One of the most well-known stories from the life of Jesus—and the only miracle recorded by all four Gospels—is when He miraculously fed thousands. Jesus was popular because people loved His teaching and the way He put the religious leaders in their place. Oh, and there’s the miracles. Seeing Jesus heal your son or grandmother was something you just didn’t keep to yourself. Word spread about this itinerant rabbi who healed.

But Jesus was about to do something that really made Him popular. He fed them.

Even when Jesus sought time to be alone, the crowds still found him. What was Jesus to do? He “had compassion on them” (Matt. 14:14), so He got to work healing. On this one occasion, this was not your typical crowd with Jesus. Five thousand people were there that day. (I guess, like today, there’s that one guy who stands in the back and counts heads.)

Jesus knew hunger would soon be an issue. He challenged the disciples to feed them, and they responded with a meager “five loaves and two fish” (v. 17). And with that small offering, Jesus fed everyone. And when people were stuffed, there were leftovers.

This only fueled Jesus’s popularity. You may not need healing. You may not be interested in hearing another rabbi talk. But this guy offered free meals—an all-you-eat buffet, so why wouldn’t you want to be there? It’s no surprise what happened next. The next day rolls around, and they show up for another meal. In Jesus, they saw Happy Meals for life.

Powerful story, but I’d like to point to one individual in this story. Only John mentioned him, but he’s the only one who apparently had enough sense to pack a lunch.

“One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, ‘There’s a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish ​— ​but what are they for so many? (John 6:8-9).

I’d love to know the circumstances that made this kid give up his lunch.

  • Was this kid not excited about the lunch his mother packed—”Gee, Mom! Fish again?”—and hoping to swap lunches with someone.
  • Was he intimidated by the big burly fisherman standing over him asking what he had to eat?
  • Was he moved by Jesus’s words and wanted Jesus to eat with him?
  • Was he one of the many who had just been healed and gave his lunch as an expression of thanks?

Of course, we don’t know. But we do know this—and I think this is significant—the boy gave up his lunch.

Ever known a boy to give his food away? Five barley loaves and two fish may sound like a lot. I’m not even sure a growing teenager could scarf down five loaves of bread and two bass, but in their culture, this was a small, pitiful lunch. Barley bread was the bread of poor people, and the fish were small fish. (The Greek emphasizes the word small.) This was a poor kid with not much to eat, but he willingly gave it away. He didn’t know what Jesus was going to do with it, but he gave it anyway.

We are called to be generous (2 Cor. 9:6-7). For most of us, we’d be generous if we had more to be generous with. But generosity is not a matter of giving out of our surplus but giving out of a desire to help … giving out of love for Jesus … giving just because.

This kid did more than give generously. He gave sacrificially. His measly small lunch was all he had to give but look at what Jesus did with it!

Jesus still works miracles. What grand and glorious things could He do with what you give? It may be money in the offering plate, clothes for a person in need, money for someone’s utility bill, or even five loaves and two fish, but trust God to work through what You give.

As He uses you to minister to others, God in turn ministers to you. Keep in mind this young boy may have given up his lunch, but he feasted and stuffed himself silly like everyone else that day.

“And my God will supply all your needs according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:19).

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