During those days another large crowd gathered. Since they had nothing to eat, Jesus called his disciples to him and said, 2 “I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. 3 If I send them home hungry, they will collapse on the way, because some of them have come a long distance.”
Something strikes me about the attitude of the Pharisees and the disciples. They are opposite sides of the same coin.
4 His disciples answered, “But where in this remote place can anyone get enough bread to feed them?”
5 “How many loaves do you have?” Jesus asked.
“Seven,” they replied.
6 He told the crowd to sit down on the ground. When he had taken the seven loaves and given thanks, he broke them and gave them to his disciples to distribute to the people, and they did so. 7 They had a few small fish as well; he gave thanks for them also and told the disciples to distribute them. 8 The people ate and were satisfied. Afterward the disciples picked up seven basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. 9 About four thousand were present. After he had sent them away, 10 he got into the boat with his disciples and went to the region of Dalmanutha.
11 The Pharisees came and began to question Jesus. To test him, they asked him for a sign from heaven. 12 He sighed deeply and said, “Why does this generation ask for a sign? Truly I tell you, no sign will be given to it.” 13 Then he left them, got back into the boat and crossed to the other side.
14 The disciples had forgotten to bring bread, except for one loaf they had with them in the boat. 15 “Be careful,” Jesus warned them. “Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod.”
16 They discussed this with one another and said, “It is because we have no bread.”
17 Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked them: “Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened? 18 Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? And don’t you remember? 19 When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?”
“Twelve,” they replied.
20 “And when I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?”
They answered, “Seven.”
21 He said to them, “Do you still not understand?”
Once again Jesus takes compassion on the crowd. He takes action and meets their physical needs when no one else is going to. The disciples have seen Jesus feed 5000 and now there is another huge crowd and they limit God. Maybe they are testing Him, to see if He can do it again. After all they have seen and done with Him, they still don’t get it.
Enter the Pharisees. In they walk, demanding a sign. They want to know if He is legit. They want Him to walk to the beat of their drums. They want Him to prove Himself before they can accept Him. Notice, Jesus doesn’t ask the crowd He feeds to have faith or to prove themselves. He doesn’t check their history or their habits before He feeds them.
Something strikes me about the attitude of the Pharisees and the disciples. They are opposite sides of the same coin. The Pharisees had the attitude, “I’m faithful, so I demand a sign. God show me, I deserve it.” They thought they knew God, in fact, had a monopoly on Him. They focus on the spiritual and demand a miracle. Jesus responds by warning against hypocrisy. He doesn’t give them the sign they ask for but walks away.
The disciples on the other hand are focusing on the physical. They have just collected seven baskets of bread and yet don’t have any bread. They expect God to provide wherever they are. They don’t get it. They think Jesus is talking about physical bread and miss the criticism of the Pharisees that would help their spiritual discernment.
How often am I a disciple or a Pharisee? Although I know God, I don’t always trust Him to provide. I ask Him for signs, to prove that I should be doing what I know I should. I test Him because my faith is weak and I often miss opportunities that He provides me with to reach other people. I don’t help those in need physically or don’t feel ready to give anyone anything because my own spiritual walk needs to “be fixed” first. While I focus on the spiritual, some miss out in the physical.
On the other hand, the disciples are fixated on the bread. How often do I strive to get up early for work, rush around doing chores, spending time to socialise and complain my life is so busy that I don’t have time for God. I focus and fixate on the physical—my work, my wife, my appetites—and forget what God has done for me. If we are too focused on the physical, we don’t understand the spiritual. If we are so focused on the spiritual, sometimes we miss the physical needs that are in front of us. God wants us to focus on both the physical and the spiritual, for ourselves and others.