His Atonement Is Never Out of Reach, Even from the Back of the Crowd
April 2023

Applying the New Testament to Your Life

His Atonement Is Never Out of Reach, Even from the Back of the Crowd

Repentance is made possible by His perfection, not ours.

Jesus Christ holding the loaves and fish

Loaves and Fishes, by Rose Datoc Dall

The Savior’s invitation to “Come, follow me” (Luke 18:22) isn’t just a catchy title for a study manual—it’s an everlasting invitation to all children of God. It’s a call for saints, sinners, believers, and nonbelievers alike to shed an imperfect life and be cleansed through His Atonement.

But what about those who feel they make too many mistakes? Are they allowed to accept forgiveness? Maybe you’ve wondered this or felt incurable yourself. If so, let this biblical miracle bring you peace.

Loaves and Fish

After seeing Jesus perform miracles, a crowd of five thousand followed Him into a mountain (see John 6:2–3). As the evening deepened, the disciples urged Christ to send the people away to eat (see Matthew 14:15). But Jesus responded, “They need not depart; give ye them to eat” (Matthew 14:16).

The Apostles gathered five barley loaves and two small fish, and after blessing the food, Christ divided it for His disciples to distribute to the crowd. The miracle is that with so small a food offering, “they did all eat, and were filled” (Matthew 14:20), with 12 baskets of leftovers.

The Back of the Crowd

Have you ever thought about the people in the back of the crowd? I have. I’ve wondered if perhaps they felt they wouldn’t get fed because of the lack of bread and fish. Maybe they thought some people would eat, but it just wasn’t possible for them.

We may feel Christ’s redeeming power is extensive for others but not applicable to us sinners at the back. However, every person at the miracle witnessed that His power extended to all, with more than they could take in.

For us today, being “in the back of the crowd” could mean anything from pushing the gospel away to falling into the same mistakes again. Maybe we feel too incurable to deserve forgiveness or too broken to even bother.

We keep moving toward the back, believing Satan’s lie that forgiveness is possible for others but forever out of our reach.

Well, don’t believe those thoughts. Our Redeemer atoned for us because He knew we couldn’t become whole without Him.

For years, I never understood the Savior’s power. But when life got tougher as a teenager, I tried praying more sincerely. To my surprise, I found Jesus Christ and Heavenly Father waiting for me all along.

As I drew closer to God, I was able to feel His grace and mercy despite my personal inadequacies. I understand now that He knows my name. He knows my strengths and potential better than anyone—especially myself.

We can all seek connection with God, no matter how far from Him we feel. The people farthest away from Christ before this biblical miracle may have wondered if they would be fed with only five loaves and two fish available, but they stayed anyway.

They waited with faith to partake of His blessings—and they did.

All Can “Partake of His Goodness”

Many think the Savior’s mercy is impossible to receive, so they stop trying. They imagine His bread and fish are so short a supply that it’s impossible for a sinner like them to receive. But if sinners were prohibited from the charge “Come, follow me,” Christ would not have had any followers.

Nephi wrote, “Hath the Lord commanded any that they should not partake of his goodness?” (2 Nephi 26:28). In the same verse, Nephi answers, “Nay; but all men are privileged the one like unto the other, and none are forbidden.” Not even those in the back are banned from God’s love.

But don’t be discouraged if you have to repent to see it, because “we all need the benefit of the Savior’s sacrifice.”1 It may take more time to repent from some sins than others, but you will not be disqualified from seeking the blessings of the gospel. You are not too unworthy to pray or too inactive to go back to church.

Your Redeemer will not abandon you. Remember that before the miraculous feast, the disciples told Jesus, “This is a desert place, and now the time is far passed:

“Send them away, that they may go into the country ... and buy themselves bread” (Mark 6:35–36). But Jesus let the multitude stay, for in His time it’s never too late to seek the Bread of Life.

Outstretched Arms of Mercy

Do not despair if you feel stuck in the back of the crowd. The miracle of Christ’s Atonement is accessed by how strong a desire you have to be near Him, not by how close you are to Him now.

He constantly extends His “arm of mercy towards them that put their trust in him” (Mosiah 29:20), and that trust is enough to start. After all, repentance is made possible by His perfection, not ours.

The Shepherd will always show us the way to safety if we let Him. As Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles put it: “There is no point of no return. He waits ready to embrace us.”2

Yes, even you in the back can find another chance, no matter how many you’ve already used. He wants to heal you. As you follow in faith and desire to receive His grace, Christ will guide you every step of the way toward progress.

Please—stay in the crowd, no matter how many people you think are in front of you in the race to perfection. If you trust He can heal you, that is enough. He beckons to you from the front of the crowd, outstretched arms showing the nail prints He acquired for your eternal salvation.