Weekly devotional: How many loaves have you? (12 in Jesus’ miracles series)

Great crowds came to him, bringing the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute and many others, and laid them at his feet; and he healed them. The people were amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled made well, the lame walking and the blind seeing. And they praised the God of Israel. Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry, or they may collapse on the way.” His disciples answered, “Where could we get enough bread in this remote place to feed such a crowd?” “How many loaves do you have?” Jesus asked. “Seven,” they replied, “and a few small fish.” He told the crowd to sit down on the ground. Then he took the seven loaves and the fish, and when he had given thanks, he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and they in turn to the people. They all ate and were satisfied. Afterward the disciples picked up seven basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. (Matthew 15:30–37)

Photo: Steve Cadman, Creative Commons. Stained glass by Helen Moloney in St Michael's Creeslough (1971) by Liam McCormick, County Donegal

Photo: Steve Cadman, Creative Commons. Stained glass by Helen Moloney in St Michael’s Creeslough (1971) by Liam McCormick, County Donegal

Jesus has been healing and teaching the crowds in Gentile territory. Seeing that they are tired and hungry, he’s moved with compassion. He wants to meet not only their spiritual needs, but their physical ones too. And although the disciples have already witnessed Jesus feeding the five thousand, they still wonder how Jesus will feed these four thousand men, plus women and children.

Jesus takes what the people give – seven small loaves and two fish – and makes it sufficient for all. He multiplies their meager offering into a feast that satisfies.

Note two things regarding this familiar miracle. First is that Jesus performs it in Gentile territory. Although he came first for the Jewish people, he also yearns that non-Jews would eat and be satisfied with his food.

The second is how Matthew indicates that this miracle hearkens to Jesus’ breaking of the bread during his last supper – Jesus takes, breaks the bread, gives thanks, and offers it to the disciples. They in turn offer it to the people. So too should we offer what we have to Jesus for distribution among his people. It might seem far too small or insignificant for the needs, but as we see here, Jesus has a way of multiplying our bread beyond our wildest imagination.

Prayer: Lord God, we lift before you the needs of hungry people today – in Haiti, South Sudan, the Holy Land. Where we have loaves and fish to offer, let us give that you may multiply.

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