Jesus had been with the crowds. The lame, the blind, the crippled, those who couldn't hear or speak, and many others were brought to him. Matthew simply writes, "... and he healed them" (Matthew 15:29-31 NIV). The crowds were in awe of what they saw and they glorified God.
I'm not quite sure what the disciples saw. In the next scene Jesus gathers his disciples and says to them:
I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry, or they may collapse on the way. (Matthew 15:32).
My take on this story is that Jesus is testing his disciples. He wants to check their perspective on what has been happening. So he sets them up. He lets them know he has compassion on the crowds and he knows they are hungry and, as a good host, he doesn't want to send them away hungry.
The one who has just said this, mind you, is the same one who has just been healing every variety of sickness you might imagine. He's also the same one they have seen healing lepers and demon-possessed men and walking on water and calming a storms. It's not the first time they've seen miraculous things from Jesus.
All he needs to do now is feed a bunch of hungry people. About 4,000 hungry men and also the women and children. That's a big pot-luck to manage. But, how hard is this compared to telling a storm to hush?
The disciples don't have a clue. All they can see is a big problem and no idea what to do.
And the disciples said to him, "Where are we to get enough bread in such a desolate place to feed so great a crowd?" (Matthew 15:33).They say this to Jesus, the one who has healed and walked and calmed.
When you truly see who Jesus is, then your perspective will change. When you think you have to face the world on your own, no wonder you worry. Yet when you know that the God of the Universe cares for you and is moved by your plight, then you begin to focus on him and everything else falls into place.
You see, you can't choose your circumstances, but you can choose your perspective.
And John did. His preaching, which he had been called to do by Christ, got him into hot water. Tradition tells us he was sentenced to death by being thrown into a cauldron of boiling oil. When that didn't harm him at all, he was sent in exile on an island called Patmos where there was no one to whom he could preach ... so God gave him a great vision to inspire those who already believed (Revelation 1:1-2; Revelation 1:9).
From Domitian's perspective, this was the ultimate persecution. From the perspective of heaven, this is the ultimate opportunity. While he was there Jesus gave him an out of this world vision of heaven. A vision of how God sees the world and what he is doing in the world and that in the end all things will come together just as he has planned.
John and Paul could have just quit. They could have seen that there was nothing they could do while in prison, while closely guarded, and while isolated and alone. Instead, they chose a perspective that demonstrated that they had something — even though it might seem small — and when they offered what they had to Jesus, the Lord could make great things happen.
I don't know what you may be going through right now. You may be about to quit — about to give up completely. Let me encourage you not to surrender to doubt, fear, disappointment, and apparent failure. Jesus turned a few loaves into a feast ... a jail cell into an evangelism center ... a prison cell into the writing quarters of an apostle ... a barren, severe island of rock into a vision of heaven. He longs to do something special for you out of your tough time. Why, you may be only a moment away from a miracle.