The following is from the view point of a disciple of Jesus. It is based on Matthew 14:12-22. I took some artistic license in presenting my own spin on the feeding of the multitude.
It had already been a long day by the time the crowds started to gather. We had received word that a dear friend and teacher, John the Baptist had been ruthlessly beheaded by Herod Antipas. Many of us knew John. He was Jesus’ cousin. It was a deep loss of an inspiring figure. The news saddened our hearts and raised concern of our own safety. Some connected Jesus’ ministry to John. It made us wonder if we were in danger too.
Jesus took his disciples into a desert place to be alone. But it was hard to get away with Jesus because crowds followed Him wherever He went. Soon, the people heard of Jesus’ presence and followed Him on foot out to a remote place. We, the disciples, wanted the crowds to go away. Our minds were stilling swirling with recent events. Plus, we were tired from traveling and a long period of ministry.
But Jesus saw the crowds and was moved with compassion. He healed the sick and taught great things. As a matter of fact, he went on for a long time. He went too long if you ask me.
It was getting late, the crowds needed food, and we were in a remote place. The pragmatic thing was to send them away. Maybe the crowds could find food in the surrounding villages. They could go and buy provisions to sustain them. It was also what our weary souls needed. After all, we had intended on getting away before the crowds showed up.
We disciples agreed that somebody should say something to Jesus. I drew the short straw and had to be the voice of reason. Usually, Peter was the one who said what we all were thinking. This time, I got the honors.
I motioned to Jesus and said, “Excuse me, teacher.” He gave me one of those looks that wanted to know why I was disturbing Him when He in the middle of something important. I stood back and motioned as if He should come talk to me when He had a moment. Then He just kept on going and going. I felt like He healed or spoke directly to every peasant in the area.
I knew that I had to interrupt. I stepped up and said, “Master, it is late. These people have been here a long time, and they need food. Let’s send them into the nearby villages so that they can get something to eat.”
This sounded like a reasonable request. Jesus had this way of saying things we didn’t expect. It got to the point that we began to expect the unexpected.
Jesus said with a straight face, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.”
I looked back at him as if He had lost His mind. Some of the other disciples chuckled under their breath. Just to put things in perspective, there were 5,000 men in the audience, plus women and children.
In modern context, imagine if you went to a large restaurant and you got the bill that covered every one in the restaurant. Not only that, you received a second bill that covered everyone that had eaten in the restaurant over the past month. What if you were expected to pay for that tab? That is kind of how Jesus’ command sounded to me.
We did our best to find food and found only five loaves and two fishes among the crowd. Surely, this would convince Jesus to send the people away. But no, He had something else in mind.
Jesus said, “Bring them here to me.” I was wondering what He would do with so little. Maybe He was going to eat it Himself. Was this some kind of test for us?
I scratched my head in amazement and complied. Jesus then instructed the crowds to sit down. Suddenly, we disciples began to worry what would happen if this crowd went hungry.
Jesus looked up to heaven. Then, He blessed and broke the bread. It was a beautiful prayer. Jesus acted like He was hosting a great feast. We didn’t know what to make of the scene.
Then, Jesus told us to distribute the food. He went and sat down and left us to deal with the multitudes of people. It didn’t seem fair. He had built up a high level of expectation. We were supposed to make the best of it with virtually nothing to work with. It was classic Jesus.
One of the disciples asked, “Do you want us to pass all of it out?” as if to mock the great banquet we had to distribute. Jesus didn’t seem amused by our sarcasm. He gave us the look, and we did what He asked.
I pulled out bread and tried to give a little bit to everyone. When I thought we had given it all out, I apologized to people in the crowd. I tried to explain that we did the best with what we had. Then, I feel one of the other disciples poking me on the shoulder. He said there was more in the basket. Astonished, I gave out what I saw and turned to apologize to some other folks. Then, the other disciple called my name and told me to hand out more. I turned to see even more in the basket. At first, I though that somehow I had lost count. But as I started to hand out fish and bread, I noticed that more kept on coming.
Then, we all started to rejoice. It became a festive atmosphere. There was bread. There was fish. There was food aplenty. We all laughed at the great banquet that miraculously appeared. The crowd began to buzz with excitement. You wouldn’t believe what people were saying about Jesus.
There was more than enough to feed everyone. We even had leftovers. We collected twelve baskets, one for each disciple. This reminded us that Jesus can take the little that we have and multiply it to bless many people. There will be more than enough for us to have leftovers.
It was an amazing moment. We had gone from wanting to send the crowds away to experiencing and participating in an incredible miracle. For a while, we had forgotten the horrible news of the day. Honestly, we were relishing the moment when Jesus broke up the party. Jesus zigged again when we thought he should have zagged. Why not enjoy this miracle and use it to further the cause?
Jesus told us we had to get in the boat and go to the other side. He said that He would dismiss the crowds and would join us on the other side of lake. We didn’t want to leave Him? But we obeyed. He had been right about the food. He was probably right about this even though we didn’t understand.
As we got in the boat, one of the disciples asked, “How are you going to get to the other side if we take the boat? Are you going to get another boat?” One of the other disciples responded, “After today, it wouldn’t surprise me if He walked on water to us.” Jesus just smiled and sent us on our way.
You know He did walk on water. But that is another story for another day.