Broken to be Given

Why is the feeding of the 5000 the only miracle recorded by all four gospels?

E. L. MINCHIN, Field Secretary, General Conference

There is only one mir­acle that has been re­corded by all four NT evangelists, and that is the feeding of the five thousand. There must be a reason for this. There is a reason. In one verse we read of this mir­acle of mercy motivated by love. "And he com­manded the multitude to sit down on the grass, and took the five loaves, and the two fishes, and looking up to heaven, he blessed, and brake, and gave the loaves to his disciples, and the disci­ples to the multitude" (Matt. 14:19).

There is more to this miracle than we see on the surface. There are depths here that have not been explored. "In Christ's act of supplying the temporal necessities of a hungry multitude is wrapped up a deep spiritual lesson for all His workers." —The Desire of Ages, p. 369. It was more then a creative act. It was a prophetic act. In the multitude Jesus saw the desti­tution of the human race, hungry, depend­ent, with no leadership, and the night com­ing on. We talk of the feeding of the five thousand, but if we count one woman and two children to each man, there would be fifteen to twenty thousand people.

Superabundance in the Hands of Jesus

Five loaves and two fishes! How hope­lessly inadequate were such slender re­sources. How utterly absurd they must have appeared to the disciples. But broken by the hands of Jesus they did the impossible. Just so, the utter destitution of the world, the overwhelming greatness of our task, and the tragic inadequacy of our human resources placed in His hands will bring a superabundance of the divine provision.

What were Jesus' emotions and thoughts as He took the loaves and fishes, looked at the hungry multitude, lifted His eyes to heaven, and then "brake, and gave"? In John's gospel the record of the feeding of the five thousand is followed immediately by the discourse on the bread of life. Within a year Jesus Himself sat with His disciples in the upper room and instituted the sacramental service. And the bread He broke that night represented His broken body. Unquestionably, Jesus saw Himself in those loaves and fishes. It was not His object only to feed and clothe men. He had something more imperishable for them and for His disciples. He said, "I am the bread of life" (John 6:35). He knew that the blessing of life through Him could come in only one way. He must be taken; He must be broken; He must be given. If His body, His heart, and His whole life had not been broken, His precious life could never have been given, and we would be without hope. The miracle of the loaves and fishes was symbolic of His own sacri­fice for the redemption of the world.

We Must Be Broken

There is a special sense in which every preacher, every evangelist, is called to fol­low in His footsteps. He says to us, "My servants, you too must be taken, and you must be broken if you would be given." This is where this miracle of the feeding of the five thousand proclaims a powerful message, especially to the ministry. We are to act in His stead. We are His under-shepherds, standing in Christ's place be­fore the people. We all know that we have been taken. Years ago He took us for Him­self to make us His servants. We all long to be given. Back of each minister is a con­gregation of hungry, needy people, so des­perately in need of the bread of life. We feel so inadequate. Oftentimes the people are largely unresponsive to the Word of God. Many a minister has been well nigh despairing because of the apparent fruit­lessness of his ministry and the unrespon­siveness of the people. Sin and worldliness seem to flourish, while the Word of God languishes.

There are many causes for this. Is it pos­sible, however, that we ourselves, the min­isters, are one of them? We would not sug­gest that any among us has not been taken, that we have not been called, or that we are not converted. There could be no greater anomaly than this—a Christian minister who is not converted, and whose service is merely a formality. We have all been taken. We have felt the grip of that pierced hand in ours. We have no doubt about that. But, brethren, that of itself is not enough. The Old and New Testa­ments tell us that to be called is not enough. The ministry of God's men down through the ages reveals the same truth. And our own experience tells the same story. Note the expression "He took . . .and brake it." Before Christ was given, He was broken. What do we know about that? Unbroken bread can never be given. Per­haps here lies the secret of the failure of any a ministry.

Complete Surrender Necessary

Abraham was broken; then he was Given. You will find on this side of Moriah something in Abra­ham's life and min­istry that you will not find on the other side.

All the sorrow and agony that Abraham en­dured through that dark and fearful trial were for the purpose of deeply impressing upon his un­derstanding the plan of redemption for fallen man. He was made to understand in his own ex­perience how unutterable was the self-denial of the infinite God in giving His own Son to die to rescue man from utter ruin.—Testimonies, vol. 3, p. 369.

Jacob was broken at Jabbok. Prior to this experience, we are told, he "had not an experimental knowledge of the God whom he revered. His heart had not been re­newed by divine grace."—Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 178. He was crafty, deceptive, self-sufficient. In those days he was a good stock breeder. If he had lived today he would have been called a good stock­broker. For twenty years he swindled, and was swindled. God's servant was living the life of a worldly man. God had to break up his self-sufficiency forever, and He had to take him to Jabbok to do it. What he needed was a complete and full surrender, a new nature.

Not until he fell crippled and helpless upon the breast of the covenant angel did Jacob know the victory of conquering faith and receive the title of a prince with God.—Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing, p. 62.

It was when Peter was broken after his shameful denial of the Lord he loved that his self-sufficiency was swept away. He became at Pentecost the instrument for one of the greatest ingathering of souls in his­tory.

Moody had been preaching and doing a great work for God, but there came an ex­perience in his ministry when he was broken. His whole ministry was changed. It was right after the great Chicago fire. When he was broken he went on with the same sermons, but his preaching was differ­ent—it was pulsating! It was alive! A great spiritual movement was begun, the result of which will be seen in eternity.

John Tauler, the famous preacher who influenced Luther greatly, was at fifty years of age without a peer as a theologian. He was drawing one of the largest congrega­tions in Europe. What more could he want? Yet Nicholas of Basel showed him that it was not by might or by learning or by splendor of eloquence, but by God's Spirit that he was to fulfill his ministry. For two whole years Tauler left his pulpit and sought retirement to get that spiritual en­duement to which he had hitherto been a stranger. When he returned he came with a baptism of power, and mighty signs fol­lowed.

Does Self-sufficiency Hinder Power?

Perhaps we too need to be broken. Per­haps we too should do some heart search­ing. What is our motive for preaching? Is our self-sufficiency hindering His power? Is it that we want more to fill our churches and have admiring congregations than to see souls redeemed and sinners brought to the cross? Are we more concerned about ourselves and our public image than about our Lord? Are we irritated by adverse criti­cism, and long only to hear nice things said about us? Do we want to be great preachers or God's messengers? A man can be a great preacher without being God's messenger. He can be God's messen­ger without being a great preacher. By God's grace he can be both.

Is it that we have become insensitive to the cry of the world's need? Are we the unsympathetic ministers of the passion of our Lord "who in the days of his flesh . . . offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears?" (Heb. 5:7). It was that devout preacher, J. H. Jewett, who once said, "We can never heal the needs we do not feel. Tearless hearts can never be the heralds of the passion. We must pity if we would redeem. We must bleed if we would be the ministers of the saving blood."—The Passion for Souls, p. 34.

Brethren, we are not without hope. Our desperately inadequate and limited re­sources if placed in His hands may still be used in multiplied blessing to the people. If we too ardently long for transformation of character as our supreme equipment for effective ministry, there will surely come a day when He will, as He did with Jacob, bring us to our Jabbok. He will break up the evil in our nature, deliver us from our self-sufficiency, and give us gloriously to a lost world.

But only broken bread can be given.


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E. L. MINCHIN, Field Secretary, General Conference

April 1965

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