Have you ever been the victim of a backseat driver? You’re on your way somewhere with a group of friends, and there’s that one guy in the back who keeps trying to drive vicariously through you? You know the way, but wise guy back there keeps making suggestions anyway, assuming he knows a better route.
I doubt Jesus was dwelling on automobiles in 1st century AD, but I do often wonder if he could relate to the above experience in some fashion. His patience with His disciples, and with you and me, simply cannot be understated.
On one particular occasion, Jesus and His team of 12 were followed by thousands of people into the countryside. It was getting late, and the crowd was growing restless as most of us do around 6:00 p.m. when we’re used to sitting down for a meal. The disciples sensed it, and approached Jesus, telling him that the people were hungry and something had to be done about dinner.
Their solution? Send the people away into the surrounding villages so they could buy a meal. Makes sense. How else is a crowd that size going to eat?
As usual, the disciples came to Jesus with a problem, a need to be met, and advised Jesus to do it the way they would do it. “Here’s how we think you should handle this.” And they offer up this rational, down-to-earth plan for getting everyone in the multitude a plate. It made sense, at least to the disciples.
However, Mark records that Jesus had something else in mind. “But he answered them, ‘You give them something to eat.’” (Mark 6:37) Wait. The disciples just formulated a rational, common sense solution to a very glaring problem, and Jesus’ response is “Why don’t you do something about that?”
The disciples quickly objected to Jesus’ plan, on the account of it costing too much. Jesus said “Give them something to eat” and all they heard was “Expensive.” You can almost imagine Jesus looking back at us in the rearview mirror, wondering how it’s still not getting through to us. Thankfully, He never gives up.
We love to come to Jesus with the problem, the sickness, the maze, the lack, the need, etc., and then proceed to tell Him how we would solve it, how we want Him to handle it, the route we would take. The two seem to contradict each other, don’t they? If you trust Him enough to bring Him your problem, why don’t you trust Him enough to solve it in His own way?
It’s as if we have the seventy-five cents in our pocket, we know which item we want from the vending machine, all we really need is the mechanics to do their job and bring us the candy bar in the expected fashion.
After Jesus challenges His disciples to form a new plan, the story turns from one of desperation and angst to one of remarkable provision and blessing. Jesus turns five loaves of bread and two fish into enough for everyone to eat. Not only were all 5,000 people fed, but there was extra food leftover. The disciples had to go around and fill up entire baskets full of the extra bread and fish.
Now, you would think that this would make a profound impression on those disciples. Scooping up dirty fish that had appeared seemingly out of nowhere. One would expect them to begin trusting Jesus and His ability to provide and sustain.
Ironically, only days later, the entire story repeats itself nearly verbatim. The similarities are astounding.
A group of people (4,000 this time) had gathered around Jesus in a remote place.
The day was nearly over, and the people were getting hungry.
The crowd, the disciples, and Jesus were nowhere near any town.
Now, at this point in the story, surely one, at least one of the disciples had to be scratching his head, thinking, “This seems vaguely familiar.”
But no. What do the disciples do? They go to Jesus, inform Him that the people are hungry, and basically say, “How are we going to feed all these people on the side of a mountain?”
How many times are we guilty of the same thing? We’ve seen Jesus provide and encourage us. We’ve experienced His blessing and grace through trials. But when new problems arise, we so often revert to back seat driving, even though we’ve consistently witnessed His faithfulness and ability to navigate our hardships.
We face the 5,000 every single day. In our own systems and calculations, there’s never enough, is there? Not enough bread and fish to feed everyone. Not enough money to cover rent. Not enough time to spend with your children. There’s never enough.
Have you ever thought about why the loaves and fish were multiplied to the extent that they exceeded the need? Why not simply miraculously provide exactly what was needed? I won’t profess to know Jesus’ exact motives, but maybe it was to prove a point, not only to the disciples but to the generations of people who would come behind them and read this story.
With the disciples’ plan, everyone fends for themselves, finds their own food, and likely only receives the exact amount they need. More would have to be purchased later when they got hungry again. With Jesus, the people stay and eat together, and there is excess, which was gathered up in baskets, indicating it would feed more people later on.
Before Jesus is in the picture, we can be adequately described as lacking.
But when Jesus is driving, when it’s His plan that we trust and rely on, there is abundance and then some. There is leftover fish.
It’s simply up to us to trust Him.