In those days when there was again a great crowd without anything to eat, Jesus called his disciples and said to them, “I have compassion for the crowd, because they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat. If I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way—and some of them have come from a great distance.” His disciples replied, “How can one feed these people with bread here in the desert?” -Mark 8:1-4
I almost always have snacks with me. It is a habit I have developed since I had children. It only took a handful of experiences with the kids of being stuck in traffic, delayed in a meeting, or waiting a bit too long for our meal at a restaurant to convince me that snacks were always a good idea. I like to think that Jesus understood the value of food as well – why else would we have so many stories about him sharing meals or feeding large crowds as he does in this story from Mark?
But as important as real bread for the hungry crowds or my cranky children can be, the disciples’ reply at the end of verse 4 struck me as more of a spiritual metaphor when I read it this time: “How can one feed these people with bread here in the desert?”
Haven’t there been times when we have looked at the desert of our lives, the lives of our loved ones, our world and wondered: What can I possibly offer that is life-giving in the midst of this? The odds are stacked against me. The problem is too big. The hurt is too great.
But the beauty of this story (and of our faith) is that Jesus doesn’t let us off the hook so easily. He doesn’t say, “You’re right, how can you feed this crowd? Let’s send them away hungry.” No, he says to his disciples, “How many loaves do you have?”
What do you have to offer? Because whatever it is, it is more than enough for God to work with to help offer abundant life to a world in need.
God, we are sometimes so overwhelmed by the enormity of the problems in our lives and in our world, we cannot see how we can possibly offer enough to make a difference. Help us to see what we have. Grant us glimpses of your vision for us and for this world, so that we might live into your reign of righteousness.