Archive for March 14th, 2012

I re-encountered a teaching the other day that gave me a fresh perspective on the way Jesus thinks and teaches.

The teaching was on the story of Jesus feeding the crowd of five thousand (John 6:1-15) with five barley loaves and two small fish. The crowd had gathered after seeing and/or hearing about his miracles of healing. He had healed the blind, the mute, the lame, the leper and the dead … definitely the stuff of attention getting!

As this crowd was forming near Jesus and his disciples, he says to Philip, “where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” (John 6:5) Now, I was not there, and have never been to the Sea of Galilee, but I am pretty sure there was no 7 Eleven near by, or even a bread vendor. Jesus really is asking a redundant question, because what he is doing is testing Philip, not asking for a suggested shopping place.

The following verse confirms this, “he asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do” (John 6:5).  This was the unit test, and Jesus was looking to see if his followers had been paying attention.

The first response came from Philip, “It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!” (vs.7). Philip was being practical, I like that. Sadly, it did not reflect the unit teaching on the power that Jesus had, through his father, to do all of the miracles he had performed. So, sadly, Philip pulls off a fail.

The second response came from Andrew (Simon Peter’s brother), “here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?” Now he is offering a solution that is practical, but he is not sure how so little could meet the needs of so many. Hum, maybe pass him, but just barely a pass (or, if I was punny, I might say, ‘barley’ a pass … but, I digress).

Then Jesus gave instructions to his disciples about how to go about sharing the small offering, after he gave thanks for it. He gave thanks because he knew who the small answer to prayer was from. He also knew that any offering, no matter the size, that was in the hands of the redeemer, could be multiplied exponentially.

When the masses were satisfied, Jesus gave further directions, “gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted” (v. 12-13). The disciples did as they were directed (maybe with their heads hanging, for not paying attention to the miracles performed in recent days), and when they were finished they had filled twelve baskets with the left overs! They were given more than they ever hoped for or dreamed. And that is the abundance that God lavishes on us.

It is easy to read this story and, like when I was a kid, focus on the bread and fishes. I think though that the lesson had less to do with the sustenance that food provides, and more to do with reliance on our heavenly father that sustains us in daily life.

Too often we hear of a need, and our response is towards the practical. We listen to the person, we give them money, we invite them to church, we help them find professional counseling, we bake them a cake, or take them a casserole. Maybe what we should do, first, is take their need to our heavenly father, and ask Him to provide the sustenance that satisfies.

“Don’t waste your energy striving for perishable food like that.
Work for the food that sticks with you,
food that nourishes your lasting life,
food the Son of Man provides.
He and what he does are guaranteed by God the Father to last.”
John 6:27

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