"Send the crowds away..." (Matthew 14:15).

This occasion was not the apostles' finest hour.

Don't be too hard on them. The mob was hounding Jesus because they had heard about his miracles and they wanted to experience one for themselves (Matthew 14:13).

In addition, this day was not a normal day of ministry. Jesus' cousin and forerunner, John the Baptizer, had just been brazenly executed by Herod (Matthew 14:1-12). The Lord knew that his cousin's fate was a precursor to his own death (Mark 9:12-13; Matthew 11:12-14). Jesus wanted to get away from the crowd and be alone with the Father and with his grief (Matthew 14:13). When the crowd had seen Jesus leave by boat, they took off on foot to beat him to his destination. They were waiting for him when he arrived (Mark 6:32).

"Send the crowds away..."

We can't be sure if the apostles said this because they were bone-weary or if they were trying to protect Jesus. It didn't really matter. Jesus had welcomed the demanding horde to himself. The Lord had spoken words of truth about God's kingdom and also healed broken bodies and tormented souls (John 6:2; Luke 9:11). The hour of the day was late. The people were hungry. Jesus was tired. To state it more accurately, Jesus was exhausted from pouring himself into ministry while working with the suffocating strain of unspeakable grief. The mob was a long way from anywhere. They had no food. Under the circumstances, who could blame the apostles for saying...

"Send the crowds away..."

"No," the Good Shepherd told them, "you give them something to eat!"


Jesus' response made no practical sense. His words overloaded the circuit breakers in their brains. Their neurons hit a dead end. Their hope of helping the crowd had set long before the sun would set. Their energy was gone. The resources were scarce. Despite all they had just seen the Lord do through them (Luke 9:1-10), faith while in their current moment of impossibility was too hard to muster.

"You give them something to eat!" Jesus told them (Luke 9:13). His words of command were as unexpected as they were impossible. At that moment, everything in them said...

"Send the crowds away..."

So Jesus turned to Philip, the apostles' practical get-it-done guy. The Lord asked Philip, "Where can we buy bread for all these people?"

Jesus had a plan. He was moving from teaching the crowds to training his disciples in the mathematics of faith. Philip, however, quickly calculated the problem in the mathematics of sight: "It would take more than half a year's wages just to buy enough bread for each person to have a bite" (John 6:7).

Hmm. I guess such calculations should have settled the issue once and for all. Impossible! Not enough bread and not enough funds and not enough faith!

"Send the crowds away..."

Then Andrew interrupted. Notice that Andrew wasn't asked to give input. Jesus didn't put him on the spot as he had Philip. Andrew stepped forward on his own. His words were strange — almost childish. "Here's a boy with five barley loaves and two small fish," Andrew interjected. Well, that's nice, Andrew. It's sweet the little guy is willing to share, but let's get real here: He doesn't have much to share! So with what had to be a voice half full of expectation and half full of not having anything else to say, Andrew concludes with the words, "but how far will they go among so many?" (John 6:9).

"I believe you can do something about this huge problem using this boy's picnic lunch, Lord. But I also know what I'm bringing you seems small and childish, but I still believe you can do something with it. I believe, Lord, but please help my unbelief!" That's sure what Andrew seems to be saying here.

You've been in this situation before, haven't you? I know I have. We have found ourselves in the middle of a big mess. We didn't cause it, but that didn't matter. People were hurting. They needed help. We wanted to help. The problems, however, were way too big and way too deeply entrenched for us to make a difference with our inadequate skills and meager resources. What we had to offer was simply too little in the face of such enormous problems and deep needs. We didn't know what to do, so we did the best we could: We cried out for the Lord to help us. A tiny sliver of faith was all we had to offer. And that tiny sliver was all the Lord needed to step into the mess and do the impossible.

Unfortunately, we also know the many times we walked away from trying to address a problem because we couldn't find our sliver of faith... or were too tired to get involved... or didn't have time to invest in another thing... or we just couldn't see a way to help. On those days, we hung our head dejected as the crowds went home hungry and we walked away with a heavy heart full of regret. This time, the statement was said with a voice that sounded all too much like our own.

"Send the crowds away..."

That tiny sliver was all the Lord needed to step into the mess and do the impossible.
Andrew's ridiculous approach to this immense problem was to bring a boy with a picnic-sized happy meal to Jesus in order to solve a mass hunger problem. As crazy as it was, the move was true to the Andrew we know. He was doing what he always did: Andrew was connecting people with Jesus. In this case, he took a little boy who was willing to share his lunch while risking the humiliating rebuke of his friends so he could offer the ridiculous to the Savior, who could do the impossible. Andrew, the boy with the picnic basket, 11 unworthy apostles, and a crowd of more than 5,000 received a miracle that was important enough for all four gospels. Yes, this is one of the few incidents in addition to Jesus' passion that is found in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John!

"The Andrew Effect"* is all about connecting people with Jesus. This example of Andrew's special ministry is one for all of us to notice, especially if we lead at any level of spiritual life. In this case, Andrew did something more important than bringing a needy person to the Lord. He brought a generous person, one who wanted to help in a difficult situation, to Jesus. He brought a boy willing to share all he had to help feed a hungry mob. Andrew then connected the boy and his picnic lunch with Jesus.

After a little organization of the crowd by Jesus' apostles, and a prayer of blessing from the Lord, those meager resources were more than enough to feed the hungry crowd (John 6:10-11; Mark 6:39-40). To drive the point home, Jesus had the 12 apostles pick up the leftover scraps after dinner. The Lord wanted his apostles to hold the proof of this miracle, and the power of "The Andrew Effect," in their own hands. They picked up 12 baskets full of broken pieces (John 6:42-44).

I would love to have a picture of the expressions on their faces as they held the tangible grace of Jesus in their own hands! Imagine the delight in the face of the boy when he realized the incredible blessing that came through his generosity. Such is the power of "The Andrew Effect" when we connect other believers to Jesus when they want to use what they have to bless those in need.

Those of us who have been in ministry, or led ministry efforts, or tried to raise up volunteers, or who have faced great needs that were overwhelming in scope hang on to this story of Andrew, a boy, and Jesus. We know how easily we can become cynical and jaded. Sadly, we know that our voices have joined in harmony with the apostles.

"Send the crowds away..."

Others of us are simply too practical to risk losing face when confronted with great need. "We don't have half enough money to meet the need!"

"Send the crowds away..."

Others of us have seen too many potential kingdom superstars burn out trying to do too much too soon all at the same time while wrestling with their own burdens and grief.

"Send the crowds away..."

Today, the example of Andrew with a boy and his picnic lunch knocks on the door of our hearts. Andrew's example asks us to "go in the strength you have" (Judges 6:14) and use just our sliver of faith and offer what we have to the Lord. Andrew's actions challenge us to bring what few generous volunteers we have to the Lord to meet a great need, then trust the Lord to do what we cannot.

Andrew's actions with the boy who was willing to share his 5 barley loaves and 2 small fish challenge us to adopt this third element** of "The Andrew Effect." Andrew's actions call us to believe what the apostle Paul told the Corinthians:

And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. ... Now he who supplies seed to the sower and your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. (2 Corinthians 9:8-11).

The Lord is looking for modern versions of Andrew. His search is not gender or age specific or experience specific. Jesus is looking for us to bring others to him — not just others in need, but also those who want to help people in need. The Lord is looking for us to risk believing that he can make our meager resources big enough to bless others "immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine" (Ephesians 3:20).

There are plenty of Philip's out there who can say, "Lord, we've got more bread than peanut butter to spread!" It's easy to say in the face of such great need...

"Send the crowds away..."

Andrew found the little boy who would share his lunch and connected him with Jesus. The crowd walked away that day with full bellies and the cleanup detail picked up twelve baskets full of leftovers.

That, dear friend, is a part of "The Andrew Effect" that we must reawaken in a world of such deep hurt and such great need!

* "The Andrew Effect" is a look at what the Gospel of John reveals about the heart of Jesus' apostle Andrew. There are four elements or moves that make up "The Andrew Effect":

  1. Connecting to Jesus personally.
  2. Connecting those we know with Jesus.
  3. Connecting those who want to help those in need with Jesus.
  4. Connecting outsiders who are seekers with Jesus.
You can find the introduction and the two prior messages by clicking the links in this footnote! Messages four and five follow the next two weeks.

* As mentioned in the previous note, the third element of "The Andrew Effect" is the one emphasized today: Connecting those who want to help those in need with Jesus. See previous note for more details and links to previous articles or check the links listed below.

Images complementary of Free Bible Images and The Lumo Project.