In the account when Jesus miraculously provided food for five thousand men, “besides the women and children,” the Bible says it took place in a solitary place (Mark 6:32). The closest town to that area was Bethsaida (Luke 9:10), but even Bethsaida was most likely some distance away because Matthew and Luke record it was in a “remote” spot.
This occurred south of Bethsaida, near the shoreline of the Sea of Galilee, but in an area where people didn’t happen to venture through without making an intentional effort. For those who were at this gathering, they went there purposefully and specifically because of Jesus. When they learned where Jesus was at, they left their houses hastily and flocked to him, making little preparation beforehand. We know this because few brought food or provisions with them.
These people stopped whatever they had been doing earlier that day and hurried towards Jesus. For them, any time spent gathering supplies for the travel would intrude on time to be near Jesus. Reaching Jesus was more important than gathering provisions before their trip. Being near Jesus was their most pressing desire.
Although, there was one thing they did beforehand that was more important than packing supplies. They reached out to others to go along with them, such as their family members or the sick and debilitated who needed help reaching Jesus.
Arriving in this remote place, thousands spent the day feeding on the words and person of Jesus as He taught and healed many who were sick. That day spent with Jesus was gratifying to everyone’s soul and spirit.
Still, the people hadn’t eaten during the day and the disciples noticed many becoming hungry in the late afternoon. Further, because it was getting late, the crowd faced spending a night in an open field without bedding or cover.
As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.”
Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.” (Matt. 14:15-16)
Think about the magnitude of the people’s attraction to Jesus. There were over five thousand who had spent the day there and soon would be facing nightfall in an open field. But, they didn’t want to leave. Even though they were hungry and had no shelter, staying near Jesus was more important to them than filling their appetites or finding shelter.
They found greater satisfaction being around and listening to Jesus. They may’ve been somewhat apprehensive about spending the night in this unprotected, uncomfortable, countryside; but they felt a very strong sense of security and protection in the person of Jesus.
They longed for, and lingered in, the presence of Jesus. For them, spending time with Jesus was more fulfilling than food, and being close to Jesus was far more comforting than any physical shelter.
When looking at how desperately these people wanted to be in the presence of Jesus, shouldn’t that remind us that people desperately need Him every bit as much today? Times have changed, but the nature of man hasn’t changed.
Jesus is the Living Water and Bread of Life. “He is my refuge my fortress, my God, in whom I trust” (Psalm 91:2).
Jesus is the sole source who can fill a man’s soul. Multitudes today will—and do—flock to Jesus if they hear passionate testimony about who He is, how much He loves them, and what He was done for their salvation.
Jesus loves us so much, He died for us, so we may choose to live in Him. People need to hear of His grandeur, splendor, mercy, and love. As believers, we are called as witnesses to testify about the love of Christ. This is a message that needs to be shared with fervor, excitement, compassion, and compulsion.
God has instilled in every person a need that can only be met by Christ. “Jesus declared, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty'” (John 6:35).
People need Jesus. People will seek Him, and cling to Him, if they realize Jesus is the true source for security and satisfaction. Every person needs that—and it is found in Jesus alone!
Consider that crowd of thousands, although they were hungry and facing nightfall in a remote area, they still stayed near Jesus because they were so enamored by Him. That’s the magnetism that Jesus’ had then and still has today.
Jesus hasn’t changed. Nor has man changed. Men are still lost without Him.
As Jesus is exalted in the voices and lives of believers, men will be drawn to Him. Jesus said, “But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself” (John 12:32).
Jesus alone is the only satisfaction for the deepest needs of a man’s soul and spirit. Why then are many resistant to listen to the gospel?
It’s partly because the heart of man is bent towards evil and, “everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed” (John 3:19). But, with that, could it also partly be that the message of Jesus’ grandeur, goodness, and grace isn’t being proclaimed with the enthusiasm or excitement as it should be?
Jesus paid it all, and all to Him we owe. Why then are many believers today reluctant to speak openly about Jesus?
What message are we sending to the world when we either completely shy away from speaking about Jesus, or talk about Him with constraint in our words or reservation in our expressions? Are we guilty of hiding our lamp in a jar or putting it under a bed? (Luke 8:16).
Jesus’ followers are responsible for sharing and showing Jesus. We are to take our lamp and put “it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light.” Proclaiming the love of Jesus isn’t to be a casual, cautious effort. Rather, it is an endeavor of great joy that we should take hold of with boldness and passion.
If we, as believers, get to a point that we can’t help ourselves but are compelled to speak and tell of the things Christ has done in our life and who He is to us, it will cause people to want to learn more about Jesus. If we are compelled to talk enthusiastically about the awesomeness of our Savior, it will induce people to seek after Him to find out who He is—and who He wants to be for them.
Regrettably, it’s easy to become lax or reserved and fall into a mindset like the disciples had that day. They looked at the crowd of people who were hungry and wanted Jesus to send them away to find food.
But, these people hungered more for Jesus!
We never want to send people away from Jesus who are hungry for Him. Foremost, we want people to know the Bread of Life—the One who gives eternal life. That’s the most important thing.
The Twelve asked Jesus to send the crowds away and let them take care of themselves. But Jesus answered them, “You give them something to eat.” Those words are a message to His followers today.
Our foremost focus ought to be on Jesus and pointing others to Him. He is the true provision. And, as we proclaim Christ, we need to train ourselves, and teach others, to look first to Jesus for every solution, trusting in His faithfulness and in His Word. Jesus told us to “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matt. 6:33).
Yet, sometimes, we can be guilty of focusing on circumstances that are problematic and tend to look for solutions outside of Jesus. Rather than elevate Jesus as we should, our inclination can be either to back away or send others away rather than getting involved.
Too, there can be times we do get involved to provide for someone’s physical needs, but neglect to focus on their greatest need—the message of salvation and satisfaction in Jesus Christ alone.
As Jesus told the Twelve, we need to bring people closer in—not send them away. To do that, our eyes need to be on the salvation and sufficiency of our Savior.
We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,” they answered.
“Bring them here to me,” he said. (Matt. 14: 17-18)
It’s easy to look at the “only” in what we see or have, but miss what is available to us through Jesus. It’s not about what we can do with what we have—but Who we know and what He can do through us.
The Lord doesn’t need a single thing to provide His abundance. But, He pleasures in working miraculously through His followers’ efforts, willingness, and faith. So, He wants us to take what is before us and trust it into His hands.
When we look to the Lord, what we have before us needs to be gauged by what He can do with it.
When we look at people, we definitely want to minister compassionately to their physical needs. That is important. But, more importantly, we want to passionately tell them about our great Savior who loves them because He is the only One who can truly satisfy.
You can continue this Bible lesson at this link: Jesus, our provision: part 2