The other evening while the wind was blowing and the snow was flying and the temperature was going below zero, I snuggled in a chair with a warm fleece blanket. I was cozy even though it was frigid outside. The winter of 2014 has been extremely harsh and I have often thought about and prayed for the homeless. Where would they find a warm place to sleep at night? Would they have a hot meal to eat? Did they have coats or gloves or boots to wear? I pray for these destitute people as a group rather than mentioning specific people by name. I wonder how God feels about my lumping all these homeless humans into one group. Maybe scripture can help me.
Jesus taught, healed, fed and had compassion for the multitudes! Although Jesus cared for people and knew them by name, He did not have to personally meet with someone in order to minister to their needs. Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7 includes such phrases as “when he (Jesus) saw the crowds,” and “he began to teach them” and “the crowds were amazed at his teaching.” Matthew 14:14 says, “Jesus…saw a large crowd, had compassion on them and healed their sick.” However, He did not stop with teaching and healing. He also fed the multitudes. Matthew 14:15-21 tells of His feeding over 5000 people and Matthew 15:29-39 records His feeding over 4000 people. Jesus sees the multitudes but He also sees the individuals.
Although the account of Jesus feeding the 5000 is found in all four gospels (Matthew 14, Mark 6, Luke 9 and John 6), today I focus upon the words in the fourth gospel. John pointed out that a boy brought Jesus 5 barley loaves and 2 small fish that He then multiplied to feed this multitude. Jesus fed the people but the boy presented what he had to Jesus. Here is where I find an application regarding my accentuated feeling for the homeless during this extremely cold season. Are the loaves of bread and fish symbolic of something I have to offer to these destitute people? I notice that the boy brought two different things – not just bread, not just fish. What are my 5 loaves and 2 fish? First, my loaves may be my prayers. This is what God has asked me to do regarding the homeless during the cold weather. Prayer is powerful and I must not neglect this privilege and responsibility. Second my fish may be my actions. Do I have time to volunteer at a shelter for the underprivileged? Do I have an extra coat in my closet that I can donate? God may not require either my prayers or my actions, but He chooses to use them. Jesus could have performed the miracle of feeding the 5000 people without the boy’s loaves and fish just as easily as when He held these food items in His hands. However, He involved those around Him. Today He still chooses to involve me to help those in need.
I also see that in all four gospels it is recorded that Jesus gave thanks to God for what He had before the miracle of multiplication for the multitude took place. I think Jesus probably told the boy thank you for giving Him his lunch, but He also gave thanks to God. After Jesus gave thanks for the five loaves of bread and the two fish, there was enough to feed over 5000 people. This makes me wonder if God appreciates my prayers to the extent that He thanks me for my prayers so He can multiply them and provide for the needs of those for whom I pray. That is something I really need to think about! I also want to follow Jesus’ example of including thanksgiving as well as requests in my prayers. Jesus gave thanks and then the miracle of the food increase for the hungry took place. My focus must be first upon thanking God before needing to see answers to my prayers.
Jesus was not only able to feed all of those who were hungry, but there were 12 baskets of leftovers! The boy was most likely amazed to see all that transpired through his giving his lunch to Jesus. I do not need to know how the Lord will use whatever I give to Him. I just need to be obedient. I like the verse of John 6:12 where Jesus says, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” God wastes nothing, so it is never a waste of my time or effort to give to Him. The loaves the boy brought to Jesus were broken. The pieces of my life may be broken, but these pieces are still usable by the Lord.
I now find some solace in scripture where Jesus ministered to the multitudes. I will continue to pray for the pool of people whose faces I see but whose names I do not know. I will not be intimidated by simply seeing these individuals as a great number of needy people for whom I cannot provide. I will present my loaves and fishes of prayers and actions. I present them to Jesus and then wait to see how He is doing to multiply my offering to satisfy the needs. Jesus knows their needs better than I, but I can place what I have into the hands of Jesus with thanksgiving.
My Reader, has the Lord pricked your heart to do something for the homeless? Have you learned anything from the story of a boy’s bread and fish today? According to John, the feeding of the 5000 began with one boy willing to offer his lunch to Jesus. What can you offer to Jesus? You might be surprised how your offering will be multiplied.