“Stone Soup,” an old tale with many versions, tells of a starving man who comes to a village, but no one there can spare a crumb of food for him. He puts a stone and water in a pot over a fire. Intrigued, the villagers watch him as he begins to stir his “soup.” Eventually, one brings a couple of potatoes to add to the mix; another has a few carrots. One person adds an onion, another a handful of barley. A farmer donates some milk. Eventually, the “stone soup” becomes a tasty chowder.
That tale illustrates the value of sharing, but it also reminds us to bring what we have, even when it seems to be insignificant. In John 6:1–14 we read of a boy who appears to be the only person in a huge crowd who thought about bringing some food. Christ’s disciples had little use for the boy’s sparse lunch of five loaves and two fishes. But when it was surrendered, Jesus increased it and fed thousands of hungry people!
I once heard someone say, “You don’t have to feed the five thousand. You just have to bring your loaves and fishes.” Just as Jesus took one person’s meal and multiplied it far beyond anyone’s expectations or imagination (v. 11), He’ll accept our surrendered efforts, talents, and service. He just wants us to be willing to bring what we have to Him.
The feeding of the 5,000 is the only miracle besides Jesus’ resurrection that’s reported in all four gospels (Matthew 14:13–21; Mark 6:32–44; Luke 9:10–17; John 6:5–14). Quantitatively, this is the biggest miracle Jesus performed, with potentially more than 20,000 beneficiaries. “The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children” (Matthew 14:21). Mark 6:35–37 tells us this was a “remote place,” and the disciples wanted to send the people away so they could get food for themselves. But Jesus ordered His disciples to feed them. He challenged both their faith—they didn’t have the means or resources—and their compassion. Seeing the needs of others, Jesus wanted them to make these needs their responsibility as well.