Working with Jesus for “Impossible” Outcomes

Working with Jesus for “Impossible” Outcomes

Compassionate leader

When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things. By this time it was late in the day, so his disciples came to him. “This is a remote place,” they said, “and it’s already very late. Send the people away so that they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.”

But he answered, “You give them something to eat.” They said to him, “That would take more than half a year’s wages! Are we to go and spend that much on bread and give it to them to eat?” “How many loaves do you have?” he asked. “Go and see.” When they found out, they said, “Five—and two fish.”

Then Jesus directed them to have all the people sit down in groups on the green grass. So they sat down in groups of hundreds and fifties. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to his disciples to distribute to the people. He also divided the two fish among them all. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces of bread and fish. The number of the men who had eaten was five thousand. (Mark 6: 34-44)

In the above passage, Jesus observes a problem or need, “they were like sheep without a shepherd.” One of the qualities of a great leader is the ability to recognize a problem or need.

Upon recognizing the problem, Jesus responded with compassion. It is the quality of a leader’s response to the need that sets a great leader apart from ordinary leaders. A compassionate leader is one who takes the opportunity to minister to those who are in need but are unable to help themselves. Jesus sets an example here for His disciples.

Upon recognizing the problem, Jesus responded with compassion.

The disciples follow Jesus’ lead

Later in the passage, the disciples recognized that it was time for a meal for the thousands of hungry people, who had come to hear Jesus, and so the disciples came to Jesus with a practical solution. The disciples demonstrated leadership when they noticed a need and responded with a solution too.

We notice Jesus proposed a different solution to the disciples; instead of sending the crowd away to fetch their food from the towns nearby, which was the practical solution proposed by His disciples, Jesus instructed His disciples to feed the crowd right then and there! This baffled the disciples. The disciples’ response to Jesus may be paraphrased, “You are asking us to do the impossible!”

In response, Jesus directed His disciples to find out how many loaves of bread were available, as the first step. The disciples must have wondered, “why is the Lord asking us to find out how many loaves of bread are available? A few loaves of bread cannot feed thousands!” Yet, they followed His instruction.

Next, Jesus directed His team of disciples to seat thousands of people on the grass in preparation for a meal.  Although, the disciples saw no evidence of enough food to distribute, we can assume they turned their attention to seating thousands of people to receive food and eat in an orderly manner without confusion and disorderliness.

Jesus accepted the few loaves of bread and fish brought to Him by His disciples, prayed and blessed the food, and gave it to His disciples to distribute. The task of distributing food to 5000 men plus thousands of women and children must have been an enormous task for the disciples, but, it appears, they successfully completed their task.

The disciples carried out the instructions of Jesus Christ that included: 1) locating and bringing a few loaves of bread and a few fish to Jesus Christ to bless, 2) seating thousands of men, women and children on the grass, 3) distributing food to thousands in an orderly manner, and 4) gathering of the leftover food.

Lessons for Christian leaders

The Bible records many spontaneous miracles of Jesus Christ (walking on water, etc.), or miracles in response to a plea from a suffering individual (blind, sick, etc.) or a family member. In contrast, in the above case, although the disciples had a practical solution for the problem/need, Jesus overruled their practical solution with a spontaneous miracle.

The disciples abandoned their own practical solution to work with Jesus on, what they thought was an “impossible” solution—feeding the thousands then and there. In the process, the disciples participated in an extraordinary, miraculous outcome. They witnessed the “impossible” become “possible.”

There is a lesson here for Christian leaders with a heart to serve others with compassion: They may participate in great outcomes, even miraculous ones by working with Jesus, when the “impossible” may become “possible.”

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Paul Swamidass

Paul Swamidass, Ph.D. is Professor Emeritus, Harbert College of Business, Auburn University, Auburn, AL, USA. INTEREST: Leadership training for leaders of Christian organizations. He has published some articles on Christian leadership and contributed to some Christian-leadership training in India in partnership with The Kerusso Institute for Global Leaders

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