“You give them something to eat”
“The disciples came to him and said, ‘This is a desolate place, and the hour is now late. Send them away . . . .’ But he answered them, ‘You give them something to eat.’” Mark 6:35-37
The disciples’ observation was accurate, but not profound. It really was a desolate place, and the hour really was late. And the only path forward they could see was, “Send them away.” But Jesus was there. Standing right there in plain view. Conversing with them. But the disciples have already reached this brilliant conclusion: It can’t be done. I’m sure Jesus needed to be told that.
So he turned the tables on them: “You give them something to eat.” The word you is emphatic in the Greek text. And he really meant it. The disciples really were about to feed all those people, by his power. He told the disciples to do the impossible, because they were about to do the impossible. Every command of Jesus comes with the power of Jesus. But he does demand our involvement: “You give them something to eat.”
Without him, we can’t. Without us, he won’t. Spurgeon put it that way. Another way of saying it is, “The Lord is with you, while you are with him” (2 Chronicles 15:2). When we are wholehearted toward him, the fullness of his Spirit moves toward us. Then we can feed the people. His fullness through us, with new passion, new wisdom, new sacrifice, new ideas, new systems, creative new designs that speak into people’s needs today rather than people’s needs yesterday. We’re not sitting around and waiting for him to do it for us. Nor are we presuming to do his work in our own strength. Nor are we limited to old patterns and assumptions that don’t work any more. But with his power and wisdom entering afresh into our wholehearted efforts today, the people will be fed.
Preaching at Lake Avenue Church, Pasadena, on 11 May 1975, my dad helped us think out beyond ourselves:
“Jesus wants to express his fullness through you. Always begin your thinking and your planning and your deciding from the standpoint of Jesus’ fullness in your life. Always begin with the plenty of God. Face life with all you have in Christ. Never face life from the standpoint of all the problems and all the needs and all the difficulties. Always begin with your standing in Christ. You have rivers of living water, Christ in you, fullness of grace and truth. That’s what Jesus gives us!”