12 Now the day was ending, and the twelve came and said to Him, “Send the crowd away, that they may go into the surrounding villages and countryside and find lodging and get something to eat; for here we are in a desolate place.”Read Luke 9:12-17, Feeding the Five Thousand
13 But He said to them, “You give them something to eat!” And they said, “We have no more than five loaves and two fish, unless perhaps we go and buy food for all these people.”
14 (For there were about five thousand men.) And He said to His disciples, “Have them sit down to eat in groups of about fifty each.” Luke 9:12–14 (NAS)
We had a full household last Sunday afternoon, four sprinting and toddling grandkids and their haggard parents and it was dinner time. My full expectation was that mom would graciously prepare something on the spot, not to send them home. The go to on short order by the way was a “hearty breakfast,” to which no one objected.
Here in a desolate place, yet with green grass, a contrast Mark notes in his account (Mark 6:39), five thousand men were gathered along with their families. The disciples wanted to send them away to fend for themselves. Jesus wanted his men to serve a meal.
[My wife has a way of stretching available food to expand the dinner table, but five loaves and two fish were obviously not enough, even for our group.]
Jesus sought to instill a sense of anything’s possible in his men, putting the burden on them. While they were at wits’ end, he decided to use them as waiters to deliver a miraculous banquet meal to “tables” of fifty. When everyone pushed away, the leftovers filled twelve symbolic baskets.
The one thing I’ve noted in my interactions with missionaries is this “God can do” mindset. The last thing they would want to do is send the people off to fend for themselves! As green as the grass was, those congregated represented a potential bountiful harvest of souls. Jesus wanted the men to see past the obvious physical needs and lack of provisions to hungry hearts. Second, he wanted tangible evidence in the end of what faith could produce.