We hear a lot about what it takes to be a leader in today’s world. Books are written on the subject, and we can book our schedules with seminars and workshops. We hear speaker after speaker and learn all the different skills of what it takes to make a good Christian leader. We can run our people through all of these programs and yet, still lack what Jesus saw as most important. In fact, without this main ingredient, our leaders will burn out!
In Matthew 14 we read a story of one of Jesus’ greatest miracles. It is known as the feeding of the five thousand. When you read the story you will discover that the feeding of the people with simple bread and fish is only one part of what Jesus was trying to teach His disciples in the area of Christian leadership.
The story begins when Jesus saw how the people would not leave Him alone. They followed Him a long way. The Bible says in verse fourteen, “and Jesus went forth, and saw a great multitude, and was moved with compassion toward them, and He healed their sick.” The key phrase here is “moved with compassion.” It is amazing just how many times we read that when Jesus lifted His eyes, He was moved with compassion. His compassion demanded out of Him action. If we depend only on our leadership “how-to’s” and lack compassion, we will lose our desire to lead. We lead by serving.
In verse fifteen we read that Jesus had spent the entire day with these people. The disciples were getting tired and hungry. They came to Jesus in the evening and said to Him two comments: “The time is now late”, and “send them away to find their own food.” Little did they know what they were saying! Let’s look at the first phrase “the time is now late.” I truly believe that time is rapidly running out before the return of Christ. We don’t have much time to do the work that demands strong leadership. The apostles were just like the church today. We see the vast needs of the people, but because we see through our own eyes and not through the eyes of Jesus, we get overwhelmed with the task at it is much easier in our own thinking to send the people away hoping that somehow they will be able to find food for the soul elsewhere.
People are hungry for truth. And they are not finding it anywhere. Did you notice in verse fifteen, the disciples said, “Lord, this is a desert place.” This does not mean desert as you and I think of desert. It did not have sand and lack of water. The word desert here means it’s barren of any food. That describes our culture, don’t you think? People are hungry for direction and something to believe in. But we live in a world that is a desert place.
But because Jesus was seeing the same problem as the disciples but with a different outcome, He told the disciples that I want you to rise to the need of the people and lead the way. He simply said in verse sixteen, “You feed them.” Just the way many of us respond to Christ when He wants to use us as leaders to meet the needs of our starving culture, the disciples felt helpless. We can get a super charge at our leadership seminars, but when we face the real world we suddenly feel powerless to do anything about it. The disciples tried to prove this to the Lord in verse seventeen by stating that we do not have enough to get the job done. Many times when in leadership, we see the task ahead of us is so vast; we fall short because we feel we do not have the resources to do the job. This was the moment that Jesus was waiting for. He once again wanted to remind His followers that He is “THE” resource.
Watch what happens in verse eighteen. He says, “Bring to me what you have.” They brought to Him five loaves of bread and two small fish. All Jesus asks of us is that we bring to Him all that we are and He will take care of the rest. Remember, He is “THE” sources.
Let’s do some comparison between ourselves as leaders and the loaves of bread. For a moment let’s pretend we are the loaves of bread. In order for Jesus to use the bread He had to have complete control. Jesus must have complete control over our lives. He told the disciples to bring the bread to Him. He had to spate the bread totally from the crow. Jesus can’t use us as He wants to if we refuse to be separated from the ways of the world. Romans 12:1-2 states that we are not to be conformed to the ways of the world. To be Christian leaders in a world who does not know Jesus, we must have higher standards. This obviously speaks of integrity.
Now in verse nineteen, before the blessings on the bread would come, Jesus had to do something else with the bread now that it was separated and under His complete control. He had to break the bread. This is where many Christians stop. Who wants to be broken? It hurts to be broken. “No, not me Lord.” The Lord only uses broken vessels. The best definition of a broken spirit is that God’s will becomes your will. It is no longer what I want to do or how I see the situation. It’s all about Jesus!
So Jesus takes the broken bread and suddenly the blessings came. But once again Jesus reminds His disciples that He is the source, but they must deliver the goods. Jesus would not do it all. The disciples took the baskets of bread that was now in abundance and took the bread back into the crowd to meet their needs, because the bread was now ready for the Master’s use. Jesus calls us out of the world so that he can send us back into the world.
Verse twenty says that there was enough for everyone. It has been estimated that there may have been up to twenty thousand people or more. Not only did they all eat, but the Bible says that they were all filled. Jesus does not just want to feed us, but to fill us.
How do we end such a powerful lesson? Verse twenty continues to state that the disciples gathered up the left-overs and there were twelve baskets full. They had more left over than what they had started out with. Wow! You talk about Wonder Bread! That’s wonder bread! But do you also see the importance of twelve baskets full? There was one basket for each disciple as a reminder of what can happen if He was in charge. Under the leadership of Jesus, His followers became leaders in the eyes of the people. They delivered the goods and they gathered the goods.
Now all of this is fine and good, but brings us back to the beginning of our story. Jesus was moved with compassion. With all of the skills to lead, without compassion, we will fail. We must see our challenges through the eyes of Jesus Christ. Then be willing to be separated unto the Lord, broken and used. Then the impossible can take place. The people who were hungry in a desert place were fed and filled.
Compassion for the lost and compassion for Jesus is the foundation of any true leader. People are watching us all the time. They want to know that what we are standing for is worth it for them. In whose eyes do you see your world?