As we continue this series looking at questions Jesus asked, today we come to one which, on the surface, doesn’t seem particularly relevant to us today, but when we look deeper I think there is a lot more to it than is obvious at first glance.
“How much bread do you have?” (Matthew 15:34 NLT)
To set this question in context, Jesus has been extremely busy. For three days he has been surrounded by a crowd who seek teaching and healing and he has been ministering to them but at some point, Jesus notices, everyone seems to have run out of food.
He points this out to his disciples and their response is to ask where they could possibly get food for such a large crowd. (There are 4000 men, plus women and children.)
Jesus turns the question back to the disciples: “How much bread do you have?”
In one sense it seems like a silly question. However much bread they have, the answer is pretty obvious: “Not enough.”
Or is it? Was Jesus really expecting the disciples to have enough food for well over 4000 people? How much bread is “enough” for over 4000 people anyway?
It changes things when you consider that this wasn’t the first time this situation had come up. In Matthew 14, we see another crowd, this time over 5000 men plus women and children, and five loaves and two fish had been enough to feed them, with twelve baskets of leftovers! The disciples had witnessed this- they had handed out the food to the crowd. Surely they knew by now that what was totally inadequate from a human perspective was more than enough with Jesus?
Suddenly it seems that their question about where they would get enough food for the crowd was actually the silly question! This time they have seven loaves and a few small fish- they have more food and less people- and, most importantly, they have Jesus!
It’s easy to read this story and wonder how the disciples didn’t understand this but, if I am honest, far too often I am just the same.
- I look at my “not enough” and forget that, in Jesus’ power, it is entirely sufficient.
- I look at a situation that seems impossible and forget that, with God, there is no such thing.
- I ask God what to do when I already have what I need; I just need to step out in faith.
The encouraging thing about this story is that, regardless of the disciples’ lack of faith and understanding, Jesus took their seven loaves and few fish and once again the people were fed. He didn’t need what they had, but he chose to use it, and that’s the second lesson I take from this question:
God asks what we have and wants us to offer it to him, because often that’s how he chooses to do the miracle.
It reminds me of God’s question to Moses as he stands before the burning bush, quivering with fear at the task he’s been called to: “What is that in your hand?” (Exodus 4:2 NLT)
“A shepherd’s staff,” Moses responds, and God uses it to show his power.
Did God need Moses’ staff to show his power? Did Jesus need the disciples’ seven loaves and few fish to feed the hungry crowd? Does he need us to do his work today?
Of course not! But it is often how he chooses to work, and it begins with recognising our lack- that we can do nothing worthwhile in and of ourselves- but then looking at what we do have to offer, giving it wholeheartedly to God and allowing him to use it to do more than we could ever have imagined.
So consider today:
- What is in your hand?
- How much bread do you have?