Matthew 15:32-39 (ESV)
Jesus Feeds the Four Thousand
32 Then Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion on the crowd because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. And I am unwilling to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way.” 33 And the disciples said to him, “Where are we to get enough bread in such a desolate place to feed so great a crowd?” 34 And Jesus said to them, “How many loaves do you have?” They said, “Seven, and a few small fish.” 35 And directing the crowd to sit down on the ground, 36 he took the seven loaves and the fish, and having given thanks he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. 37 And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up seven baskets full of the broken pieces left over. 38 Those who ate were four thousand men, besides women and children. 39 And after sending away the crowds, he got into the boat and went to the region of Magadan.
There is a large Bible on a stand in the Mission and Spiritual Care
library at Advocate BroMenn Hospital. I read it this morning, as I
waited for the slow coffee maker after a night on call as a chaplain
intern. The Bible was open to Matthew 15 and the story of the
“Feeding the Four Thousand.” It’s a story I’ve read before, always
focusing on Jesus’ miraculous action. This time I noticed the
disciples and empathized with them. They were looking at an
impossible situation, thousands of hungry people: “Where are we to
get enough bread in the desert to feed so great a crowd?” How
could they be expected to take care of such a big problem? The
disciples thought they were comfortably off the hook. But they
weren’t. Jesus did expect them to take on this giant problem. This
passage made me uneasy. Was I brushing aside difficult issues as
too big to be my concern?
Then the day got busy. I forgot the passage, and my discomfort.
Until I got an email that afternoon with my August devotion
assignment: Matthew 15:32-39. Clearly I was meant to spend some
time reading this passage, and being uncomfortable.
The next thing I noticed was the way Jesus began. He didn’t scold
the disciples for their lack of faith, reminding them of who he was
and his previous miracles. He doesn’t say he will fix it for them.
Jesus asks what they have: “How many loaves have you?”
He starts with their strengths, not their weaknesses. This is the same
kind of approach used in asset-based community development,
which begins by assessing the resources, skills, and experience
available in a community and uses them as a basis for development.
The goal is to empower the people of a community by encouraging
them to utilize what they already possess. So, how many loaves
(time, ideas, money, gifts) do I have? How many loaves do you
Gracious God, give us a spirit of concern and compassion for
your people. Help us not to turn away from big problems, but to
embrace them with faith. In your S on Jesus’ name, Amen.
Written by Kristen Schmid Schurter
Coordinator of Spiritual Gifts Ministries