If you are just joining us, you can start back at the beginning of this series of posts here.
Ministry with Jesus results in new provision.
And when they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, “Gather up the leftover fragments, that nothing may be lost.” So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves left by those who had eaten.– John 6:12-13 (ESV)
Twelve extra baskets. They started with not enough food to fill one basket and finished with enough to fill twelve baskets. Ministry with Jesus creates leftovers. Provision for the next round. It may not be immediate, as it was in this story, but it is always there.
In this world, it is easy to get sucked into the poverty mindset. If I blow through all of my resources on this event, this worship set, this person, then I won’t have more for the next event, worship set, person. But, when you minister with Jesus, it is essential to pour it ALL out. If we hold on to any of the river of living water He is flowing through us (John 7:38) it turns into a pool and stagnates. It has to keep flowing in to us and OUT to others for it to stay fresh. And, when you operate with this mindset, the one that says “If it comes in from the Lord (and EVERYTHING comes from Him), then it will go out where he leads me to put it,” He will fill your baskets with leftovers. Bountiful leftovers. There is NEVER not enough with Jesus. There just can’t be. It is impossible.
Again, this is only true when you are listening to the voice of God and operating in that. When we pour everything out on our own plans, resources CAN and WILL disappear. But, when we pour it all out on HIS plans, He fills us back up to overflowing. A lot of overflow. So much overflow we’ll need AT LEAST 12 baskets to catch it all.
Speaking of the baskets, I know we don’t normally include this as part of the miracle, but where did the twelve baskets come from? They were in a desolate place. Where did they find twelve empty baskets lying around? I truly believe this is just as cool as the multiplication of the food. God doesn’t just provide the new provision, He provides the way for us to carry it to the next assignment. He supplies ALL of our needs.
It is not insignificant, either, that the number of leftover baskets is 12. This is truly beautiful. The tribes of Israel, apart from the Levites, numbered 12. So the Levites, the chosen ministers of the Lord, represented by the disciples in this story, poured out the resources before them, and were left with a basket of provision for EVERY other tribe to be fed. Not one will be lost or overlooked.
And when they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, “Gather up the leftover fragments, that nothing may be lost.” – John 6:12 (ESV)
Jesus is in the business of not losing one. Not even one. He is the Shepherd with 100 sheep that goes after the ONE that is lost (Luke 15:3-6). Each fragment in those baskets represented a beloved son or daughter. In parallel to what He says to the disciples here, He says this a little later in John 6:
And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. – John 6:39 (ESV)
Jesus was insistent that nothing be lost because of His commitment to the purposes of the Father.
OK, and this gets even better. So, the 12 tribes represent the children of Israel. Twelve baskets for twelve tribes, God’s original chosen people. Then in Mark 7, we find Jesus confirming that He intends for the children of Israel to be fed. Then…
But immediately a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit heard of him and came and fell down at his feet. Now the woman was a Gentile, a Syrophoenician by birth. And she begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. And he said to her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” But she answered him, “Yes, Lord; yet even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” And he said to her, “For this statement you may go your way; the demon has left your daughter.” And she went home and found the child lying in bed and the demon gone.– Mark 7:25-30
Jesus shows compassion on the Gentile woman because of her faith and boldness. So He feeds her with the scraps form the children’s table. Then, in Mark 8, the feeding of the 4000 happens.
In those days, when again a great crowd had gathered, and they had nothing to eat, he called his disciples to him and said to them, “I have compassion on the crowd, because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. And if I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way. And some of them have come from far away.” And his disciples answered him, “How can one feed these people with bread here in this desolate place?” And he asked them, “How many loaves do you have?” They said, “Seven.” And he directed the crowd to sit down on the ground. And he took the seven loaves, and having given thanks, he broke them and gave them to his disciples to set before the people; and they set them before the crowd. And they had a few small fish. And having blessed them, he said that these also should be set before them. And they ate and were satisfied. And they took up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full. – Mark 8:1-8
They already had the twelve baskets of provision from the feeding of the 5000. Those baskets symbolized all the disciples would need to feed the tribes of Israel when Jesus was gone. So what is the deal with the 7 baskets left over in this story?
Well, first of all, there is a good chance this feeding of the 4000 happened in the Decapolis. Perhaps deep in the Decapolis. In other words, Gentile territory. The last reference to location previous to this story happens at the end of Mark 7.
Then he returned from the region of Tyre and went through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. – Mark 7:31
There, they heal a blind man. Then the very next story is the feeding of the 4000. Where, again, they are in a desolate place. Which, in my humble opinion, gives us a good indication that they might have entered deeper into the Decapolis after they healed the blind man. So, I can’t say for sure, but I feel strongly that a large number of those being fed in this story were Gentiles.
And then there is this, before there were 7 baskets of leftovers, there were 3 days of ministry. Three days of God revealing Himself through signs and wonders.
“I have compassion on the crowd, because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. And if I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way. And some of them have come from far away.” – Mark 8:2-3
Three days they waited to be fed. Three days symbolizing the coming death on the cross and subsequent resurrection. Those 3 days brought the end of separation between the Gentiles and the Jews.
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. – Galatians 3:28
So back to the question at hand…why the 7 baskets? I’m so excited writing this… God is so good!
When the Lord your God brings you into the land that you are entering to take possession of it, and clears away many nations before you, the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations more numerous and mightier than you… – Deuteronomy 7:1
Do you see that? There were 7 Gentile nations occupying the Promised Land that had to be dealt with before the Israelites could claim it. Seven Gentile nations. Seven Baskets.
The Lord provided the bread for the children of Israel in Mark 6. His heart of compassion for the Gentiles was confirmed by the story of the Syrophoenician woman in Mark 7. Then, after 3 days of ministry in Mark 8, the Lord supplies the bread to feed those Gentile nations that, before had been a thorn to the children, but now, because of what Jesus did on the cross, are brothers and sisters, fed by the same bread of life. No more are the Gentiles forced to eat the scraps leftover from feeding the tribes. The disciples now had provision for EVERY tribe and EVERY nation.
I also think it’s no coincidence that in Revelation we find Jesus composing letters to the 7 Churches of Asia (Revelation 2-3). Seven Gentile nations, fed by those seven baskets of bread, become Seven churches filled with children of God. As the disciples ministered with Jesus, and poured out every resource at hand, they were prophetically given the new provision they would need to reach the WHOLE body once Jesus was gone. Gentile and Jew.
When we commit to pour it all out on God’s plans, it expands well beyond our own boundaries, to the boundaries of the whole body of believers. It expands to every tribe, to every nation. Again, I emphasize here that, though the provision for the whole body appeared at once (or really I guess at twice?), the work of distributing the baskets to every tribe and nation was not the work of any one disciple, but for the group of them to do together, one group of 50 at a time. And, once the first groups of 50 are fed, they, too, can begin to operate in ministry with Jesus feeding the next groups of 50, a body fitly joined together.
I believe the same new provision given to the disciples in those desolate places, for the purposes set before them, is waiting for us for the unique purposes of God set before us in the desolate places He is calling us to. As we learn to pour out what we have, to our given groups of 50, the provision will just keep being refilled and multiplied.
So, today, I pray for you to have eyes to see the provision already available to you, and deep faith to trust that as you pour it ALL out, you will find more provision at the end than you started with. I pray that you would embrace your builder budget, your groups of 50, and find the miraculously-appearing baskets to collect all of what the Lord has prepared for you, not losing even one bit to the dirt of the enemy. In Jesus’ name.
Wow! What a journey this has been. I am just so impressed by God, by how carefully He sets out every detail and opens up our minds to see them through the power of His Spirit. I will tell you that I have been truly humbled by a lot of these posts, as I wrote them. I have received from Him so much insight for my own ministry and my own heart position. I hope that you, too, have found some of His wisdom and truth in these posts to help you along your way. I would LOVE to hear your thoughts, insights, testimonies about what I have shared in the comments. Be blessed until the next time!