"The apostles returned and reported on what they had done. Jesus took them away, off by themselves, near the town called Bethsaida. But the crowds got wind of it and followed. Jesus graciously welcomed them and talked to them about the kingdom of God. Those who needed healing, He healed." Luke 9:10-11 (The Message).
Now this was a cause for irritation, if ever there was one! Jesus must have been eager to hear from His disciples how their first preaching tour had gone and they, no doubt, were just as eager to tell Him. At the first opportunity He spirited them away, perhaps even under cover of darkness, to a remote place where they could be together without the ever-present clamouring crowd.
But what happened? Someone noticed and split. They had hardly settled down for a chat when the people began to arrive. The disciples must have groaned when they saw them coming. Not again! If ever there was an opportunity for Jesus to show His true colours, this was it. But what did He do? He welcomed them, taught them and healed their sick. His nature shone through, the ever-loving, compassionate Jesus!
"As the day declined, the Twelve said, 'Dismiss the crowd so they can go to the farms or villages around here and get a room for the night and a bite to eat. We're out in the middle of nowhere.' "'You feed them,' Jesus said. They said, 'We wouldn't scrape up more than five loaves of bread and a couple of fish -- unless, of course, you want us to go to town ourselves and buy food for everybody.' (There were more than five thousand in the crowd.) Luke 9: 12-13 (The Message).
Did the disciples really care whether the people were hungry or not? Did they really think that more than five thousand people would find accommodation and food in the area? Wasn't it just a ploy to get rid of them so that they could be alone with Jesus again? Their attitude was heartless and faithless.
Jesus' response was to challenge the disciples to take responsibility for the people in their need. Most of them had probably left home in too much of a hurry to make provision for the day. This was a golden opportunity for the disciples to learn to partner with God to meet the needs of other people. It was a lesson they were going to have to learn if they were to be followers and imitators of Jesus.
"But He went ahead and directed His disciples, 'Sit them down in groups of about fifty.' They did what He said, and soon had everyone seated."
"He took the five loaves and two fish, lifted His face to heaven in prayer, blessed, broke and gave the bread and fish to the disciples to hand out to the crowd. After the people had all eaten their fill, twelve baskets of leftovers were gathered up.'" Luke 9:14-17 (The Message).
Seeing that His disciples had not yet caught on to God's way of bringing heaven to earth, Jesus went ahead and put His own plan into action. First, He needed some order in the crowd. He instructed the disciples to gather them into small groups to ensure that everyone had a share in the banquet.
Then He used the available resources, five loaves and two fish, to feed the people instead of doing what the devil had tempted Him to do in the wilderness, perform magic by turning stones into bread. God is not a magician although we sometimes pray as though we think He is.
Why did Jesus insist on feeding the people? To have sent them away hungry would have been a message to them that God was not interested in their physical need and that they would have to go elsewhere for help.
We must never forget that He is our Father and loves to take responsibility for us, His children. Don't turn away from Him; turn to Him!
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