They left so quickly that his students forgot to bring the bread, and on the boat they had only one loaf. Jesus told them, “Watch out and be alert for the yeast of the legalists and bureaucrats.”
The students said to one another, “He’s upset because we forgot the bread.”
But Jesus knew what they were saying, and said, “Why are you always thinking with your stomachs! Don’t you get what just happened? Are you all that dense? Are your hearts all made of rock? Are you so blind that you can’t see this? Are you deaf? Weren’t you listening back there?
“Tell me if you can remember how many baskets of leftovers you had when I broke those five loaves and fed those five thousand people?”
“Twelve,” they said.
“And when I broke the seven loaves for those other four thousand, now many baskets of leftovers were there?”
“Seven,” they said.
“You guys just don’t get it at all.”
Those first followers didn’t get it. And 2000 years later most of the church is still trying to catch up with Jesus.
It’s not about the miracles. It’s really not. It’s not about being short on supplies to feed yourself. It’s about confronting the powers and systems (and the people who run them) that grind people down. The point of the feeding of the multitude is that when you’re doing the work, the resources will be there.
The legalists and bureaucrats wanted a miracle. Jesus could care less about the bread. Jesus has just told them to be alert against thinking like the legalists think. And now the disciples want Jesus to do one for them! Not for the cause, but as a substitute for their carelessness. Is it any wonder Jesus is a little frustrated with them?
Modern disciples are prone to the same kind of thing. Like praying on the night before a big exam instead of studying. Like the church that prays that someday enough young families will suddenly appear in their sanctuary, join the church, and tithe. Pray, sure. But don’t substitute prayer for doing the work.
Do the work. Confront the powers. The bread will come.