Jesus was the best teacher of all time. Yet I believe it wasn’t solely His teaching that attracted crowds to Him, but His miracles. The people who flocked to Jesus were tired of suffering and waiting. They were thirsty for well-being, yearning for abundance, desperate for healing. And they were hungry—often physically as well as spiritually.
In this passage, Jesus’ 12 disciples show compassion for a crowd that has not eaten since daybreak. Their solution is logical and practical: Conclude this time of ministry and send them back to surrounding villages for food and rest. But Jesus’ response shows that meeting physical needs was not outside the realm of His ministry. Ministry didn’t have to end for people to eat; feeding people was part of the ministry.
In the Republic of Congo, where I serve as HOPE Congo’s director of spiritual integration, we aim to follow Jesus’ example in meeting physical as well as spiritual needs. We offer discipleship opportunities like morning devotions, home Bible studies, and prayer days. We also provide basic business training and small business loans that empower men and women to earn a sustainable living and affirm the gifts and talents God has given each of His children. Though ministering to spiritual needs matters eternally, we recognize the legitimacy of physical needs. It is difficult for a hungry crowd to hear the hope of the Gospel!
The method of this miraculous feeding is also striking to me and instructive in our own ministries. Christ could have conjured food from nothing, but instead He welcomes the contributions of others. Following Jesus’ example, we invite the men and women we serve to bring what they have: talents, ideas, small savings. Then we imitate Jesus by presenting to God what we have, using the abilities He has given, and trusting Him for provision and multiplication.
I am grateful to serve a God who looked with compassion on a hungry crowd. He met physical needs in abundance, affirming His power to meet spiritual needs as well. As Jesus’ hands and feet in a broken world, may we—like Him—see the eternal significance in meeting temporal needs.
Creator God, help us to see people not as their parts but a whole. Teach us to meet needs as You would, ministering to both body and soul. May we help in ways that dignify and affirm the image of You in each one of Your creations.
by Brigitte Gitane Souamy Ngangara, HOPE Congo director of spiritual integration