On their return the apostles told him all that they had done. And he took them and withdrew apart to a town called Bethsaida. When the crowds learned it, they followed him, and he welcomed them and spoke to them of the kingdom of God and cured those who had need of healing. Now the day began to wear away, and the twelve came and said to him, “Send the crowd away to go into the surrounding villages and countryside to find lodging and get provisions, for we are here in a desolate place.” But he said to them, “You give them something to eat.” They said, “We have no more than five loaves and two fish—unless we are to go and buy food for all these people.” (Luke 9:10-13)
Jesus’ disciples had returned from their missions when He took them to Bethsaida, but the crowds were seeking Jesus out and following Him. Isn’t that in itself a beautiful picture? Jesus could barely arrive at a town before news would spread and people came seeking Him. Notice that Jesus didn’t get frustrated that He was being bombarded by crowds everywhere He went. He welcomed them to come and sit at His feet as He told them of the kingdom of God and healed the sick. Jesus was always willing to give of Himself for the mission His Father sent Him for.
Now when the day started to end, the disciples took concern that they were in a desolate place since there was nowhere close by to get provisions. But the disciples didn’t go to Jesus, express their concern, and ask Him what to do. This is where the first mistake was made - they told Jesus what to do in saying, “Send the crowds away…". Nevertheless, Jesus responds by giving them a command to give the people something to eat.
And Jesus’ response only seemed to baffle the disciples because they tell Him the amount of food they actually do have as if it was nothing. Now physically speaking, yes, five loaves of bread and two fish wasn’t realistically enough to feed about five thousand men, plus women and children. However, where had the disciples just come back from?
His disciples had just returned from being sent out on missions in which they took nothing for their journey – no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra clothes – yet they didn’t lack anything in the process. And now they see a crowd of people in whom they rightfully have concern for their physical needs, but think it an impossible task when Jesus said, “You give them something to eat”. They already had some resources to work with, which was way more than they had taken on their missions.
Now we can’t just sit here and judge the disciples, because in all honesty we’d probably do the same exact thing. Have you ever gone to a retreat or a short-term mission trip and experienced God’s work in such an awe-inspiring tangible way? And yet when you return, when you “come back down from the mountain top”, sometimes things fade back to “normal” and you may not have taken away applicational truth, even though you experienced God’s work firsthand. I believe this is what happened to the disciples.
They had to have faith to walk in what Jesus told them to do on their missions and they went out mentally and spiritually prepared for what they might face. Yet when they came back, they in a sense stopped expecting God to work through them.
BUT, wouldn’t we rather respond with faith that can move mountains when Jesus tells us something like that, regardless of whether we’re on a mountain top, mission trip, in the city, at the grocery store, etc? How do we learn from this so that we don’t react in the flesh but instead respond with a faith that pleases God? It’s based on our mindset and resolution.
If we go out to our days at work, school, wherever, with the same expectation and mindset as we do when we go out to retreats and mission trips, then we’ll be prepared for God to do amazing works and be ready to be used however He would like us to be used. This requires us to put on the armor that God gives us. That belt of truth, breastplate of righteousness, shield of faith, ready shoes given by the gospel of peace, helmet of salvation, and sword of the Spirit, all allow us to stand strong in the strength of His might as we do our work for His kingdom.
When the disciples reacted with shock and Jesus telling them to give the people something to eat, those darts of doubt could have been extinguished by the shield of faith while their belt of truth held up their britches and the shoes readied them to walk in the miracle about to be done.
Our minds are powerful, and while we can’t make things happen with our minds, we can prevent ourselves from doing things if we have the wrong mindset. We have read about the miracles, signs, and wonderful works done by Jesus, His disciples, Peter, Paul, and others in the Bible. We have experienced works of God in our own lives and in the lives of others. Why would we think that the same God who did mighty works in the past would suddenly stop doing them through His people in the present? Did Jesus not say, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do”? (By the way, He did say this in John 14:12)
If we don’t expect God to use us, we won’t be willing when the time comes to be used by Him. In the same way we must resolve to not sin against the Lord, we must also resolve to be willing vessels for God to use. Do you need to make some changes to your mindset and resolutions today? If so, don’t put it off – meditate on these verses in Luke 9 and John 14, and resolve to be a willing vessel of honor and live your life as a living sacrifice to God, expecting Him to fill you and pour you out according to His good and perfect will.