From Mark 6:
"Calling the twelve to him, he began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over impure spirits. These were his instructions: 'Take nothing for the journey except a staff ~ no bread, no bag, no money in your belts. Wear sandals but not an extra shirt...' They went out and preached...they drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them...The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, 'Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.'...But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. When Jesus saw the large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd....By this time it was late in the day, so his disciples came to him. 'This is a remote place,' they said, 'and it's already very late. Send the people away so that they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.' But he answered, 'You give them something to eat....How many loaves do you have?' When they found out, they said, 'Five ~ and two fish.' Then Jesus directed them to have all the people sit down in groups on the green grass. So they sat down in groups of hundreds and fifties. 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 his disciples to distribute to the people. He also divided the two fish among them all. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces of bread and fish. The number of the men who had eaten was five thousand."
I can't help but wonder what life was like for these twelve disciples. I am challenged to try to imagine myself in their shoes, expanding their roles from students to apostles.
There are mixed emotions as we reunite with Jesus and each other after our mission trips. We've just come back from doing the unthinkable ~ battling demonic forces, curing people of their diseases, and preaching the Good News. The high we are experiencing mingles with the painful loss of John. Who would have thought our lives would take this change in course? And why us? I am baffled.
We are physically exhausted, emotionally drained, and very hungry. Jesus sees our condition and takes pity on us. "Let's go off and get some rest." Yes! A good night's sleep is just what I need. Quiet and solitude never sounded so appealing.
But before we reach our destination, crowds begin to swarm around us. They recognize Jesus and are drawn to him. Jesus looks over the growing crowd and is visibly moved by the needs of each person. A look of compassion lights up his face, and we already know ~ our time of rest will have to wait.
Hours go by. It's getting late in the day. My stomach is growling so loudly, even the noise of the crowd can't drown it out. I look in amazement at the number of people. There must be thousands of men gathered around us. Surely they are feeling hunger pains, too. How on earth will everyone get adequate food? The churning in my stomach prompts me to approach Jesus.
"It's getting late. Maybe you should send these people away. They must be getting hungry by now. We have nothing to feed them." I didn't mention my own gnawing hunger. What I'd give for a decent meal!
"Give them something to eat." What?! I haven't even eaten myself. How am I supposed to find food for a crowd this size? The other disciples and I look at each other in disbelief. Does he really expect us to feed them?
"Jesus, we only have five loaves of bread and two fish among us." I want to add that it's not even enough for the twelve of us, but I hold my tongue.
"Have them sit in groups of fifty and one hundred." Okay. Not that it makes any sense to me, but why not? Maybe then he will see the magnitude of our desperate situation. When everyone is seated, Jesus takes the five loaves and the two fish. He looks up to heaven and thanks God, then begins to break them into pieces. As he does this, he hands us food to distribute among the crowd. I take the share he hands me and begin passing it out. Oh, how I long to sit down and devour the food myself! But I do as he asks, and continue to help the other eleven disciples pass out the food.
Each time I go back for more, I shake my head in wonder. How can there be anything left? Yet, with those five loaves and two fish, we are feeding tens, then hundreds, then thousands. Not only that, they are all getting an ample amount of food ~ enough to satisfy their hunger.
When everyone is done eating, we go around the crowd and gather up the leftovers. We have enough to fill twelve basketfuls! One for each of us...and more than we need to satisfy our own hunger. I raise a bite of the food to my lips, smiling in utter disbelief.
"There are only two ways to live...one is as though nothing is a miracle...the other is as if everything is."