Jesus called His disciples to Him and said, “I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry, or they may collapse on the way.” His disciples answered, “Where could we get enough bread in this remote place to feed such a crowd?” Matthew 15:32-33
Truthfully, I hadn’t studied much about the story of Jesus feeding the four thousand with seven loaves of bread and a few fish until recently (Matthew 15:29-39 & Mark 8:1-10). The teachings I had heard were mostly focused on when Jesus feeds the five thousand (Matthew 14, Mark 6, Luke 9, John 6). The “feeding of the 5000” miracle is hard to miss! It is recounted in all four gospels. So why is there a similar story of Jesus feeding 4000 told in Matthew and Mark? Isn’t it just the same message again?
After doing some reading, I have discovered there are many, many lessons that can be pulled from the story of feeding the 4000, either on its own or in comparison to the 5000. I want to focus on one of the simpler lessons but one that really resonated with me.
When studying Jesus’ provision for the hungry 4000, it is important to note that it was only a short while ago the disciples found themselves in a very similar situation. In that instance, 5000+ people had come to hear Jesus speak but as evening approached, they were all hungry and had no food. Jesus told the disciples to feed the famished crowd but they told Him they only had five loaves of bread and two fish. Jesus instructs them to bring Him the food. He gives thanks to God for the bread, breaks it and gives it to the disciples who proceed to serve people more food than they can eat, leaving twelve baskets of leftovers. Jesus fed 5000 men, plus women and children, multiplying the food to overflowing, from only five loaves of bread and two fish! What a miracle!
Skip ahead one chapter and we may think we are reading the same story again (although when studied, you will find many differences). Jesus went along the Sea of Galilee and up on the mountainside to minister to the people. He healed many and they were all praising Him. Then He tells His disciples that these people need food as they have been three days with nothing to eat. What do the disciples say? “Where could we get enough bread in this remote place to feed such a crowd?” (Matthew 15:33) Jesus proceeds to miraculously feed all of these people from seven loaves of bread and a few small fish.
We have no record, in either gospel account, of the disciples saying anything other than questioning Jesus on how they would feed these 4000+ people. Having just seen a similar miracle not long ago, I had expected they would come to Jesus with more confidence. They had witnessed Him feed even more people on less food, so why should they doubt He would do it again? But we read that they asked the same question: How can we feed all of these people? They could have come to Jesus with expectation, knowing He could meet the needs of these hungry followers. With the memory of the hungry 5000 fresh in their minds, they could have been filled with anticipation of witnessing another miraculous provision, but instead, they question. Instead of seeing the spiritual opportunity, they see the natural obstacles all around them.
There are so many people.
There is so little food.
We are in the middle of nowhere with no resources nearby.
The disciples took their eyes off of Jesus, and His ability to provide and sustain, and they set their eyes on the problem.
Friends, so often, this is me. Is this you? How many times have we seen God provide? Do the miraculous? Meet us in our time of need and speak to our hearts in the most beautiful, reassuring ways? My own daughter is a testimony to God’s miraculous power. Yet, when I come face to face with another uncertainty or trial, I find myself allowing doubt and worry to creep in. How can I handle this? What if God doesn’t answer my prayer this time? What can I do to fix this situation? What if He doesn’t step in and help me the way I need?
Through experience, I am learning to “take every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). It takes prayer, time in the Word and practice. What also helps is to find ways to intentionally remember what God has done for you in the past. Keep a journal. Write down praise reports in a notebook or on your phone. Take pictures of answered prayers and frame them around your home. Find something that allows you to keep those reminders nearby and always ready when your doubts and fears arise. God is so pleased when we keep our trust in Him. He wants us to never lose sight of the fact that He loves us beyond measure and, even in the trials and unknowns, He is there and He is good.
Despite the questioning disciples, Jesus still provides food miraculously to all the hungry people. He is gracious with their questions and shows them, yet again, His power and love. He knew they were still learning. They were on a road of growth, learning to trust and drawing closer to God. He is walking with us on the same path, friends. He gives us opportunities to put our trust in Him and lean on Him again and again. He encourages us to anticipate big things and expect the miraculous. He did it before and He can do it again!
For we live by faith, not by sight. 2 Corinthians 5:7
Love and blessings,