5000 men, some with wives and children, had all come out to meet Jesus Christ and hear His Word. It was late in the day and the disciples noticed that these people had traveled far and that they were hungry. Yet Jesus, perhaps as prophecy or test, tells His disciples, “You give them something to eat.” Matthew 14:15-18 chronicles this brief conversation and till today I have always faulted the disciples for having little faith. Yet it should be noted that in all the accounts of this story, from Matthew through John, Jesus does NOT scold the disciples for exhibiting a little faith.
I have many times found myself where the disciples are. When mothers weep over their sick children, when fathers weep over their errant hearts, when children weep because they have strayed far, it seems fair and maybe right to wonder what is the food they need to eat. As believers we may have time and we may have space but it is clear that our few loaves and fishes are inadequate to feed even one. Furthermore, a deeper thought will reveal that to give them only of ourselves would make them dependent on us which then further entraps them in the world. In this way, many have made idols of their pastors.
When I was younger I rightly understood through Matthew 14:17 that I was bread and fish to be blessed and broken and given to the people Matthew 14:19. But I was afraid. For I thought, “How can I be enough to feed so many?!” Yet in my heart, I knew that I had rightly perceived The Word. And yet when I saw the many, I knew I was not enough to nourish them all. And so I lost sight of Jesus by focusing on what seemed to be the goal.
As a simple child in Christ, I understood the equation clearly: “Offer myself to Jesus. He Blesses me and breaks me and feeds many.” Three clear movements every priest makes: offering, blessing and breaking. Done. Simple. Nothing more needs to be said to the father, the mother, the sister, the brother seeking to serve those in need around them. But in my old age, I have come back again to stand among the disciples before Christ and the people who are in need. For the intercessor stands before God for the people and before the people for God. The needs have not changed and Jesus is still the same. And like Elisha I lay the mantle of my Lord across the water and ask, “Where shall we get food to feed so many?”
It is clear, back then and now, that the people did not come to see me. They came to see Jesus Christ. They are not in need of mundane bread and therefore not in need of me. They are in need of The Bread of Life, Jesus Christ of Nazareth John 6:35. Like the faithful priests of old who lead the people in the ceremony of communion, it is Him that I must lift up and bless and glorify and give to the people to eat. They must be given His Flesh to eat and His Blood to drink John 6:53-58. In the past I wondered in the depths of prayer how I could ever be enough. Now I understand that He Is Enough. And as the miracle shows, He is always more than enough.
And yet, from Matthew 14:16 I hear Him say to me, "You give them something to eat.” There are many ways to righteously obey this commandment but they all follow the same pattern. A baby bird cannot eat bread. So I suppose that like a mother bird feeding baby birds, I must give them the Word that I have eaten and somewhat digested. For before the priest leads in communion, he must first have communion with Jesus Christ. He first eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. So like a mother eagle, I must feed the people out of my communion with Jesus Christ.
Why is this pattern spiritually functional and how does this not lead to pride? Simple. By continuing in communion with Jesus Christ, it is no longer I who live but Christ in me Galatians 2:18-21. When I live a life of holiness and give the people to eat of myself, of my time, of my space, it is NOT me I am giving but Jesus Christ, The Bread of Life. Because Jesus and I are in communion, by eating of me, they eat of Jesus Christ. Because Jesus and I are in communion, by confessing to me, they confess to Jesus Christ and thereby are healed James 5:14-16. Hence holiness which is the priest’s pure communion with Jesus Christ is of Eternal importance. The more Christ is in me, the more richly The Word dwells in me, the more they get of Jesus and NOT me. I am blessed by offering myself wholly to the Lord and thereby even a morsel of little old me is enough to feed five million John 14:12.
Blessed and Broken
But let us be clear. Every priestly movement (offering, blessing and breaking) can only occur through communion with Jesus Christ. There is no point where, like the prodigal son Luke 11:12-13, I can take possession of the blessing and go out(back) into the world to accomplish something great ... for the kingdom? That is the path the false prophets have walked as described in 2 Peter 2:1,17,20. No no, every step of the priestly movement is communion with Jesus Christ.
The true breaking of myself lies not in giving my time and space and whatever else to the people. I am broken to feed many when I humbly lift Jesus up instead of myself. For isn’t every pastor tempted to turn stones to bread instead of giving them the Word from God Matthew 4:3-4? Are we not all tempted to think that we could ever be sufficient to do anything good on our own? Daily, second by second, the pastor is tempted to plot subtle plans and machinations aimed at enticing the hearts of men and women ... towards the Lord. Not knowing that such enticements will do nothing more than cause them to look to the sun or moon and kiss their hands Job 31:24-28. The only acceptable sacrifice a pastor can offer is to deny himself and take up and lift up Jesus Christ. It is through humble communion with Jesus that he is broken but it is also through this same communion that he is blessed so that his sacrifice feeds many. Jesus did the exact same thing. He denied Himself and through obedience, lifted up The Father Philippians 2:5-8. Through this communion, He was blessed by God from Heaven Phil 2:9, Matthew 3:17, Mark 1:11, Luke 3:22, Matthew 17:5, Mark 9:7, Luke 9:35.
Jesus only Did and Said what His Father Did and Said. Therefore, all Who partook of Him, partook of God The Father and God the Holy Spirit. When I do to Jesus as He did to His Father, when I deny myself and choose to only do and say what He Did and Said, then I become like Jesus, a living sacrifice Romans 12:1-2 engrossed in worship. All who partake of my life, partake of God The Father, God The Son and God The Holy Spirit.
Therefore, every follower of Jesus Christ is an offering of His Body and Blood. Through us, Jesus offers to the world The Holy Communion Psalms 23:5. It begins when the Christian denies herself first in private and then in public. By lifting up Jesus instead of herself, she becomes manna like Manna and bread like Bread. This life lived through self denial by proclaiming Jesus Christ receives the blessing of God. All who meet any disciple of Jesus encounter Jesus Christ and are invited to partake in His Sacrifice. Those who eat of him, eat the flesh of Jesus Christ through him. Those who drink of her, drink the blood of Jesus Christ through her. And so in such a way, every disciple of Jesus Christ becomes a priest and minister who feeds thousands upon thousands upon thousands John 14:12.