Every morning I’m re-reading John 6. One of my colleagues at Mountainview (Dan Hettinger) has challenged me to stay with John 6 for 52 consecutive days. So I am.
I believe what God wants to teach me about is how to believe. You can read more about that here.
This morning I returned to the feeding of the 5,000 — in particular, I returned to the clean-up that happened afterwards. We often marvel at how incredible it was that Jesus feed so many people (likely well more than 5,000) with 5 small loaves of bread and 2 small fish. Indeed, it was a miracle.
But have you thought about what was required to simply distribute the food to so many people? Did the disciples “love logistics” the way UPS loves logistics? Was it self-serve? Did the crowd form a peaceful buffet line? Did anyone try to cut in line?
Like many of the miracles of Jesus, we are only given a few details and the rest are left up to the imagination.
In many respects, efficiently distributing food to 5,000 people was a mini-miracle in itself.
While we don’t know exactly how the food got into the hands of the hungry people, we do know what Jesus told his disciples to do after dinner. Personally, I love pre-dinner and dinner the best. After dinner? That’s when you’re tired and the dishes are piled up and you just want to go to bed.
Here’s what Jesus told them to do:
12 When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” 13 So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten. — John 6:12-13
Go bus the tables. Assuming all 12 chipped in, how long would it take to clean up after 5,000 people?
But the line that struck me this morning was this one: “Let nothing be wasted.”
What was Jesus planning on doing with the leftovers? The scriptures don’t give us any clues. We don’t know if he distributed them to the poor and widows or if he kept some for traveling supplies.
Miracles have immediate consequences and ongoing effects.
The 5,000 people “had enough to eat.” That was immediate. They had an immediate need and Jesus met the need with an immediate solution. But the leftovers would serve as a tangible reminder of the power of Jesus. Even more important, the stories the 5,000 would tell (we hope!) would keep the miracle alive for years to come.
How often do we waste a miracle? Our immediate need is met but we fail to pick up the leftovers.
Here is an important point: When Jesus does something good in your life, it is never for you alone. You might be the immediate beneficiary, but you are never to be the sole beneficiary.
When you tell your children how God intervened in a difficult circumstance, you are picking up the leftovers of your miracle and not letting anything be wasted.
When you use part of a year-end bonus to purchase gifts for single moms, you are picking up the leftovers of your miracle and not letting anything be wasted.
When you share your experiences with breast cancer with one just diagnosed, you are picking up the leftovers of your miracle and not letting anything be wasted.
Jesus didn’t need to collect the leftovers because the disciples risked running out of food in the future.
The disciples needed to collect the leftovers because — like you and me — they were prone to forget.
What would it look like if Christ-followers lived with a “let nothing be wasted” mentality? What if we approached every conversation with a “what do I have to share?” mindset? “What has God done for me that fits this situation?”
Don’t think for a minute that sharing the leftovers is the same as giving second best. This isn’t about foraging through the refrigerator to find something about to expire that can be made palatable.
Think of miracle leftovers as extending the story. It’s the life application that comes to you after the immediate need has been met. But for your friend or neighbor, it might very well meet their immediate need.
Don’t let anything be wasted.