When some people hear the story of how Jesus fed a multitude with five barley loaves and two fish, they stumble at the supernatural aspect. However, I have always been just as impressed with the morality seen in this story as I have been the miraculous. Let us count the ways. I list seven – one day at a time.
1. Jesus had been preaching to thousands for some time and became concerned about their lack of sustenance. Jesus was willing to have compassion on others and go out of His way to help them. Do you provide food to people in such situations or are you more focused on when and where you’re going to have your own lunch? Even if you are more thoughtful of other people’s lunches than you are your own, most people aren’t.
2. Jesus was willing to give up what was His in order to make sure others were fed. Those loaves and fishes were going to be Jesus’ own source of sustenance. He was giving that up. Even people who are concerned about others getting fed don’t usually give up their own food in order to make sure it happens. Jesus had compassion on others and was willing to sacrifice what was His in order to fulfill that compassion.
3. Jesus could have ignored the hunger of the people by focusing more on His own importance – and no one would have faulted Him for that. “After all,” He could have said to Himself, “I’m on a mission to save the world and can’t be bothered with the temporal needs of these people.” His disciples even discouraged Him from His interest in the people’s hunger. Thus it wasn’t just Jesus’ compassion at work – it was His humility as well.
4. Jesus was giving away the sustenance of His followers, too. In other words, the fish and loaves He was going to give away were not just His, they were to have comprised the meal for His apostles, too. How many leaders do you know who are willing to deprive their staffs in order to meet the needs of others? More pointedly, how many leaders could keep their staffs around if they did such things? That Jesus could continue to command the loyalty of His staff when He gave away their lunch says something profound.
5. Jesus did not ask for anything in return from the crowd. He did not use the gift to get some return favor from them. He gave to the crowd without any thought of receiving from the crowd. How many leaders do you know who behave this way? Do you behave this way?
6. Jesus did not try to capitalize on the fame that would have come from His gift. In fact, He spoke rather forcefully about God’s requirements of people – to the point that many of the disciples withdrew and stopped following Him (John 6:66). Human leaders do not try to make it hard for people to follow them. On the contrary, they try to amass as many followers as they can. And, toward that end, they try to make it easy for people to follow. Jesus distinguishes Himself once again by doing what is right rather than doing what what would bring advantage to Himself.
7. Jesus took no credit for the provision, but rather gave the credit to God. He was as humble afterward as He had been before. From Jesus’ standpoint, He was simply sharing some food He had. The miraculous multiplication of that provision was the business of God. The example Jesus sets for us is beautiful. All we have to do is share what we have, even when it is meager (“Let the one who has two coats share with him who has none; and if he has food, let him share it” Luke 3:11). Whether God does a miracle is His business; our business is to share. Jesus shared.
Human leaders just do not act this selflessly. Even the best of them have egos that must be stroked, passions of some kind that must be filled. It is just not normal to see that much power wielded in such a humble and selfless way.
Thus the moral dimension of this story is as rare in human experience as the miraculous dimension.
Bible notes on this post.
The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ to those who want to hear about Him without having to join a church – or anything else – but Him.