The impromptu day of fellowship was nearly over. Thousands of people had traveled many miles to listen to the great Preacher. The sermon was the most inspiring message any of them had ever heard, No one wanted there to be a conclusion or a benediction! But finally the melodious, heart-seeking voice ceased. It was time for the potluck.
"Potluck?!! Food?!! Yes please! We're starving!"
"Okay, bring all the contributions this way, and we'll spread them out over here." There are embarrassed glances, shuffling feet, and averted gates.
"Oh no! Who forgot the food?!!"
"I never saw anything about bringing food! Thought I'd be home before now!"
"I didn't have time to get anything ready before we came out! There's usually too much food at these gatherings anyway!"
"Has anyone brought any food?"
"No, it doesn't look like it. There's only a basket of fish sandwiches."
"Well, don't look at me! What do you expect me to do about it?! I'm only part of the preacher's support group! And we hardly have enough money to feed ourselves, let alone this crowd!"
One small packet of fish sandwiches. All there was in the cupboard to feed a multitude of guests. A daunting prospect for even the most creative hostess! But not so daunting for the most creative Host. He knew exactly what to do.
He recognized the need
Jesus was presented with a crowd of hungry people and a handful of food. He was concerned primarily for their comfort. He didn't let the embarrassment of the situation throw Him off balance. He put their needs first. He had catered to their spiritual needs, and now He would do all He could to meet their physical needs as well. He knew that what they needed was a simple, healthy, filling supper.
He remained calm
He didn't panic. He trusted God and knew that He would provide. God had brought these people here for a purpose. And they desperately needed help, physically as well as spiritually. God would not let them down. Jesus didn't worry that there was not much variety in the meal, or that there might be some people who wouldn't like fish sandwiches. Panicking would waste time and energy, and He needed both to face the task ahead of Him.
He kept the decor simple
He used the beauty of the natural surroundings and the wild-grown flowers for His picnic.
He didn't rush out and spend lots of money
When faced with crowds of people to feed, He didn't feel pressured to go and spend more than He could afford in order to impress them with special food. He made the best use of what He already had.
He took stock of what He had
Jesus assessed the situation and made a meal of whatever He could find. If there were only bread and fish, then bread and fish it would be. Nothing fancy. No panic because there was nothing for dessert. The people were hungry, and bread and fish would fill them up nicely. There was no need for anything more.
He asked God to bless His efforts
Jesus asked a special blessing on the food that He had. He prayed over it, and God blessed the barley bread, and the little fishes, and provided food for everyone.
He did things simply
Jesus prepared no Martha Stewart gourmet meal. He spent no long hours slaving over a hot stove, slicing, blending, stirring; He simply broke what He had into pieces, and then shared it. There was no need for silverware and plates, no need for hours of washing up! Eating outside meant that it wouldn't matter if anyone dropped any crumbs!
He was organized
Jesus planned the meal and recruited helpers. He didn't try and do it all by Himself. His disciples gathered the people into groups so that no one would be left out. While Jesus was preparing the food, the disciples planned an efficient way to disperse the food.
He didn't waste anything
The leftovers were gathered up so that nothing would be wasted. Other people might be hungry and could also have a share in this massive picnic. Nothing was to be thrown away; every little bit would be useful.
Catering for five thousand or so people would throw most of us, even if we had a year's notice and unlimited freezer space! Catering for one extra person can sometimes cause us a major panic! Jesus knows how pressured we can feel. He knows how important hospitality is as a way to care for His people and to be a witness to others. When He sends people our way, we are privileged that He trusts us to care for them and refresh them. He doesn't want it to be a burden to us. He's been there before, and He can show us the way to make things easy for ourselves, so that our hospitality experiences can nurture us and not drain us.
And one day, faced with a field full of five thousand and five fish sandwiches, you, too, will be able to give thanks, and witness a miracle!