God’s Leftovers

by Rich Dixon on August 16, 2012

I love my good friend Pastor Dick Foth. I’ll explain the photo below.

This photo shows me, Becky, Dick (striped shirt), and best-selling author Mark Batterson at Mark’s National Community Church In Washington, DC on the last day of our recent bike tour.

One of Dick’s many endearing qualities is an ability to pose a question that leaves me scratching my poor bald head for a few months. Sunday’s sermon referred me back to such a question.

Dick knows I like math problems. A while back we were talking over coffee and he tossed out the raw data from the two feeding miracles in Mark’s gospel.

With seven loaves, Jesus fed four thousand people, with seven basketfuls of leftovers. With five loaves He fed five thousand people, with twelve basketfuls left over.

With a twinkle in his eye, Dick asked, “So how many people could Jesus feed, and how many basketfuls would be left over, from one loaf?”

Then he moved on to an important topic. I hate to imagine how many hours I spent scribbling my attempts to discover an answer to Dick’s scriptural story problem. I guess that’s partial payback for thirty-five years of made-up “real-life” word problems imposed on my own students.

Take a moment and read the entire passage: (Mark 8:14-21)

The disciples had forgotten to bring bread, except for one loaf they had with them in the boat. “Be careful,” Jesus warned them. “Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod.”

They discussed this with one another and said, “It is because we have no bread.

Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked them: “Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? And don’t you remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?”

“Twelve,” they replied.

“And when I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?”

They answered, “Seven.”

He said to them, “Do you still not understand?”

The disciples “only” had a single loaf of bread with them—it wasn’t enough. Despite all they’d seen and heard, they still didn’t grasp Jesus’ power, what He could do with that one loaf of bread.

In that months-ago conversation, I completely missed the deeper meaning of Dick’s question. My friend teased me with a math problem to which there’s no answer. But he also posed the spiritual question Jesus implied to His friends:

How many people do you think I can feed with this single loaf, and how much will remain when they’ve had all they need?

Before we judge the disciples too harshly, perhaps we should ask ourselves:

Do you still not understand?

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