There is a wonderful scene in this week's Bible lesson from Mark's gospel. Many of us have been to a Christian Science lecture. They usually last about an hour or so. Well, Jesus had been teaching a growing multitude of listeners for about three days. At this point, he called his disciples together. He did not want to send the receptive crowd away but they were running out of food. He says something very interesting. He does not want them to head home in this hungry state for 'they will faint by the way'. That echoes something he speaks of in the Sermon on the Mount. There he was describing how the Word of God is recieved in the parable of the Sower and the seed. He says there that sometimes the seed falls 'by the wayside', landing on hard or stony ground. That seed cannot sink down into the soil but remains exposed to the feet of passersby, ground down. You may know some people who give that appearance. Those 'seeds' become prey to the birds and are carried away and devoured. You can follow that train of thought easily and see how it could be applied to these listeners. He wanted them to be able to remain with him longer and get his message to the full.
Those disciples, bless their hearts, seem a bit taken aback. And here comes the big question: Where could we possibly get that much bread? Especially here in the wilderness? Have you ever asked yourself that question when faced with a bill coming due, a mortgage payment you can't meet, an obligation that just seems beyond your means to fulfill? How can I possibly come up with the money to satisfy what seems like thousands of demands? Especially when both the check book and the savings account seem pretty empty.
Jesus simply asked them "How many loaves have ye?" Just what do you see as your available supply? They came up with seven loaves and a few fish. Hmmm.
Jesus first organizes the people into groups, having them sit on the ground. This must have set up some sense of anticipation. Then he takes what they had gathered and gave thanks. Do we sit down at the first of the month and give thanks for what we have? Do we acknowledge that Our Father has an unlimited supply for us? Do we feel confident that He will meet our every human need, even if we don't see just how that will happen? Jesus apparently did. He broke the bread in pieces and gave those first to the disciples. They then repeated this action and the bread and fish just kept appearing. They did eat and all were filled. With seven baskets left over!
Those of you who know me may have heard my own 'loaves and fishes' story but I will repeat it here, breaking this bread for those who may not have heard it. Many years ago I was employed as a librarian at a school. My contract ran from September to June. I also had a short summer school program. One year, as the summer was coming to a close, we were facing the month of August with no income and about $2,000 worth of bills due. I prayed and prayed but could not come up with any ideas for a way to earn what I needed for that month. Who would possibly hire me for just one month and what could I do that would earn that much money? It seemed impossible. But I gave thanks for what we did have and turned whole heartedly to God for an answer. Days and weeks passed. Two days before the end of July I got a call from a friend who was also a librarian. She had been contacted by the principal of another school who had a dire problem. Their librarian had been called away on a family emergency and was not expected back until just before school started. They had recieved their library order for the school year, about 30 boxes of books, that needed to be checked in, catalogued, and put on the shelves. My friend already had a commitment for August so she was calling me to see if I could help out. I told her I would be happy to. The principal called later that day and we arranged to meet on his campus the following day. He was so grateful that I was willing to help. He was leaving town himself but gave me a key to the library and an envelope. He hoped that would be adequate. I put it in my pocket and didn't open it until I got home. Inside was $2,000 in cash.
Don't be tempted to ask the wrong question when you face a hungry multitude. You should know instead exactly where you could find that much 'bread', even in the 'wilderness'. As it says in Matt 6:8, "Your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask Him." Don't forget to say thank you!