How to turn 5 into 5,000

Published 11:03 am Saturday, November 9, 2013

by Brandon Robbins

Jesus had a problem: crowds.

It seemed that no matter where he went, people were always following him. And when he would arrive, they were waiting for him.

Now at first glance, this might not seem like a problem. For someone trying to change the world with his message, you would assume Jesus would desire an audience. And he did. But sometimes, things would get a little out of hand.

For instance, one time, Jesus was teaching a large crowd throughout the day. But as evening approached, the crowd showed no signs of leaving. This meant that Jesus and his disciples were stuck. And worse yet, it was dinnertime.

Eventually, the question arose among Jesus’ disciples, “What should we do with all of these people?” And do you know how Jesus responded? He said, “Feed them.”

Now the Bible tells us that there were roughly 5,000 men in this crowd, not including women and children. That’s a lot of mouths to feed! So, the disciples respond to Jesus, “How do you expect us to do that? It would take us almost eight months’ wages to provide bread for all of these people!”

Jesus, however, is not shaken by such mathematical impossibilities. Instead, he calls upon his disciples to bring him all of the food they have. In the end, they discover that they have five loaves of bread and two fish. So Jesus takes the food, blesses it, and then begins to distribute it.

Amazingly, this small basket of food begins to spread throughout the crowd. People begin tearing off pieces of bread and chunks of fish. But no matter how much they consume, there is still more to share.

After everyone has had their fill, leftover food is collected from the crowd. What began as a basket of five loaves and two fish dispersed throughout the crowd returns as 12 baskets full of food. Something truly amazing has happened in this moment!

For most of us, we believe that things in our lives work proportionally. If we spend $10 on food, then we will get $10 worth of food to eat. If we commit two hours to a project at home, we’ll see two hours worth of results. If we are kind to someone, then they will be kind to us in return. These are proportional results.

But with Jesus, things work differently. When we follow Jesus, we don’t just see proportional results. We see exponential results!

When Jesus sent out five loaves and two fish, it didn’t feed five to seven people; it fed five to 7,000 people! It had an exponential result. And so can we!

When we follow Jesus’ teaching to feed the hungry through food ministries, we don’t just see a few lives changed. We see dozens of lives changed.

When we spend a few minutes with a sick person in the hospital or an elderly person who can’t leave their home, we don’t just bring them joy for a few minutes. We can end up brightening their entire week.

When we give a tithe – 10 percent of our income – to our church, we don’t just see 10 percent worth of results. We see new ministries started, people baptized, children beginning to follow Jesus. God blesses us with a return far greater than the 10 percent we invested (sometimes financially, but certainly spiritually).

Few other things in the world can promise such a profound and unexplainable impact as the kind we can have when we follow Jesus. That’s why, this Sunday, we are beginning a series that will go through the month of November called “Exponential.” Each week, we’ll be taking a look at how following Jesus can have an exponential impact not only in our lives, but in the lives of others.

At the end of our lives, we all want to look back and feel that our lives meant something, that we made a difference. And there is no greater effect we can have on this world than the one we can make by following Jesus. So may you study the teachings of Jesus. May you work each day to live them out in your life. And may you watch as God uses you to have an exponential impact upon this world.

BRANDON ROBBINS is the pastor of Courtland United Methodist Church. He can be contacted at 653-2240 or