You give them something to eat (13)
Jesus’ sending out of the twelve recalls their appointment as apostles (6.12ff.), since which they have been largely passive – learning from him and being with him (8.1). When they have acted, it hasn’t been with distinction (7.22-25, 45), yet now Jesus is confident to send them out as His ambassadors – with His full power and authority. Their task is a singular one, so no provision is to be made for self-care. They are to proclaim the Kingdom by word and deed (2, 6). They appear to start well (6-10).
Before the apostles report back to Jesus (10) Luke inserts a sidebar about Herod, ruler of Galilee. This is an example of Luke’s careful ordering (1.3), laying the platform for both Jesus’ question about who He is (18) and His trial before Herod (23.6ff., only in Luke).
It is easy to imagine the disciples’ desire to have Jesus’ undivided attention as they report back on their first mission. He takes this seriously, withdrawing to a town called Bethsaida (10), the site of which eludes archaeologists today, but not the crowds then. Against all the advice of modern leadership manuals, Jesus turns his attention away from his disciples to the crowds, ministering to their needs instead.
Or does He? The feeding of the 5,000 comes between the twelve’s first mission and three of Jesus’ most significant one-on-one moments with them (18-36). Surely this feeding miracle is also a significant leadership training event. They have successfully completed their first mission, but their apprenticeship is not over. Whereas they were sent out to the villages, the few to the many, expecting to be fed by those to whom they ministered, Jesus is now saying “you give them something to eat” (13). Having shown them how it is to be done, Jesus has them collect twelve baskets of leftovers (17). The number is not coincidental.
Total reliance on Jesus will leave each with a surplus. The lesson is plain: in the words of Hudson Taylor, the founder of the China Inland Mission, God’s work done in God’s way will never lack God’s supply. Jesus’ Kingdom will know no want.
How good are we at trusting others to fulfil ministry roles OR at trusting God to provide?
Heavenly Father, I praise you for the trust you have placed in your Church, and me as your disciple. Increase my dependence upon you, that I may minister in your strength, not my own. I ask it in the name of Jesus my Lord. Amen
Michael Hewat is currently serving as the Senior Minister at West Hamilton Community Church, New Zealand
Photo contributed by YoMinistry