Tuesday, September 23, 2014


Our God is an “over-blesser.” Whatever He does is lavish, munificent, bounteous, unsparing, and abundant. God has an unparalleled record of faithfulness in providing for the needs of His own people. He outdoes Himself in giving us far more than we need.

All four Gospel writers mention the miracle of the loaves and fishes. In Mark chapter eight, Jesus took seven loaves of bread and multiplied them to feed 4,000 people. Seven large baskets full of leftovers were collected. He had previously fed 5,000, and the disciples gathered twelve baskets full of leftovers. (Since only the men were recorded, the total including women and children was likely closer to 15-20,000 fed.)

John records in his Gospel that "Jesus knew what He would do" when He tested His disciples by asking them to give the multitude something to eat. Philip began human calculations of how much it would cost so that "everyone could have a bite" and called it impossible. 

The disciples thought in terms of providing just "a little." Jesus provided by multiplication more than enough until the thousands of people were totally satisfied. My guess is that even the leftovers were not His afterthought or a miscalculation of how much He would need to miraculously supply. Jesus was even concerned for the leftovers.

I've always been curious about what happened to the bread and fish leftovers. They were likely gathered into large woven baskets used to carry crops from the fields. Obviously, no paper or plastic bags were available. Was Jesus simply being frugal to see that the fragments were gathered up or was He environmentally concerned? Or was He setting up a teaching moment? Think about it: what remained was astoundingly more in quantity than what they had in the beginning. The leftovers still had the supernatural touch of Jesus; they were blessed, weren't stale, and certainly were still packed with nourishment that could satisfy the need of still others. 

We aren't told for whose needs those particular leftovers were used. Perhaps Jesus left the decision to the disciples. They were accustomed to remember the poor with some of the money that apparently passed through the hands of Jesus, which had been given by generous people for the daily provisions of Jesus and His followers. All those baskets of food would have fed many poor folks.

We don’t find it recorded in Scripture that Jesus and His disciples were wandering mendicants begging for food. They paid their way. We read that His disciples were accustomed to stop along the way and buy provisions at village markets. We know that one of His disciples even held the position of treasurer for oversight and disbursement of those funds—the one who eventually betrayed Him. We are told that a group of caring, benevolent women, probably of considerable financial means, were part of his entourage. They followed Jesus not only to hear His life-giving teachings but, as women are gifted to do, they attended to the collective material needs of Jesus and His disciples. When they traveled on foot from village to village, the faithful women followers probably found great joy in doing “Martha work” helping to set up camp for the group, start the fire, and get the food started for all those hungry men. Do you suppose the disciples reserved some of the leftover fish and bread for that purpose?

We know one thing the disciples didn’t do with the leftovers. They didn’t pack any of them in their picnic basket for the very next day's provision. Immediately after the miracle of the seven baskets of leftovers, the disciples were crossing the sea in a boat. Let the record show, “They had forgotten to take bread; and did not have more than one loaf in the boat with them.” 

What were they thinking? Was it really sheer negligence? Or perhaps the hope that Jesus would miraculously encore yesterday's event and start providing food for their small group miraculously on a regular basis? Did they buy into the idea of the crowd whose stomachs were full of the miracle bread? The crowd didn't understand that Jesus was the spiritual Messiah and not a military leader who would overthrow the Romans. Jesus had to flee because they would have taken Him by force to make him king on the spot.
Jesus was aware of the disciples' lunch time dilemma and He reproved them, “Why do you discuss your lack of bread? Do you not yet see or understand? Do you have a hardened heart?” They still didn't get it. Patiently He went over with them the details of the two miracles of multiplication in case they had short memories.

Of course the one loaf they did bring along in the boat would have been more than enough for another miracle. Jesus could even have added peanut butter and jam to the bread that He multiplied. Of course He could have caused fish to jump into the boat and they could have had fish sandwiches. He could have miraculously produced a charcoal grill right there in the boat as He would do on the seashore after His resurrection. Of course He could have “prepared a table before them” providing salad, vegetables, and a dessert if He wanted to. Obviously that was not His plan.

Let’s not overly fault the disciples for being dull of understanding. They were slow learners as we all are--as I am. Sometimes I'm inclined to feel like a "leftover" since I'm a widow living in my advanced years. Nevertheless, God has His eye on leftovers and has planned for my provision. He doesn't put any expiration date on His generosity that would exclude His children in their advanced years. 

Unimaginable blessings are still stored up and prepared by God for me from before the foundation of the world. They are not meager or skimpy, "just a little bite." I don’t have to beg God for His blessings; He promised life abundant. God's provision is pressed down, shaken together, and running over just waiting for me to simply ask for and receive them (1 Cor. 2:9; James 4:2).

With the history of God’s faithfulness in the past, why don't I trust Him more during the summit season of my life to be incredibly generous to abundantly satisfy my every need beyond all I can ask or think according to His riches in Glory by Christ Jesus? (Phil. 4:19) I only need to ask for my provision, thank Him that the supply is on the way, confidently expect it in whatever shape or form He chooses to deliver it, and receive it with joy and gratitude when it arrives in God's perfect time. 

Since it is always more than I need, I too shouldn't waste the bountiful leftovers. I should in turn share them generously with others in need.

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