By Guest Contributor Todd Hansen 

And he said to them, “How many loaves do you have?”  Mark 6:38
And he asked them, “How many loaves do you have?”  Mark 8:5

These two verses get the ball rolling in Mark’s accounts of the feeding of the five thousand, and then, the feeding of the four thousand – two separate events that probably took place about six months apart, at each end of the Sea of Galilee.  The stories are very similar – so much so that they often merge in our minds, and we forget that this happened twice.

The “Feeding of the Five Thousand” is also one of the most familiar stories in the New Testament – so much so that we often acknowledge it without spending a lot of time thinking about what happened there.  Jesus miraculously feeds a crowd – got it.  What’s next?

At the end of both stories, we find two remarkable truths:  the crowd not only was fed, but they were “satisfied,” and – there were lots of leftovers.  A very, very small amount of food was transformed so dramatically that it became both satisfying and abundant.

Jesus could have approached a hungry crowd in any number of miraculous ways.  He could have directly caused the people in the crowd not to be hungry, satisfying them by “healing” their hunger with a word.  He could have produced manna as his Father did for their predecessors in the wilderness or a flock of quail in the same situation.  He could have waved his hand and produced a loaf and a fish in the pocket of five thousand tunics.

But rather than an overt miracle effected by Jesus alone – which would arguably have been way more efficient – Jesus started the process of feeding people by asking his followers, “What do you have to give?”  And when they told him what they had, he asked for all of it.  Then he blessed the gifts and then the extravagant provision began.

Maybe this is what sacrificial giving is all about – probably then, and even now.  Jesus can and does make something from nothing (Psalm 33:9), but in this age – the age of his church in the world – he more often makes something from a small thing instead.  Lord, help us to see that a sacrifice is no sacrifice when it’s in your hands, and give us an exciting vision for what big thing you might do with a small thing we let go of.  Thank you for allowing your church be part of your provision until you return.

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