More Than Enough
Scripture: Luke 9:7-17
Jesus only did one miracle that occurs in all four Gospels, so that miracle must be extremely important. It’s when Jesus feeds the multitude and that is our text today in Luke 9, but we are going to start reading a few verses earlier.
7 Now Herod the tetrarch heard about all that was happening, and he was perplexed, because it was said by some that John had been raised from the dead,
8 by some that Elijah had appeared, and by others that one of the prophets of old had risen.
9 Herod said, “John I beheaded, but who is this about whom I hear such things?” And he sought to see him.
I think Luke tells us about Herod at this point to let us know that the ministry of Jesus is beginning to gain attention. Now, even Herod has heard of Jesus. News about Him has spread. People are debating His true identity, but by the end of the chapter the disciples will know who Jesus is. He’s not just their rabbi.
10 On their return the apostles told him all that they had done. And he took them and withdrew apart to a town called Bethsaida.
11 When the crowds learned it, they followed him, and he welcomed them and spoke to them of the kingdom of God and cured those who had need of healing.
12 Now the day began to wear away, and the twelve came and said to him, “Send the crowd away to go into the surrounding villages and countryside to find lodging and get provisions, for we are here in a desolate place.”
13 But he said to them, “You give them something to eat.” They said, “We have no more than five loaves and two fish—unless we are to go and buy food for all these people.”
14 For there were about five thousand men. And he said to his disciples, “Have them sit down in groups of about fifty each.”
15 And they did so, and had them all sit down.
16 And taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing over them. Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd.
17 And they all ate and were satisfied. And what was left over was picked up, twelve baskets of broken pieces.
Experts say that about 15 people die in the world every minute from hunger-related illnesses. If that is true, then almost 8 million people a year die from not having enough food. But ironically, there are far more deaths each year linked to people having too much to eat! 1.4 billion people worldwide are considered medically unhealthy because of their eating habits.
I’m saying this to make us intentionally uncomfortable, because understanding this text means we have to understand hunger. But most of us have never felt hungry for any significant period of time. So, we are going to have to imagine that feeling of hunger, that pain in your belly that you can’t satisfy. Because this text is all about hunger.
There is a large crowd following Jesus. The other Gospels tell us that Jesus had been teaching them all day and that he had compassion on them for their hunger.
But there are too many people to feed. The need is too great, and their resources were too small. But that is right where God wants us most of the time. He wants us to feel hungry.
Things taste better when you are hungry, right? If you have ever fasted, either for spiritual reasons or maybe before surgery or a medical test, you had to skip a few meals and when you finally ate it was glorious, right? Even if it was a peanut butter sandwich, it was the best peanut butter sandwich you ever ate!
That is why God wants us to be hungry sometimes. And I don’t just mean physically hungry, but spiritually hungry. He wants us to know that we need Him. This has always been God’s way.
Think of the Israelites receiving manna in the wilderness. The point of the wilderness was to break them and make them dependent on God. God kept 3 million people alive for 40 years by dropping bread out of the sky.
But the people kept grumbling and complaining because they wanted something more. The crowds following Jesus wanted something more. They wanted Jesus to keep performing miracles. They wanted comfortable lives. They didn’t really want Him. But Jesus has compassion on them and feeds them anyway.
And He goes beyond the need! He provides more than enough to satisfy them. In the last verse, Luke stresses that they had eaten their fill. But in meeting this need, Jesus exposes a deeper spiritual need. In the Gospel of John, this connection is plain because Jesus calls Himself the bread of life.
The point being that we are choosing to fill ourselves up with something that will never satisfy us. And God won’t let us be content with that.
I think this is a fairly simple application. We might just ask ourselves – what am I trying to fill my soul with that will not satisfy me? What is it that seems to work for a little while but leaves me feeling empty? What might I be trying to self-medicate with? Is it working? I’m guessing not.
And God won’t let us be satisfied by those things. Isaiah 29:8 says this:
As when a hungry man dreams, and behold, he is eating and awakes with his hunger not satisfied, or as when a thirsty man dreams, and behold, he is drinking and awakes faint, with his thirst not quenched, so shall the multitude of all the nations be that fight against Mount Zion.
But the good news is this: Jesus delights to feed hungry people! All you have to do is come to Him and admit your hunger. He is more than enough!
This is a good time to talk about the Lord’s Supper – and IF I had planned a little better, I would have had this text fall on first Sunday. Later in the ministry of Jesus, he is going to bluntly tell people that if they want the kingdom, they would have to eat His flesh and drink His blood.
A lot of people quit following Jesus after he said that because they misunderstood him, for obvious reasons. And yet, Jesus said it like that on purpose – knowing people would walk away. Because entrance into the kingdom of God means radical separation from the things of this world and radical union with Him!
Jesus meant that we must be united to Him to be saved. We must receive Him and He must become One with us in Spirit. Breaking our dependence on everything else means daily resting in and remembering that Jesus has given Himself for us that we can be satisfied in Him. He has satisfied all the spiritual sickness and death that plagues our lives and one day He will return to eliminate physical hunger and sickness and death once and for all.
But there is one more beautiful thing about this text I want us to see. It’s that Jesus lets us help! He lets us handle the bread!
In all of this, Jesus was concerned with training his disciples. He allows them all to help pass out the food. And then they collect the leftovers. Jesus let them help. He let them handle the bread.
He lets us handle it too. If we are His disciples, we have a role to play. We are not the ones who create something out of nothing. Only God can do that. Only God can save. There is no magic formula for us to use that will get someone else into the kingdom. But Jesus gave us His Word and the message of the Gospel and instructed us to handle it. Speak it. Live it. Use it. Feed others even as we eat with them.
Martin Luther once said that we are all just beggars showing other beggars where to find bread. If you are hungry and someone feeds you and you see that they have an abundance of food and you know that there are other hungry people nearby, what will you do? You will spread the word!
That’s our calling. That’s why Christians exist. We are the ones who get to tell people they are dying of starvation, but they are also sitting in the middle of a grocery store with their eyes closed! To do that we have to understand that we are no different from the people we are trying to reach except for the grace of God.
There is also no reason for us to be stingy, or hold on to the message for ourselves, because Jesus shows us that there is really an abundance of grace. An overflow really. Twelve baskets leftover! It never runs out. Don’t hold on to it.
But something else that we learn from the example of Jesus is that sometimes we have to care about the person’s felt need before we can convince them of their spiritual need. In other words, we should care about the person’s actual hunger.
Very often people need the church to show them the love of Jesus before we tell them about the love of Jesus. This is important. We have been given more than a ministry of Word. It’s also a ministry of Deed – a ministry of action.
And yet, we can never lose sight of the deeper spiritual need. We can provide temporary relief for people, and we should. But we still die. The only thing that leads to eternal relief is the Gospel. We have to give the Gospel or else we they will just be hungry again.
If you are hungry this morning, if any of this is speaking to you, I hope you know that Jesus does care about your circumstances. He sees you. He knows what you are feeling. Is it possible that he wants you to feel hungry, that he has sent you into the wilderness so that you will feel a need and know that you have nothing to satisfy it on your own?
Sharing the Gospel with people, I often see a look – it is a look of stunned disbelief, not excitement. It’s a look of someone searching to figure out what they are supposed to do to get right with God. But the response God wants is not “how can I pay for this bread”. It’s the response of someone starving who just found a feast with a sign that says, “free food”. They dive in face first!
Don’t sit there in skeptical, stunned disbelief. You are hungry for God. Take and eat. Call on the name of Jesus and He will fill your soul.