Pack Your Lunch – Devotional Series
Today. March 10 is Salvation Army Day, but it is also National Pack Your Lunch Day. “National Pack Your Lunch Day is celebrated every year on March 10, and it encourages everyone across the country to take their lunch to work, school, or wherever they’re spending the day. It’s an opportunity to revitalize lunchtime with fresh and healthful meal choices. Packing your lunch has benefits you may not expect.” (from nationaldaycalendar.com)
Well, in the Bible, a young boy had a small and modest packed lunch, and it had benefits he could never dream of or expect. Maybe his mom prepared his lunch for him, maybe the boy prepared it himself, but he came to this mountainside to hear and see Jesus and became part of one of the most well-known miracles of Jesus.
We find the story of the feeding of the 5,000 in all four gospels; it is the only miracle (besides the resurrection) recorded in all four Gospels. We will be looking at John 6:1-14 today.
Let us dive into this story… Jesus, at this point, is becoming more well known, and crowds are often following him to see his miracles of healing. Jesus and the disciples needed to get away and find some quiet time together. They needed to recharge their batteries. So, they took a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee and crossed over to the other side. They found a nice hill (mountain) and climbed up and sat down to just enjoy the peace and quiet and talk together only the disciples and Jesus.
The crowds were following Jesus wherever he went because of the miracles of healing. So, eventually, the crowds found Jesus and the disciples on the mountain. As he looked and saw this huge crowd of people looking for him, he had compassion for them. They looked like sheep without a shepherd.
What do we learn from this portion? We learn that Jesus has compassion for us. He cares about our needs. God is not a mean and angry God waiting for us to mess up so he can toss lightning bolts at us. God is loving and compassionate. We read in Psalm 103:13 (ESV), “As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.” God has compassion for those who are his children. He knows what our needs are and plans for them ahead of time. God knows the pain you are going through right now and understands. He knows the grief you are feeling and bestows his comfort upon you. That is comforting and reassuring, especially when we are going through times of trials and tribulation.
So, Jesus began to make plans for their needs. He asked Philip where they could buy bread to feed the crowd. Philip responded logically, “Even if we worked for months, we wouldn’t have enough money to feed them!” Philip did not consider Jesus in the equation. He has seen miracles of great healing but did not think that Jesus could provide. As a Jew, Philip would have known about the mana in the wilderness, but he did not consider how Jesus could supply food for this enormous crowd.
Andrew, however, found a young boy who had the foresight to bring his lunch with him that day. His lunch consisted of five loaves of barley bread and two fish. He brought it to Jesus and said, basically, “what good is this considering this huge crowd.” It seems from Andrew’s comment that he didn’t bring the boy’s lunch to Jesus because of his faith, but rather just to show Jesus how hopeless feeding the crowd was for them. Maybe Jesus would see it was best to send the crowd away.
How often do we bring to Jesus what we think can fix our problems, all the while believing that it is not enough? Do we see God as big enough, or is your God too small to handle your problems? Our God is an awesome God, able to do “exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20). What do you think would happen if you approached God with that confidence?
Jesus, however, sees the opportunity to use this small lunch to feed everyone gathered there on the mountainside. He tells the disciples to get everyone to sit down. This was no small task because there were at least 5,000 people there (probably more like 10,000 – 15,000 with women and children). When that was done, Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks to God, and gave it to the disciples to distribute to the people. Everyone ate to their fill. After everyone ate, the disciples were told by Jesus to gather the leftovers so ‘nothing is wasted.’ So, they gathered 12 baskets full of leftovers.
There is so much to learn from this portion of the scripture story. A boy has come to this gathering with a small lunch. The boy remains nameless. Jesus knows he is in the crowd; He knows He will use his lunch. Jesus sees the small, the vulnerable, the marginalized, the persecuted, the nameless. This boy was a significant part of this miracle – giving his lunch – but his name is not mentioned. Do we do things to get accolades and recognition, or are we happy that Jesus receives the glory and praise and is recognized? The boy gave all his lunch – yes, all of it – which was meant for him only, to satisfy his needs. He did not hold a loaf and a fish back for himself. He gave his entire lunch. Jesus took that small offering and multiplied it to feed all 5,000 plus who were gathered. Jesus chose to use that small boy’s lunch to perform a great miracle. He could have performed the miracle without the boy’s lunch, but God chooses to work with us. God often chooses to partner with us in accomplishing His will. The boy was just in the crowd. He came to see Jesus like everyone else. We never know who Jesus will use to His glory. We can be sure that God will use what small gift(s) we bring to him if we give all. He will use it to His glory to bless others and satisfy their needs. Are you giving your all to Jesus, or are you holding back today? Matthew 22:37 NIV “Jesus replied, love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”
The crowds had their fill of food as well. They ate until they were satisfied. No matter how small, if we give our all to Jesus, he can make it enough to meet our needs. Not only to meet our needs but enough for leftovers as well. We see that Jesus does not want to waste anything, so he had the disciples pick up all the leftovers. There were 12 baskets full of leftovers. Enough for one basket for each of the disciples. This was vivid proof of the miracle – each basket containing more than what was in the boy’s original lunch. The boy’s small gift given freely and totally to Jesus supplied the crowd’s current needs and the future needs for others. We should never hold back giving our gifts, talents, time, treasures, and all to Jesus. You can be the conduit for many blessings poured out to many people. Justin W. Van DeVenter writes a song, and I’d like to share 2 of the verses and the chorus:
All to Jesus I surrender
All to Him I freely give
I will ever love and trust Him
In His presence daily live
All to Jesus I surrender
Humbly at His feet I bow
Worldly pleasures all forsaken
Take me, Jesus, take me now
I surrender all
I surrender all
All to Thee my blessed Savior
I surrender all
Is that your heart prayer today?
When the people saw Jesus perform this miracle, they said that He ‘surely must be the prophet they are expecting.’ Jesus perceived that they would try to force him to be king, so he slipped away.
Jesus received the glory for the miracle, but He was wrongly seen as an earthly king, not a spiritual king who could supply their spiritual needs. The crowd saw Jesus as a great Earthly King. He could perform miracles and supply all their needs and heal the sick and lame. In a war to overthrow the current government, Jesus could supply the troops with all the food they needed. If anyone were hurt in the war, he could heal them or even bring them back to life. He was the perfect candidate to be their King. However, Jesus was not that kind of king. He did not come to bring them an earthly victory. So, he exited the area as quickly as He could before they went too far.
Do we look to Jesus as our Earthly King – to provide the wrong things in our lives? Do we look for Jesus to provide us with new cars, big houses, all the trendy clothes, gadgets, and material things? Jesus is most interested in us seeking spiritual things – to grow in our spiritual life – to walk closer with Him – to pray and spend time in the presence of God. John 10:10b states … “I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.” Where is our heart today? Are we like the crowd? Are we seeking for Jesus to be our genie in the bottle? Or do we desire Jesus to be our spiritual King and draw us closer to the Father and keep us spiritually fit to be witnesses for Him wherever He places us?
The feeding of the 5,000 is a reminder that God is compassionate and sees us, the youngest to the oldest, to the most vulnerable. It reminds us to give our all to Jesus freely – it will be multiplied to His glory to bless others. God desires to work with us to bless others. And nothing is wasted of what we give to God. It is a reminder of what He has done. Lastly, Jesus desires to be your Spiritual King, to draw you closer in relationship to the Father.
Written by Major Verna LaSalle, Officers’ Services & Records, USA East