Posted by: pmarkrobb | March 2, 2014

one single question

It is happening to me more and more these days.  As I am reading along in the Bible, somewhere in the midst of the narrative, I slip into the story.  I begin reading with a very clear sense that I am a flesh and blood person, sitting and reading words on a printed page.  But then somewhere along the way, I find myself standing amidst the scene.  I say this, not to draw attention to myself but rather, to offer some context as to why a particular question affected me so profoundly as I read this past Saturday.

It amounted to just a handful of verses.  It was a very familiar story.  Not simply because I have read it so many times before, but also because it seems like I just read it a few days ago … Jesus feeds thousands with some loaves and fishes.  If there had been newspapers during that time, readers might have done a double-take after reading such a headline.  “This must be a re-print.  I am sure I just read about this a few days ago.”  If they had stopped at the headline, their instinct or assumption would have betrayed them.  If they continued on to read the article, it would have been obvious that this was, in fact, a second miracle with significantly distinct details.  For instance, the crowd in this second miracle was Gentile, not Jewish, as was the case in the first.  On this occasion there were 4,000 men, the first was 5,000.  Seven loaves and some fish this time, five loaves and two fish the first.  This was not a re-print.  This was a second, intentional, miraculous feeding of thousands.

There is much that could be written about this miracle and its contrast to the first, but I am choosing to narrow the focus to one single question.  It’s a question that stopped me cold, has yet to leave me, and that I believe is profitable for us all to consider in a very personal way.  Remember my mention earlier of “slipping into the story?”  That absolutely happened to me with this one.  Somewhere in the first few words, I found myself standing as one of the disciples as Jesus calls them over and shares His desire to feed the crowd that has been following them.  And as Jesus begins to respond to their question, it was as if he turned directly to me and asked, “How many loaves do you have?”

I have likely read that question a hundred times, but it was never so profound and so personal as it was in reading it this time.  Rather than asking or instructing the disciples to find bread and bring it to Him, rather than someone in the crowd approaching Jesus and offering it, Jesus asks the disciples how many loaves they have.  We have heard it so many times before, but I wonder if we forget sometimes.  God has a plan, He is working out that plan, and He has the capacity to accomplish it all on His own.  But one of the great gifts He offers to us is the opportunity to be a part of what He is doing.  We can be His hands and His feet.  We can accomplish even greater things than Jesus did when He was here among us (John 14:12).

How many times do we see a need and pray for God to meet it?  How many times is our prayer unconsciously (or consciously) saying, “meet it with someone else’s loaves.”  The disciples essentially ask Jesus, “how are you going to feed them?”  To which Jesus responds, “how are you going to feed them?”

Jesus’ answer that day was to feed thousands with the seven loaves the disciples had, and then underscore His abundant capacity to give filled up and overflowing with a basket of scraps collected for each loaf.  There are many opinions as to the significance of the seven loaves and seven baskets, but what He showed me is that for every loaf we offer back to Him, He can abundantly meet a need with multiplied provisions left over.

In slipping into the story, I saw Jesus turn in my direction.  I believe He also turns in yours.  “How many loaves do you have?”  What will our answer be?



  1. When Jesus taught us to pray, “give us this day our daily bread”, I see Jesus looking to me and that which is in front of me and saying “pass the bread”.

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