They glanced around at each other awkwardly, avoiding eye contact with him. A few mumbles could be heard, but the wind drowned them out quickly and he didn't seem to notice. Finally, Philip broke the silence.
"I don't want to be the wet blanket or anything, but we're pretty much in the middle of nowhere...and there are a lot of people. There's nowhere to find enough food - not even close. Why don't we just send them home and they can buy bread on the way?"
He looked disappointed as he listened to his friend talk. "They've already followed us for three days. They won't make it back. They'd collapse before they ever made it home."
There were a number of frustrated sighs let out at this, but Philip wasn't going to argue any more.
"How many loaves do you have?" he asked.
"Seven," they replied with the kind of sarcasm that really meant, "Seven...do you want us to break them into 4,000 pieces?"
He climbed up onto a rock and called to the crowd to sit down. He raised his eyes to heaven and thanked God for the seven loaves and few small fish they were able to scrounge together, then he handed them to his friends and asked them to pass them out to the starving crowd.
The people ate and were satisfied.
After he had fed them he sent all the people away and asked his friends to help him clean up the mess. They went around in groups of two carrying a basket between them and picking up the broken pieces of food that were strewn on the ground.
They couldn't believe their eyes - each group had collected a whole basketful - James and John had two!
Then Thomas piped up, "Didn't he just do this last week?"
My husband gave a sermon on this passage, and his tag line that he repeated throughout was, "God loves to meet your needs." Christ's words in Mark 8 begin with "I have compassion on these people," and that compassion - not their need to see a miracle - drove him to provide for their needs. He wanted to take care of them. He wanted to provide for them. He loved to meet their needs.
Both times that Jesus fed the large crowds he asked his disciples what they have, what they were able to pull together. They searched all around and gave him everything they found to see what he would do with them, how he would use them to meet the need.
Seven loaves of bread cannot feed 4,000 men. A few small fish cannot feed a crowd of women and children. That meal was completely insufficient for them...until it was in the hands of Christ. When the meagre spread was received with gratitude by the Son of the Living God he turned it into a feast that not only satisfied the need, but gave them a souvenir of God's faithfulness to take home with them.
We don't have much. Sometimes it looks like what we have is completely insufficient for our needs. We come to God with nothing but a couple of humble paychecks, two cars, our health, a little bit of free time, and a whole list of needs. By all accounts it's not enough, but that's before it touches the hands of Christ.
When we give our resources over to him - not hiding the fish in our pockets, and not saying our bread will never be enough - but hand them over to him wholly, he loves to meet our needs. He takes compassion on us, and blows us away with what he can produce.
But sometimes it's hard to remember that when all you're holding is seven loaves of bread and a few small fish.
But I guess I should trust him by now. Didn't I just see him do this last week?