Lenten Devotion

March 16, 2023

All Day

Mark 8:1-9

8 During those days another large crowd gathered. Since they had nothing to eat, Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. If I send them home hungry, they will collapse on the way, because some of them have come a long distance.” His disciples answered, “But where in this remote place can anyone get enough bread to feed them?”“How many loaves do you have?” Jesus asked. “Seven,” they replied.He told the crowd to sit down on the ground. When he had taken the seven loaves and given thanks, he broke them and gave them to his disciples to distribute to the people, and they did so. They had a few small fish as well; he gave thanks for them also and told the disciples to distribute them. The people ate and were satisfied. Afterward the disciples picked up seven basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. About four thousand were present.

More Than Bread, But Also Just Bread

As I’m writing this devotional in the late afternoon on a Saturday in January, hungrily waiting for dinner, today’s story sounds pretty great. Who wouldn’t want to hang out in a remote area, listening to Jesus preach while snacking on free bread and fish? Apart from the resurrection, this is the only miracle recounted in all of the four Gospels and of course it isn’t really about the importance of snacking. Or is it?

I think the fact that every church I’ve ever been to has a coffee hour proves that maybe this story is at least in part about snacks. The people in front of Jesus have been there for three days and at this point, they’re clearly hungry and tired. Jesus’ disciples think that the crowd should be capable of taking care of themselves, but Jesus begs to differ. He cares for the physical well-being of his people. Our spiritual life may be his main focus, but his ministry was all-encompassing. Our physical, mental, and emotional sides matter to him. So, we too shouldn’t underestimate the importance of investing in our own and others’ physical health. Coffee hour is a very important part of ministry, it feeds people, it gives them a time to connect over shared food and to relax.

We mustn’t forget however, that this is the story of a miracle. Jesus not only saw the need of the people and fulfilled it but did so in miraculous fashion. From 7 loaves he fed over 4,000 people and there were leftovers. Jesus more than met the needs of the people. God gives freely and generously of his love, continuously exceeding our wildest expectations. All we have to do is be present to accept his gift.

This story tells us how God meets all our needs powerfully, but biblical stories should always also inspire us to act a certain way. Just as Jesus plentifully provides for those entrusted to his care, we should be generous with what he has given us in spiritual and worldly ways. Now, obviously some of us have more worldly goods to give than others, but never let that stop you. Remember what Jesus was able to do with 7 loaves of bread and some fish. God doesn’t care about the quantity we give; he cares about our attitude when giving. Presumably whoever provided the bread and fish was planning to eat the food themselves, but they were willing to give it into Jesus’ hands to help provide for many. We can also offer up our gifts and possessions to serve others.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you that you see and meet all our needs. Help us to see the needs in others’ lives, to provide generously and to trust that you are able to use our gifts for more than we could ever imagine.  Amen.

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