Mercy Street Church of Christ
Abilene, TX
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Give them some food yourselves

Give them some food yourselves. (Matthew 14:16)

What a stunning reversal! In most of the gospel stories, we see Jesus drawing his disciples’ attention to the needs of the people around them—people who are like “sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36). But today, we see the disciples telling Jesus about a hungry crowd of followers.

In yet another unexpected reversal, Jesus turns the tables on the Twelve: “Give them some food yourselves” (Matthew 14:16). I’m not the only one who can do these things; you can take care of them as well.

Jesus’ response no doubt takes the disciples by surprise. The little bit that they had couldn’t possibly be enough. But Jesus doesn’t scorn their contribution. Instead, he welcomes them into the miracle he is about to perform by commissioning them to distribute the food.

Give them some food yourselves. You can do it. That may not be what you want to hear when you bring your petitions to the Lord. Perhaps you are praying for a friend who is in a difficult situation. Like the disciples, you are concerned, and so you ask Jesus to intervene. You ask him to perform a certain kind of miracle, and in a way, that makes sense to you. But what if Jesus sends you back to your friend and tells you to take care of her, just as he did with the apostles?

While we don’t often hear Jesus saying something like this, this is what he is doing when miracles don’t seem to flow automatically. He is inviting you to be Christ in that situation. Remember, he has given you his Spirit for a purpose. Of course he wants you to be part of his mission in the world! He loves using his people in creative, unexpected ways to bring about the things we long for.

Of course, Jesus doesn’t expect you to do all the work any more than he expected his disciples to feed everyone by themselves. But he does want you to do some of the work. So bring his grace into situations of fear and darkness. Be his voice of comfort where there is sickness. Provide the embrace, the listening heart, and the steadying hands that so many need. You’ll be giving them something to eat each time you do.

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