What do you do when you’re faced with over 5,000 hungry people miles away from any town? If Jesus’ response is any indication, the answer is to ask politely for a small child’s lunchbox and then proceed to hand it out enough to where multiple Bi-Lo sacks are left over.
Now, if you’re anything like me, you’re thinking: this is where we call in the Dinner: Impossible guy and have him yell at us for several hours until we can cater this thing correctly. But then, again, that kind of misses the point, really.
In the story, the disciples are faced with the monumental, seemingly impossible task of, “You feed them,” from Jesus. Completely flummoxed, the disciples stare at him in disbelief until he asks the question, “What do you have?” There’s the key. Jesus doesn’t point out the disciples’ inability to handle the situation, he asks what resources they do have. Once they hand the meager offering, Jesus breaks it, blesses it, and gives it back for them to share.
NT Wright pointed out something cool here. When we are faced with some nearly impossible task, Jesus invites us to go through this process ourselves. Instead of pointing out our weakness and lack, Jesus asks, “What do you have?” Then, when we hand over our meager talents, abilities, and resources, he breaks them, blesses them, and gives them back for us to use.
It takes humility to hand over what little we have as far as our abilities go, but it takes much more to receive back something broken and seemingly less. Think about it, each disciple probably didn’t receive 5 loaves and 2 fish worth to start off with. Each one would have received 1/12 or less of the starting quantity. Let that sink in for a second. Jesus says, “All right, Thomas, you’ve got that section there near that tree, and Philip, you’ve got the section near that rock pile,” and you’re sitting there staring at your small handful of food thinking, “It’s official, he’s lost his mind.”
But think of the renewed spirit when that meager bit of food begins to seem like more and more as you give away more and more. You could say our abilities and talents are similar – they may seem small, but the more we give away in Jesus’ name, the more we seem to have to give.
In my weakness, he is strong. His grace is sufficient for me. No matter what you face, hand it over to God. It may not come back in the same shape,but it will come back blessed, and ready to do more than you could ever have thought possible.