Imagine yourself as one of Jesus’ disciples.
Jesus has quietly invited you and the other eleven to a peaceful place to rest and recuperate. It’s been a stressful month considering John the Baptist’s horrific death and the recent mission trip.*
Yet the best-laid plans for rest would never materialize. The locals have overheard, and before long about 20,000 of them have gathered in the sanctuary of solitude.
So much for the retreat.
Jesus, moved by compassion, begins to do what He does best. He teaches, heals, and listens, all day long. Late in the day, you approach Jesus with a reasonable suggestion: send everyone home, or at least to the nearest village for dinner. “I have an even better idea,” Jesus responds. “You feed them.”
I’ve often thought about that moment. Did Jesus really think his disciples could do this?
Consider two realities.
First, Jesus knew that they had something to start with. “How many loaves do you have?” He asked. Regardless of the size of the challenge, Jesus focuses on the resources at hand. It sounds implausible to approach such a large task with such meager means, but it’s also a divine pattern.
Recall the moment in which God speaks to Moses out of a burning bush. Moses is in a similar predicament, asked to do something vastly beyond his perceived ability. Moses panics. God listens patiently, then simply asks, “What’s that in your hand?” It turns out to be a common staff that becomes a powerful sign to Pharaoh that Moses serves no ordinary God.
Now return to the disciples. Jesus knew that they had something in their hand: five loaves and two fish. It wasn’t a lot. But then, neither was a shepherd’s staff.
The idea of beginning by starting small is a powerful concept; however, by itself the initial portion of bread and fish could never have served thousands. There is a second but primary reality that gave Jesus confidence in his followers’ ability to meet the challenge: Jesus knew that His disciples had access to Him.
Jesus never said, “Go figure this out by yourselves.” Rather He said, “Whatever you have in your hand, whatever you find to start with, bring it to Me.” Miracles happen at the intersection of our ability to recognize what we already have and God’s ability to increase its effectiveness supernaturally.
In other words, as you reflect on this story, be encouraged. Don’t let the size of your challenge discourage you. Consider God’s question: What do you have in your hand? What resource, skill, knowledge, relationship, or tool has God already provided? Once you’ve identified it, present it to Him and watch the miracle unfold.
* See Matthew 14, Mark 6, Luke 9 John 6, and Exodus 4.
Costin Jordache is communication director and news editor for Adventist Review Ministries.