We’re all familiar with the miracle Jesus performed when He fed the 5,000. The observant reader is also familiar with a similar miracle shortly after in which Jesus fed the 4,000.
Both narratives have similar elements. We see a restless, hungry, and helpless crowd surrounding Jesus, disciples who still don’t seem to understand what Jesus is capable of, and baskets of fish and bread. As a side-note, I always wonder how long fish keeps in a basket. I mean, I like sushi as much as the next guy, but something about meandering the Israeli countryside with a wicker basket of fish just seems, well, fishy.
Both of these accounts occur in Matthew and Mark, and they each illustrate something I’d never really noticed before, but I think is worth discussing.
We’ll visit the account of Jesus feeding the 4,000 in Matthew 15 first:
Then Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion on the crowd because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. And I am unwilling to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way.” And the disciples said to him, “Where are we to get enough bread in such a desolate place to feed so great a crowd?” And Jesus said to them, “How many loaves do you have?” They said, “Seven, and a few small fish.” And directing the crowd to sit down on the ground, he took the seven loaves and the fish, and having given thanks he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds.
Did you notice what Jesus did first, before He even performed the miracle? If you read the title of this post, you can probably guess. He gave thanks.
“What’s so interesting about that?” you might say. “I give thanks for meals all the time, even before the chips and queso!” First, I applaud your self-control. Second, it’s not as much what Jesus does but when He does it.
Standing in front of 4,000 hungry people in a desert, Jesus gives thanks to God for seven loaves of bread and a few fish. I’m no mathematician, but I don’t think the numbers work. But He gives thanks. I think that teaches an important lesson for us. What is Jesus giving thanks for? Thousands of pieces of bread and fish, or just a handful?
One could argue that since Jesus knew He was going to miraculously feed the masses, and He preemptively gave thanks to God for the provision He knew was coming, and there’s certainly some truth to that. But remember, Jesus came to be our example (John 13:15).
So what does that mean for us?
Give thanks. I know, it’s not November yet, so we’re not really supposed to think about being grateful. Jesus gave thanks for a little with an expectation of provision. There is power in that.
The lesson for us is thankful humility. When you look at the staggering opposition and wonder how you’re ever going to make it, give thanks. When it doesn’t make sense and nothing adds up, give thanks. Matthew 6:25-34 is a great reminder of how God provides for us.
So we can pray for providence and expect the miracle, but it all starts with being thankful for what we have. It’s a conscious decision to be truly thankful before the provision. If we are thankful for a little, our gratefulness only grows as the provision grows. If we’re thankful when it doesn’t make sense, we’ll never be in a position to question God’s providence.
Be thankful today. Give thanks for what you have. Then watch God fulfill every promise and then some.