Despite the unbelief in Jesus’ hometown (13:53-58), his fame continued to spread throughout the area. After a brief (and cringe-worthy) flashback in 14:3-12, we find Jesus attempting to withdraw “to a desolate place by himself,” only to be followed by crowds of townspeople, thus setting the scene for one of the most well-known and memorable scenes in all of Jesus’ ministry.
Thousands of men, women, and children had gathered to witness Jesus’ compassion and healing touch. As the day was coming to an end, the disciples encouraged Jesus to send the crowds away for some food, but Jesus catches them off-guard with his response: “They need not go away; you give them something to eat” (v. 16). Huh? The disciples are perplexed—how will they feed the crowd with a couple fish and a few loaves of bread? You probably know how the story goes. Jesus takes their meager rations and multiplies them to feed the crowd until they are “satisfied” (v. 20).
So, what do we do with a crowd of full bellies? What’s the takeaway? As one pastor has said, Jesus was teaching his disciples this point: “What you need for them you get from me.” The disciples were limited in their ability, power, and resources—but Jesus was not. The same is true for us some 2,000 years later. We are finite, limited beings—but Jesus isn’t. The ability, courage, power, resources, strength, etc. that we need to minister to others ultimately comes from Jesus—“for apart from [him we] can do nothing” (John 15:5).