For a while, my paternal grandmother (i.e., my dad’s mom) was a cook at a local grade school. (That’s an “elementary school” for some of you. I’ve had to learn some new terminology after living in a different part of the country for a while.) She was known for being able to turn out large pans of food and feeding lots of children at a time. On my dad’s side of the family, there were a lot of grandchildren and great-grandchildren, so Grandma sometimes had to cook a lot at home, too. (She did a great job, by the way.)
Having said that, I don’t think that my grandmother ever had to cook for thousands of people at once. The grade school was a rural one, and I would guess that it had a student body around 150-200 children, plus staff.
As we learn from Matthew 14, we find that Jesus was able to meet the needs of even more people – in a single meal – than my grandma could. (As a follower of Jesus herself, I think that she would be perfectly OK with that.)
“Bring them here to me,” he said. And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children.
Matthew 14:18-21 NIV
You may have heard this account before. With the power of God, who literally created the universe, providing enough food for thousands of people is not a difficult task.
Let’s consider some key points from this event, though. For one thing, Jesus first acknowledged God the Father, giving thanks for what had been provided. Like when Abraham and Isaac went to sacrifice on a mountain (see Genesis 22:8, 13-14), God is always the one who provides. I might consider myself the “breadwinner” in our household, but even that is only something that I can do through what God has provided to me.
Do we ever get so caught up in asking for what we don’t have, that we forget to be thankful for what we do have? Perhaps what God has already given us is the solution to our current problem Or, perhaps gratitude for what we have is the answer to why we think we have a problem in the first place.
Secondly, Jesus had the disciples participate. In verse 16, Jesus had told them to give the people something to eat, and – after Jesus’ blessing on the limited food that they had – the disciples did indeed give the people something to eat. When we ask God for help, we should not expect that His answers will always exclude our involvement. God can certainly intervene miraculously, but the Bible has many examples where those who were helped, or those giving help, had a role in His plan.
Finally, when God provides, we should be satisfied. For one thing, God doesn’t provide the cheapest possible solution (like buying a tool at a discount that you only need for one job, since it costs less, but probably won’t last). Jesus turned water into good wine, after all (see John 2:1-10). For another thing, God already knows what we need, and which other requests of ours are really just “wants”. We must trust Him enough to choose to be satisfied with our blessings from God, even if we continue to ask Him for our “daily bread” (see Matthew 6:11). Like the old hymn says, “Count your blessings, name them one by one”. God’s gifts are abundant!
So, if God is calling you to something that you don’t think that you are capable of achieving (like cooking for a hundred times more people than you’re used to feeding), be thankful, get ready to help, and then be happy with His solution. It’s always better than our own.
From Sunday School lesson prepared for December 11, 2022
- The Lookout, December 11, 2022, © 2022 Christian Standard Media.
- Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
- The College Press NIV Commentary – Matthew, by Larry Chouinard, pages 342-349. © 1997 College Press Publishing Co.
2 thoughts on “Cooking for a Crowd”
I have often thought of the actual logistics of feeding that crowd and taking up the leftovers. How they divided into small groups and then maybe the food multiplied as they passed it around. Jesus would have needed warp speed breaking all that bread otherwise…ya I get distracted by logistics sometimes and away from the miracles.
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I’m the same way, wondering how it all went down! However, if I think about how I’ve watched people working together doing God’s work (with His help), I’m more curious than skeptical
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