What Do You Have?

Have you ever wondered what it was like to be one of the disciples and to follow Jesus around the Judean country side?  I have to admit that I think about that often--and I have often thought that it might not have always been comfortable tagging along with Jesus.  He had the unsettling habit of asking very penetrating questions.  I came across an extremely intriguing one the other day while I was reading the familiar story of the feeding of the five thousand (Mark 6:30-44).

The disciples had just returned from a time of traveling and doing ministry.  They gathered around Jesus to tell him all that had happened.  But there were so many people around Jesus that he and his disciples  couldn't even get a chance to eat.  So Jesus took his disciples to a deserted area hoping that they could get some rest.  But the people found out where they were going and followed them.  Jesus had compassion on the crowd and began to teach them.

Now if I were a disciple I think that I might have been a bit frustrated: "I thought we were supposed to get a chance to be together and maybe even have something to eat!"   The disciples may have been thinking along those lines because as it got late in the day they came to Jesus and suggested that he send the people away.  They pointed out that they were in a deserted place and there was no place around to buy food so the people would need to go to the surrounding towns or villages to get something o eat. 

But Jesus said, "You feed them." 

The disciples were astonished--the crowd was huge.  They argued that it would take well over eight month's wages.  Did Jesus really mean for them to spend that much money on bread for the people to eat?  Then Jesus asked them a perplexing question, "How many loaves do you have?  Go and see." 

The disciples may have thought, "Certainly Jesus realizes that no matter how much food we might have with us it's not going to feed even a tenth of this crowd.  Certainly he realizes that--doesn't he?"  But Jesus was not asking the disciples to meet the need or to feed all of the hungry.  The need was huge.  He was simply asking them to offer what they had.  The disciples returned and told Jesus that they had five loaves and two fish.  Jesus blessed the food and gave it to his disciples to hand out.  Amazingly, everybody had their fill and there were twelve basketfuls of broken pieces of bread and fish left over. Jesus had miraculously made the five loaves and two fish feed five thousand men!

Many times Jesus asks us to do the same thing.  He doesn't ask us to meet what ever the need is that is before us.  Sometimes the need is huge.  He simply asks us to give what we have--whether that is time or money or abilities--and then he takes our insufficient offering and does the rest.

I remember hearing a story about Mother Teresa.  She was working as a principal in a school in Calcutta, India.  All around she saw incredible poverty and incredible suffering.  Her heart was touched, but she didn't know what she could do.  I remember reading that she thought, "Well, at least I can comfort someone who is dying."  So she began looking for people on the streets or in hospitals who were about ready to die.  She would go and comfort them.  She might hold their hand, or caress their forehead, maybe give them a sip of water to drink.  Others saw her compassion and began to join her in her work.  Her order (she was a Catholic nun) released her from her job as a principal to minister to the dying and destitute.  Now there is a huge work of charity to the poor of Calcutta and Mother Teresa has received a Nobel prize for her work.  And all of that happened because she, in the face of overwhelming need, was simply willing to do what she could.  God did the rest.

I have to ask myself, what might God be able to do if I--like the disciples--offer what I have even though I know that it will never be enough.  What might happen if we all began to do the same?

However, sometimes it isn't easy to give up what Jesus asks.  It may not have  been easy for the disciples.  Remember that the reason that Jesus and they had come to this deserted place was to be able to get a chance to eat.  They had been expecting to be able to eat with Jesus.  But He was asking them to give up their supper to feed the crowd.  Sometimes we really want or need what Jesus asks us to give--but in giving it many times our needs are met too.  Remember that the disciples all got to eat along with the crowd and afterwards there were twelve baskets of leftovers; one for each disciple!  A friend of mine reminded me as we discussed this scripture that often we have to give up what we have in order to see God's miracle!

So, what do you have?  What do you have that God might want to use?  Are you willing to let him have it in order to see him work a miracle?