children all the time.” Those were the words of a sweet friend during a deep conversation we were having about life. My friend has children that are older than mine, so her insight and wise words are deeply valued. Over the next few days, I just couldn’t get that phrase “loaves and fishes” out of my head. I prayed, “Lord show me what you are wanting to teach me.” He did.
The phrase “loaves and fishes” references the biblical account in the book of John. To summarize the story, Jesus feeds 5000 plus people with a little boys lunch and still has plenty of food left over.
On the surface the story presents a simple but powerful message. Jesus can take what seems insufficient to you and transform it into more than enough. That point alone is a deeply profound truth and a principle that can sustain you when you feel your parenting abilities aren’t enough. It is a belief that can encourage you when what you see in your hand doesn’t seem like it is enough to provide for all the needs you have.
However, if you take the story a step further, you see that Jesus used the opportunity that day to test the disciples’ faith. The scene seems a little overwhelming – thousands of people who had followed Jesus up onto a mountain were hungry. I panic when my crew of 8 gets hungry and I haven’t planned a meal, but imagine that many people in need of food. Jesus then asks his disciple Philip a question, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” John 6:6 tells us, “He asked this only to test him, for He already had in mind what He was going to do.” Jesus wanted to know if Phillip would focus on the problem and look to human means to find the answer or would Phillip look to Jesus – the only one who could truly provide?
Maybe you feel like you are having your faith tested. Perhaps you are like Phillip – always seeing the need and yet not knowing how God is going to provide.
What if we could see our crisis from the same perspective Jesus saw the hungry people –
not as a crisis but as a chance for the miraculous?
As John 6 tells us – Jesus had the answer before the disciples even realized the problem.
Often we live as if God doesn’t know the answer to our crisis. We wonder how He will meet the need that seems so obvious! Yet just like the need of hungry people, your need is not a surprise to God. He already knows how He will meet it before you even realize you even have a need. Could it be possible that God leads us into places and situations that look desperate just so we can see Him provide in a miraculous way? This story makes me believe that He does.
There is also one more layer to the story that I had never seen before. This is the lesson I think I needed to see. John 6:9 tells us the solution to the masses of hungry people. It says, “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish.” Maybe you were taught in Sunday School that this was a little boy and the five loaves and two fish were his lunch. This may very well have been the scenario, however in her book “A Million Little Ways” Emily Freeman points out that some scholars believe the boy may not have been so young like many often imagine. He may have been old enough to sell the loaves and fishes as a means to earn money. Suddenly that take on the story changed the way I thought about it.
What if the boy was selling the loaves and fishes to earn money to help his family? Handing his food over to the disciples took trust and was not without risk. What if Jesus squandered all that he had and the boy went back home hungry and without any money earned? The boy could have refused to give the disciples his food. He could have told them to find someone else, however, if he had, he would have missed being a part of Jesus’s miracle. As my friend pointed out to me when we talked about it, “Surely he wasn’t the only one in the crowd with food. I just wonder if he was the only one willing to give up what he had.” This made me wonder about myself,
“Do I truly trust Jesus enough to give him everything I have left?”
Maybe you find yourself today in one of these three layers of the story. Maybe you need Jesus to take what little you have and help it cover more than it can from a human perspective. Maybe you feel like you are being tested. You can only see the need and have forgotten that Jesus already knows the answer. Maybe the last scenario hits home for you and Jesus is asking you to give up what is in your hand and you don’t know if you can trust Him. Regardless of which layer of the story you may relate to, the answer is the same. Jesus is enough. He will provide and He can be trusted.