I apologize in advance for any grammatical or syntax errors. My week is looking busy and I don't know that I will get a chance to work anymore on this this week. Blessings
Most of you are probably familiar with the feeding of the 5000 story that is given to us by all 4 gospel writers.I won’t quote the whole thing here.This morning it was part of my daily scripture reading and the Lord showed it to me in a new light.Now there is nothing wrong with sheer amazement over the narratives which testify to the miraculous power of the Son of God, nor is there anything wrong with reading the stories and just enjoying them.Lately though, for me there has been a real desire to read them with a more careful eye and get to the underlying teaching point that Jesus trying to demonstrate.Many of the teaching of Jesus use a style of teaching called “parable” which etymologically comes from the Greek.It quite literally means “to throw alongside of”. In these teachings Jesus demonstrated His teaching point by throwing alongside of it a story which epitomized that point.Now the feeding of the 5000 is not a parable in the strictest sense because it is an actual real life story; however this miracle serves as a parable in sense.You see the miracle itself is thrown alongside of a demonstration of compassion and expectancy in the midst of limited resources with incredible results.Perhaps at that moment in time the disciples didn’t catch the teaching points.I am convinced by the gospels that in later years these things became crystal clear to them.Now 2000 years later we can read this narrative and the practical application is no less evident or appropriate to our everyday lives.
Let me start by setting the stage of our everyday 2013 existence as a backdrop for application of this passage for us.As we move closer and closer to Christmas we become more aware of the needs of people around us.More than anything else we become acutely aware of those in poverty- those who are struggling to pay bills, put food on the table, provide some gifts to their kids for Christmas.As an employee of the Salvation Army who works with homelessness and poverty on daily basis I am usually pretty of aware these things.As the season approaches our culture and the media begin to steer our awareness towards these issues.If you are anything like me, when those images of poverty and those stories of incredible need materialize before your eyes you probably ask the question “what can I do?-I am already tapped out, already stretched to the max.”You probably feel like there is no room in your budget or your time for anything else.It is in this context that the practical message of Jesus in the feeding of the 5000 miracle comes becomes clear.
The first thing that struck me about this miracle today as I read it was the incredible compassion of Jesus.Contextually Jesus has just experienced the loss of His cousin John at the hands of Herod.Like many of us the loss of someone important (close friend or family) causes huge upheaval in our lives.It’s painful, empty and we often despair.There is an incredible need to just get away and process the lost-work through what has happened.The text tells us in vs. 13 that Jesus was attempting to make His way to a secluded place.Though we are not told the reason directly, I believe we can make some educated speculations without dragging the text in a direction it was not intending to go.Jesus probably went to mourn, to pray and to rest.Yet the people figured out where He was and followed all the same.I am often amazed (I probably shouldn’t be though) that in these situations that we are never given a picture of a Jesus who shook His head and sighed or said “Oh give me a break!!!!!”Never do we see this.In fact, there are 4 occurrences in Matthew alone where He is described as being moved with compassion for people.This is a tough response for me.Some days I have had just about all I can take of EGR (Extra Grace Required) people.Not Jesus- He always had enough for that next situation.I believe this text is essentially suggesting that a key ingredient to doing God’s work is compassion.Compassion is not something we can manufacture on our own.It flows from heart of our heavenly father.Jesus was always in touch with the heart of God and so there was never a shortage of compassion; the disciples on the other hand- not so much.“Send the people into town to get some food” they suggested.Again I am speculating but I think the disciples were tapped out and assumed the same about their master.I have never been so convinced and convicted about our need for daily connection to the Father to keep us powered and flowing with His Spirit.Even so, with all this conviction I still struggle to make it a daily practice.I am so much like those 12 disciples- I am with them in suggesting that we should send people away.I believe it is compassion that drives the faith that is required to respond as Jesus did and you gotta love His response:“no, no, no.You feed them.”This of course was not Jesus dropping the ball and pawning off the responsibility on them.I think rather that Jesus was trying to show them with the compassion of God this situation was no big deal.
This of course brings me to the second point.When we get tapped out and run out of resources we doubt even the ability of God to deliver.Everything becomes a big deal.Now that might sound a little harsh, but think about the last time you walked through a rough patch.Did you doubt even for a few minutes that God could get you out of that mess?I would suggest that the answer for all of us if we were to be honest would be a resounding “yes”.Quite simply we look at our feeble resources and can’t see how they can ever be multiplied to supply a need.Yet Jesus says that 5 loaves and 2 fish are enough (Just as a side note:I like how in the synoptic versions of this miracle there is no mentions of the boy that came forward with the fish and loaves- more about that in a bit). If we were to look at each of the synoptic gospels leading up to this story we would see that Jesus has already performed some amazing things.There are at least 10 references to the astonishment of people about the teaching and miracles of Jesus in the synoptic gospels alone.One would think that the disciples who witnessed all of these things would be less doubtful then they were and yet the doubt remained.How can the little we have ever be enough?This is ultimately our question today.When I doubt I often say (as a way of reminding me to have faith) “If God could raise Jesus from the dead then He is capable of___________” (fill in your issue of doubt here).
This brings me to boy (who is only mentioned in John’s account of this story).When the disciples lack firstly compassion and secondly faith and were unable to see the forest for the trees as it were, I believe this boy showed the truth faith and compassion that Jesus was demonstrating and looking for in His own disciples.I am so blessed by the “naivety” of this boy.In fact as I write that I believe I have just used the wrong word.The boy was not naïve.It was simple faith.I am blessed by the faith of this boy.It’s really true that children are not bogged down by quantitative figures.There is such a qualitative attitude that they have towards things.They want there to be enough and they simply believe that all will be well in the world.Small children don’t know fractions and are not able to analytically look at the supply and demand problem from a “mature” adult stand point.As a result they are not limited or cramped when it comes to understanding the economics of the kingdom of God.Which begs the question: Is the “mature” adult perspective all it’s cracked up to be?Is it actually a Godly perspective?I would argue that the simple faith of a child, the generous compassionate nature of this young boy was far more Godly.He just acted, trusting that it would make a difference.My daughter is a constant source of blessing in this same respect.When she prays for people, she prays like it has already happened; as if it is a sure thing that what she has prayed for will be answered.My wife and I know a few women that are struggling to conceive right now.We as part of teaching our daughter to pray have given her the task of praying for these women when she goes to bed (it certainly helps that these women are her aunts).Her faith that God will give babies to women has already been tested and proven rock steady.Katy and I were unable to conceive 4 years after our daughter was born.Approximately 20 months ago our daughter started praying for a little brother… daily.She even prayed for him by name.11 months ago our son was conceived and almost 2 months ago her brother was born. Now we have her praying for these women who are having trouble conceiving.So when my daughter prays for these women she says “Thank you God that you will give Aunt Ashley and Aunt Jess babies”.There are two other women she prays for every night as well.I never correct this and try to make her pray “Please give them babies” because I think the way she prays is full of faith and expectation.In fact her expectancy is actually a challenge for me.She thanks God even before it has occurred.It has often brought me to tears.I believe that the attitude my daughter has displayed is of the same type that is demonstrated by the boy in this story.
We all know the result don’t we.Jesus the 5 loaves and 2 fish, He blessed the bread and broke it and a short time later 5000 people had, as the text indicates, had eaten their fill.This in itself is a miracle enough.However God didn’t stop there.What the boy thought was enough and what the disciples thought wasn’t, Jesus turned into abundantly more than enough.12 baskets were filled after all had been satisfied and it all started with a heart of compassion.The miracle was thrown alongside two simple teaching points:Compassion is that which fuels the vehicle of faith.When faith is exists (even a small amount) and when a few small resources exist (given from that place of compassion from the heart of God) that which seems insignificant is miraculously multiplied in greater measure than even the need.God please multiply the compassion and faith in my heart, that I might give my limited resources to you so that you can multiply them for your kingdom.
Thanks for these thoughts Jeremy. It amazes me that God has created a world with such predictability (natural laws, predictable days, seasons, outcomes from our actions) then call us to faith in the one who can work outside that system. As adults we excel at understanding the world and working for the benefit of ourselves, our families and our communities. We appreciate knowing, "if I behave in a certain way, I will tend to get certain outcomes." But because of that predictability, we often try to contain life within those boundaries. Our minds set limits that seem reasonable because of the way the world operates but walls us off to the capabilities of God. Jesus invites us to look beyond our limited understanding and seek God in all parts of our lives. He suggests with the bread and fish that our efforts, which have a predictable outcome, can be expanded when we trust God with our resources. The boy who offered his meagre resources was not looking to become the ancient equivalent of a multi-millionaire, he was offering what he had to God and trusting it would make a difference. Perhaps he too was amazed at what Jesus did with those resources! I think the hardest truth for us to grasp in our every day lives is that nothing is impossible with God. Though he can walk on water, part sees and surround armies with an army of angels, it is my reality today that requires faith of me. For me it is often harder to trust God with what seems small and even insignificant (why would God be concerned with that, anyway!) than with the bigger things that I know are beyond my control before I start praying about them. When I am required to trust and not worry, to spend more time with someone when I have a long list of e-mails to answer, to walk in obedience when I don't want to do what God is asking, that is when the loaves and fish matter, that is when I let Christ become my friend and not just the God who once performed miracles a long time ago in history. No matter what the circumstances, until I can see Jesus' grace taking my offering to new heights right now, I haven't truly understood the purpose of the story. Thanks for the insights, Jeremy!