‘Bring them here to me’
The account of how Jesus fed a crowd of ‘five thousand men, besides women and children,’ is well known (eg Matthew 14.13-21).
Jesus has been teaching the crowd and healing the sick all day, and it grows late (v15). The disciples have had enough, they’re tired, and they want some time alone with their Rabbi – so they tell Jesus to send the crowds away to get some food.
Jesus responds by saying, ‘They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat’ (v16).
Of course the disciples can’t – they have only a small amount of food, not even enough for five, let alone five thousand (v17).
And so Jesus says, ‘Bring them here to me’ (v18).
I suppose I have often read those words and heard a tone of exasperation, as if Jesus is frustrated yet again by the disciples’ lack of faith and understanding.
But this morning as I read those words I heard words of kindness, and an important lesson.
The disciples didn’t have enough, but all they needed to do was bring the little they had to Jesus; again, I have usually understood ‘Bring them here to me’ as referring to the loaves and the fish.
But today I read those words as referring also to the crowd. Jesus told the disciples to feed them, knowing full well they couldn’t – he wanted them to learn that in the kingdom they can’t do things by themselves, they are not and never will be enough to do the impossible task of feeding God’s people.
Instead, Jesus says, ‘Bring them to me. Bring the people to me, bring whatever you have to me, and I will do the feeding.’
In other words, Jesus says,
My job is the feeding; your job is the bringing.
It seems to me that is the work of the Christian minister. We strive and strive to be enough, but we can never be enough, because leading God’s people and feeding them is an impossible task – for us.
But Jesus never intended the disciples to feed the thousands – he wanted them to recognise the impossible task and instead of saying, ‘We can’t!’ or killing themselves trying, he wanted them to say, ‘Here are the people, here’s all we have – please feed us too while you’re at it.’
You see, the thing is when we bring people to Jesus, who is also there? We are.
‘Bring them to me,’ becomes, ‘Come to me.’