Tag Archive for: feeding 5000

Each of us has our own sense of what makes a good leader. Our understanding of leadership is informed mostly by what we have seen or experienced. So, there are many ways to define, think about, and approach leadership. 

Some say a leader is one who influences and advances change for a more equitable world. Others say that a leader is anyone who takes responsibility for finding the potential in people and processes and has the courage to develop that potential (Brené Brown). Regardless of your definition, your belief about leadership informs what you think about and practice as a leader. Who you are is how you lead. 

Loving Others

Mother Teresa said, “At the end of life we will not be judged by how many diplomas we have received, how much money we have made, how many great things we have done. We will be judged by ‘I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat, I was naked, and you clothed me. I was homeless, and you took me in.’” 

As a Christ-centered leader, regardless of your understanding, at the end of life you will not be judged by the positions you have held or how high you made it in the hierarchy of the church or organization. You will be judged by the love you have expressed, the relationships you have developed, and the community you have nourished. 

Luke, in his good news, gives us a hint of what leading looks like in the community. Let us use our practice of “Read, Reflect, Respond, and Return” as a pattern for examining leadership in the community. This is a story of the Lord’s Supper and feeding 5000 people.     

Read Luke 9:12-17 

12 When the day was almost over, the Twelve came to him and said, “Send the crowd away so that they can go to the nearby villages and countryside and find lodging and food, because we are in a deserted place.” 13 He replied, “You give them something to eat.” But they said, “We have no more than five loaves of bread and two fish—unless we go and buy food for all these people.” 14 (They said this because about five thousand men were present.) Jesus said to his disciples, “Seat them in groups of about fifty.” 15 They did so, and everyone was seated. 16 He took the five loaves and the two fish, looked up to heaven, blessed them, and broke them and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd. 17 Everyone ate until they were full, and the disciples filled twelve baskets with the leftovers. 


In the early Church, there was no distinction between the fellowship meal, called the Love feast, and the Lord’s supper. In fact, there was a time when the Lord’s supper was called the Love Feast.  People came and shared their food with the church.  At that time, you couldn’t tell who brought food and who didn’t because all the people gave and ate together. The Love Feast and Lord’s Supper were one and the same. So, from the beginning, eating together and Holy Communion had the same respect. 

In this story, when the people are hungry, Jesus takes bread and fish, blesses them, breaks them, and gives them.  These are the main acts of Holy Communion. Jesus put prayer and action together. 

The crowd has been with Jesus all day.  It is now late, and the people are hungry. The disciples have a humanitarian concern for the hungry and the homeless. They want to do what is humanly possible to assist the people. So, they suggest it is better to dismiss the crowd. “Send the crowd away so that they can go to the nearby villages and countryside and find lodging and food…” 

Abundance or Scarcity? 

They are well-intentioned in their care for the people. When they see people tired and hungry, they are concerned. It is out of their concern that they ask Jesus to send the people home.  But Jesus sees the situation differently. He responds, “You give them something to eat.”  

The disciples reply out of scarcity, “We have no more than five loaves of bread and two fish—unless we go and buy food for all these people.” They said this because about five thousand men were present and they are thinking of what they don’t have. 

Jesus responds out of what they do have. He instructs them to seat the people in groups of fifty. When the people are seated, Jesus takes the five loaves of bread and the two fish, looks up to heaven, blesses them, breaks them, and gives them to the disciples to serve to the crowd. 

“You give them something to eat.” 

As Jesus takes, blesses, breaks, and gives, he includes the disciples in the giving. As he prays, he includes his followers in the action. Throughout The Acts of the Apostles, God’s concern for the hungry is implemented by the acts of the followers of Jesus. 

The number “five thousand” shows how great the miracle is. The term “men” represents a picture in which only adult males would leave home without provisions for an extended time in order to hear Jesus.  In Matthew, the words “besides women and children,” states it in an exclusive sense in order to enhance the miracle. 

“In groups of fifty” reflects the organization of Israel during the exodus and wilderness period, the “wandering people of God” on their way to the promised land. Luke portrays the life of both Jesus and the church as a journey and refers to the saving work of Jesus as “exodus.” 

A Lord’s Supper Story

The words “took”, “blessed”, “broke”, and “gave” reflect the liturgical formula used in holy communion. They reflect the language of the liturgy of the Lord’s Table.  The feeding of the 5000 is told as a Lord’s Supper story.                                     

Jesus took and blessed the loaves and fish.  Early in the Christian movement, fish became the symbol of the Christian faith. Fish says who we are and what we believe.  Bread became the symbol of the body of Jesus. So, Jesus takes, blesses, breaks, and gives, he includes the disciples in the giving. Jesus put prayer and action together.                       

The feeding of the 5000 is a Lord’s Supper story.  The prophet Isaiah wrote, “True expression of one’s love for God is the sharing of one’s bread with the poor.”

Feeding is a Sacred Act

Could it be that feeding the hungry in the sight of God is as sacred as Holy Communion?  

Is there a connection between the Lord’s Supper and our engagement in the community? Is there a sacredness in loving, feeding, clothing, and housing people? 

For Luke, the church’s mission of feeding the hungry is a continuation of Jesus’ ministry and an anticipation of the kingdom of God for which we pray, “…Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven…” 

Putting prayer and action together is a hint of what it means to be a leader in the community, whether it be the church or geographic location. When you pray and respond in acts of love, you are being who you were created to be. Who you are is how you lead. 


I find it interesting that the feeding of the 5000 in Luke’s gospel is told as a Lord’s Supper story. Luke is making a connection between Holy Communion and engagement in the community. Just as taking the bread and cup is done in remembrance of Jesus, your ministry in the community is done in remembrance of Jesus. Your ministry in the community is just as sacred as taking the bread and cup. 

Holy Communion represents the greatest expression of God’s love for God’s people. Your leadership in the community is an expression of that same love. 

Community Engagement as Sacred Work

Most people, including church people, do not see community engagement as sacred work. Why? Because their understanding of leadership is informed mostly by what they have seen or experienced. Most people have not experienced engagement in the community as an expression of God’s love. 

Community engagement is seen as active participation in the community and as being invested in what happens in the community. It includes direct service, community organizing, and social responsibility. Too often these actions of engagement are not seen as expressions of God’s love. 

As a Christ-centered leader, you have the opportunity to lead out of the core of who you are, a child of God, loved by God, and sent out to love others as God has loved you. Within the church community, God’s love is expressed in and through the sacrament of Holy Communion. In the larger community, God’s love is expressed in and through acts of love, care, and compassion. Just the bread and fish were woven into the feeding the 5000, God’s expression of love is woven into the fabric of service, organizing, and responsibility through you. 

True Community 

People are important to God and people make up communities. It is in community that people experience love and belonging. It is in participating in a community that attitudes, values, and goals are established to enjoy and fulfilling life. 

A true community does not treat people differently because of gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or background. People are cared for and belong because the expression of God’s love is as sacred in the community as Holy Communion. 

What could happen if you held loving your neighbor and caring for your community as sacred as receiving the body and blood of Jesus?  Who you are is how you lead. 


Give God thanks for the people you met today. Where did you experience God’s love? With whom did you share God’s love? How did you experience the sacredness of Holy Communion? How did you interact with others? Did you hold them in the sacredness of God’s love? Who is helping you grow as a leader? What will you do differently tomorrow? Ask God to give you the faith to be the leader God has created you to be.

Leadership is stressful even in the best of times. When you are leading through a time of crisis, sometimes the stress feels unmanageable. Learning to cope with stress is one of life’s most important lessons. Learning to lead in the midst of stress is a mark of a courageous leader. So, how are you coping with stress these days? How are you facing the difficulties of leading?

Acknowledgment or Denial?

My assumption is you are doing one of two things. You are either avoiding the stress by denying it or facing the stress by acknowledging it. You are either escaping it by numbing yourself or you are coping with it by finding a way through it. You are either blaming others for it or you are dealing with it responsibly, learning about yourself and learning how to lead in the midst of it.

Feeding the 5000

One of the most popular stories in the bible gives us insight into coping with stress. It is the story of the feeding of the 5000. When we read the story from Mark’s perspective, we gain insight into coping with the difficulties that come with leadership.

The disciples have just returned from a mission trip, and they are wanting to tell Jesus about their experiences. But there are so many people coming and going that the disciples don’t have time for themselves. Not even time to eat. So, Jesus says to them, “Let’s go off to a place by ourselves. You can rest while you report on your mission encounter.”

They get in their boats to cross the Sea of Galilee to a place less populated, a deserted place. When the people see the disciples leaving, they run ahead to meet them at their destination. When Jesus and the disciples arrive, they are met with the crowd they were trying to leave on the other side of the lake.

The Response

Jesus, out of deep compassion, rearranges his plans and works with the people all day. But his followers are not as flexible or as generous. By late afternoon they are tired and irritable. They realize that the people are hungry and could soon get hostile if something isn’t done to help them. Out of concern for the people, the disciples want to send them away to get their own food and provisions. They pull Jesus aside, point out the difficulty, and suggest that he disperse the people quickly before things get out of hand. It seems logical based upon what they perceive. A problem situation, full of stress and perceived danger.

So, how does Jesus cope with the situation?

Jesus Faces the Situation

First, Jesus decides to face the situation openly. He chooses not to escape or to avoid by rationalizing the situation. When the disciples want to send people away, Jesus responds out of integrity and compassion. He does not see people as a nuisance, so the situation becomes an opportunity to be who he was created to be.

Jesus Surveys his Resoures 

Second, Jesus surveys his resources. He chooses to find out what he has in hand to meet the need of the situation. Although it is not much, it is what he has. In their hurry to escape the problem, by sending the people away, the disciples do not consider what they have going for them. Even though it is not much, they are amazed to discover that there is some food available in the group.

Jesus Uses Available Resources to Address the Need 

Third, Jesus takes the resources and begins the task of meeting the need of the situation. He chooses to do the best he can with what he has. What seems impossible to the disciples, as they look at the problem, becomes a possibility through the courage and decisiveness of Jesus. He is not immobilized by the need or the lack of resources. He knows that nothing can begin until the first step is taken. So, he acts on the basis of what he has. His action gathers strength and turns an unsolvable problem into a success.

Untapped Potential

Now, it is obvious that there is a radical difference between the way Jesus coped with the difficulty and the way you and I usually go about dealing with reality. But the difference is not so much about lack of capacity as it is unused potential.

When you are tired and irritable, you become short-sighted and reduce your field of vision. Too often, in the face of problems or in the midst of difficulties, you don’t always see the possibilities. Instead of utilizing what God has already placed in your midst, you seek a way out either by denying the difficulty or by avoiding the situation.

The reality is, there are always “five loaves and two fish” in every problem. And when you don’t see the possibilities or recognize the resources at hand, you waver, hesitate, and become immobilized. There is nothing that intensifies stress more than inactivity. The longer you standstill in the face of a problem, the more stress you create. On the other hand, the decision to act, no matter how useless it may seem, often breaks the spell and turns the tide. The ability to start acting, even when it seems small and insignificant is key in facing difficulties and solving the problem.

Problem Solving

Life is, and always will be, a process of problem-solving. Jesus came to terms with that fact. He seems to have laid aside all the fantasies of a place where there is no conflict or difficulty. He accepted the fact that such a place does not exist for us humans. This realistic outlook enabled him to focus all his energies on the real issues of life rather than trying to escape them by seeking “the way things used to be” or by longing for things to get back to “normal.”

Posture of Gratitude

How was Jesus able to cope? The secret is found in a posture of gratitude. In facing a hungry crowd when his followers were wringing their hands, Jesus calmly looked up to heaven and gave thanks to God. I don’t think this act pertained only to five loaves and two fish. It included not only that event, but life as it was given to Jesus day by day.

God is Good

Jesus learned the deepest secret there is to learn. The secret? God is good. And God, who gives us life, also loves us, is for us, and is working for our good. Out of that realization came the ability to receive the events of life with gratitude, not resentment. He learned to regard the events and encounters in his life as expressions of love rather than acts of hostility. He was able to see the events as God’s way of dealing positively with humanity.

It is amazing the difference such a posture of gratitude can make in the way we cope with difficulty. If we really begin to look at the things that happen to us as good gifts from God, even the problems take on a different form. Instead of seeing them as hopeless obstacles to our happiness, we come to see them as the challenges that give life its meaning and hope. Problems cease to be overwhelming when we see them as something to be received with gratitude.

Posture of Thanksgiving

The posture of thanksgiving opens our eyes to the resources that are present. Even though the resources might be hidden by the problem, our eyes are opened and we no longer say, “We don’t have enough” or “There is nothing here we can use.” No matter how deep the crisis, God has provided “five loaves and twelve fish” to meet the need. Gratitude opens our eyes to what we already have going for us.

Gratitude encourages us to begin with what we have and to expect more as we move forward. After all, what we have at the beginning has been given by a gracious God. Can’t we expect God to give even more to complete the task? This is what Jesus did. He began to act out in a profound sense of gratitude. His trust and action gathered up strength from earth and heaven until a multitude was fed.

Coping with Reality

So, how are you coping with stress these days? How are you facing the difficulties of leading? There are a thousand unhealthy ways of coping, like avoiding or escaping being two. 

But there is at least one healthy way of coping. It is the way Jesus modeled for us on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. There in the shadow of great difficulty, he faced the problem. He laid hold of the resources already present, and he began to act in terms of what he had.

The truth is you can do the same. It is possible for you to lead through the stress and difficulties you face today. It is as simple and profound as this: let Jesus show you God by letting him reconcile you to the fact that God, who gives life, is good. Let him teach you to receive all of life in gratitude. When this becomes not only your perspective but your way of living, the courage to cope will rise from the depths of your being. Your problems will become the shape of a challenge. Your difficulties will be seen as the bearers of hidden resources. And the crisis will become nothing more than the moment to begin.

Your Next Step

This week, try coping with your stress by giving God thanks for your anxiety. Ask God to open your eyes to the resources present in the situation. And then, by God’s grace, take your first step toward addressing the difficulty. Again, try coping with your stress by giving God thanks in the midst of what seems impossible to overcome. It was good enough for Jesus. Shouldn’t it be good enough for you?

Remember, who you are is how you lead!