It’s All in the Numbers
After much delay, I bring you the finale to the Are You Feeding the 5000? series. This is part 3 and will be relatively shorter. We’ve been talking about when Jesus fed the 5000 (or more like 10-15,ooo!) people on the hillside with 5 loaves of bread and 2 fishes. If you want to check out Part 1 and Part 2 first, please feel free.
God is all about numbers- I imagine He is like the most amazing actuary in the universe. He loves Him some numbers! He’s counting every single person who accepts Him, He’s weeping over every single person who rejects Him, He’s counting down the days until Jesus can return, He’s multiplying blessings/money/giftings/words/food for people all over the world, He’s exponentially increasing the work of His laborers, He’s showing off with incalculable miraculous happenings all over the place. You get it, He loves to mess with numbers. The Bible is scattered throughout with examples of God showing up with some crazy math- either by increasing numbers or decreasing numbers. He definitely does not follow the rules of mathematics! God is all about numbers because I think He loves demolishing them. I’d argue that He particularly loves to confound this particular human science.
This particular passage in Matthew is a perfect example of how numbers are only a ‘suggestion’ when it comes to God. To start, scripture tells us that this particular day that Jesus fed 5000 people. It is a well-known story, “Jesus feeding the 5000”. But even here we learn that the passage is only giving part of the story. History shows that those 5000 people were only the men in attendance… not the women or children or servants. I’m not saying the scripture is wrong… I’m only saying it’s actually not showing off what Jesus did that day enough. Most biblical historians agree that the crowd that was fed was most likely much more in the 10-15,000 person range. A 3-fold increase! Which is, of course, not counting the actual increase of the 5 loaves and 2 fish that occurred… 5000 people fed is something miraculously impressive. 15,000? Forget about it! God loves showing off! These numbers were not too big.
How about the little boy who offered the meal? Was he too young, not enough years under his belt to be of help? Nope. His years were not too small.
What about it being late in the day and no one had eaten anything at all for hours? Talk about some seriously HANGRY crowds! Had the hours grown too long? Was it too late to satisfy completely? Nope. This day was not too late.
But it would have taken forever to distribute all that food! Even starting with an adequate amount, can you imagine how long it would have taken to actually get the food to everyone? 15,000 people worth of distribution? Was night quickly approaching? Were the disciples racing the setting sun? Nope. The crowd logistics were not too large.
Never, ever, anywhere in the Bible do we ever see God being impaired by something being too big, too insurmountable, too small, too weak, too few. Never. In fact, His nature is to show up BIGTIME in those instances. In 2 Corinthians 12:9-11, “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”
Numbers can be a huge weakness for us.
Numbers may seem important to us. In fact, I would argue we obsess about them. When God calls us forward, it is unfortunately more often than not, our natural inclination to start a numbers argument with Him. It’s too expensive, I don’t have enough time, I am not old enough, I am too old, I have too many kids to do that, I don’t have the money to do it, I don’t have enough followers to step out, I have too many other obligations, I have too many people counting on me, etc. etc. etc. Numbers, numbers, numbers! We use too many of them to argue and too few of them to argue!
We get too easily bogged down in the human calculations of all this math. And in doing so, we miss God and shut down the work He’s potentially getting ready to do. The God-math He’s so good at.
What we forget too easily is that God is a numbers guy. And He is not impaired in any way with all these digits we throw out at Him. Not enough? He’ll multiply. Too many? He will meet the need. It doesn’t matter what the number is… He will change it.