The text for our Joshua Generation study today is Matt. 14:13-33. Its companion texts are Mark 6:32-52, Luke 9:10-17 and John 6:5-21. I hope that you will take the time to read all four accounts. There are so many lessons to be gained from the events surrounding the miraculous feeding of the five thousand that I cannot know them all. I would like to look at a few touching our characteristic of cooperation and also a few extra. When God sees fit to include an event in all four accounts of the work of Jesus’ life, that event is surely worth considering deeply.
Jesus had gone by boat to a desert place after hearing about the death of John the Baptist (Mt. 5:12-13; Mk. 6:29-30). Perhaps, it was to grieve and pray himself, but also to give the disciples (who had been disciples of John also) a rest from the constant work and crowds (Mk. 6:31). But a great multitude followed him by traveling around the lake on foot. When he saw them, his compassion for them moved him to spend the day teaching and healing (Mt. 14:14; Mk. 6:34). When the evening came, neither the disciples nor the multitude had eaten. This circumstantial fast occasioned the miracle of Jesus feeding the 5000. It was after this miracle that Jesus knew the people wanted to make him king (Jn. 6:15). These events along with his subsequent ‘walking on the water’ became a pivotal point in the thinking of the disciples that led to the confession “Of a truth, thou art the son of God” (Mt. 14:33) Let’s consider some lessons.
- Cooperation requires leadership. Leadership provides focus and goals. The goal in this case was feeding the people.The disciples cooperated with Jesus because he was their leader. People follow leaders they believe in, even if they have doubt about the plan as these disciples did. One of the great omissions among God’s people is the growing and training of leaders. Congregations are dying because of lack of leadership. When we find ourselves diminishing in a community that is populating, it is usually a leadership problem. We need leadership if we are to cooperate with each other and with God.
- Cooperation requires leadership to have, not only a goal, but a plan. It is not sufficient to say, Let’s grow, or, let’s increase our attendance, or, let’s convert 30 people this year. There must be a plan. Even the disciples knew a plan for feeding the 5000 was needed, if nothing more than sending the people into the surrounding cities to get food. Jesus had a plan.
- Cooperation requires organization. Even two men handling one of the old two man saws to cut a tree needed organization. They could not both pull at the same time or the tree would never be cut. Jesus gave the disciples the responsibility to sit the 5000 down in groups of 50 which they did and put two groups in proximity to one another for groups of 100. If people do not know what to do to help a particular project, they cannot cooperate. It takes a plan that coordinates the ability and energy of each member of the group.
- Cooperation requires division of labor. Not everyone can do everything. Not everyone can do the same thing. Once a goal is conceived and a plan is devised, people (our most important resource) must be fitted into the plan. Jesus used the disciples as organizers and servers. No doubt, others helped within the fifties to pass the food and keep order.
If we can learn these points alone of points, we will be far ahead in carrying out God’s will. Together we are more.