By David Faust
Is there such a thing as a minor miracle? Some biblical miracles receive less attention than others. Healing the blind, raising the dead, and walking on water get top billing. Seldom does anyone get excited about the detoxification of poisonous stew (2 Kings 4:38-41) or the coin found in a fish’s mouth (Matthew 17:24-27).
Jesus performed major miracles that revealed God’s glory: “The people were amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled made well, the lame walking and the blind seeing. And they praised the God of Israel” (Matthew 15:31). But when is the last time you heard a sermon about the feeding of the 4,000? In the Miracle Hall of Fame, this one gets relegated to the bottom shelf in a back room. Feeding 4,000 people with a meager amount of fish and bread would be an unprecedented wonder—except it did have a precedent since Jesus previously fed a larger crowd. The feeding of the 4,000 sounds like a lot compared to the time Elisha fed 100 men with 20 loaves of barley bread (2 Kings 4:42-44), but it’s less impressive than Jesus’ better-known feeding of the 5,000.
Majoring in Compassion
“Jesus called his disciples to him and said, ’I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry, or they may collapse on the way’” (Matthew 15:32). A hungry person’s growling stomach is a desperate kind of prayer. A church in my neighborhood operates a food distribution program for low-income families. International Disaster Emergency Services intervenes when famine and starvation threaten anywhere in the world. Ministries like these surely are dear to the heart of Christ, for he cares about the hungry crowds.
In an amazing display of forgetfulness, “His disciples answered, ‘Where could we get enough bread in this remote place to feed such a crowd?’” (v. 33). How could they so quickly forget the feeding of the 5,000, described one chapter earlier in Matthew’s Gospel? Jesus fed 5,000; surely 4,000 would be no problem. But we are forgetful, too. Facing a sizable problem today, we forget how the Lord helped us overcome bigger problems yesterday.
Accomplishing a Lot With a Little
Jesus asked, “How many loaves do you have?” (v. 34). Good question. The Lord starts with what we already hold in our hands, then multiplies it as only he can. In this case seven loaves and a few small fish proved more than sufficient. The miracle was even bigger than it appears at first glance, for the number of people fed included “four thousand men, besides women and children” (v. 38). (Imagine how understated your church’s attendance would be if you reported only the number of men, excluding women and children.) Altogether the hungry crowd may have totaled as many as 10,000. They ate until everyone was satisfied, and the disciples picked up seven basketsful of leftovers (vv. 35-37).
This was a major miracle—a powerful visual aid to reinforce the truth that Jesus is the bread of life. And it showed that in the hands of Jesus, very little can be more than enough.
1. How has the Lord shown compassion to you recently?
2. Has the Lord ever done something in your life that others consider small but you consider large?
David Faust is president of Cincinnati Christian University, Cincinnati, Ohio, and past Executive Editor of The Lookout.
The Lookout’s Bible Reading Plan for February 17, 2013
Use this guide to read through the Bible in 12 months. Follow David Faust’s comments on the highlighted text in every issue of The Lookout.
Exodus 30, 31
Exodus 32, 33