A boy's sack lunch fed the hungry masses. Jesus multiplied two sardines and a five tortillas into a banquet. Everyone went away with a doggie bag. A smashing success right? Not exactly. Mark adds an insight at the end of the scene where the disciples were in the storm-tossed boat, "for they did not understand about the loaves, for their hearts were hardened" (Mark 6:52).
From a spiritual standpoint the feeding of the 5,000 was a total flop. The disciples failed to comprehend the lesson that Jesus really wanted to teach them, which was that He was the God of the impossible. So, like any good teacher does, He gave His pupils a retest by sending them into a storm.
This got me thinking about miracles. Many of us pray for them everyday--God heal me of this disease, give me this job, make our dollars stretch to the end of the month--yet I wonder if we receive a miracle if we will actually learn the real lesson God wants us to teach us? Jesus literally worked one of His greatest miracles through the hands of His men and it was about as successful as a concrete balloon.
Perhaps the miracles that we so earnestly pray for will do little to cultivate what God is really after--long term faith and obedience in us. It could be that God's direct intervention would short-circuit the real growth He is trying to achieve. What good is a miracle if we miss the message that its intended to convey?