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Part 21

07 Jul 2021

Matthew 14:13-21

Jesus feeds the 5000.

This passages has, for me, been life transformational stuff. There’s so much in this passage that simply blows the mind.

I think, and have probably said before, that we can become so familiar with scripture and its events and the stories about those events, that we can become deaf to its words. We almost become so familiar with them  that they no longer stir the imagination, and as such, no longer fill our hearts with wonder. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that familiarity breeds contempt, but perhaps something closer to indifference. We acknowledge the truth of what we read but experience nothing of its power.

Let’s take a moment you and me, well, all of us together, and cast our imaginations over this well trodden ground, and see if the Lord by His Spirit might have something to say to us to quicken again in us our wonder and joy, our sheer amazement at the Word, the Word made flesh, this Jesus, and the Gospel that bares His name.

Imagine the scene, the disciples, Jesus, and a bunch of other folk desperate for the word of God are somewhere in the countryside, near a lake or large body of water of some description. They’ve been there for hours listening to Jesus.

They’ve come to this place in their need, in their infirmity, in their hunger, and they’ve eaten up every word that Jesus has offered them.

The day wanes, evening is falling, no one budges. They will stay all night to hear Jesus’ words, such is their hunger.

Somewhat surprisingly, it is not the crowd that begins to grumble at the lateness of the hour, or because of the gnawing of their bellies. No, they are being fed in ways that go beyond our simple understanding, being satisfied in ways that no mere bread ever could.

Instead, it is the disciples who approach Jesus. It is they who call time on the preaching and ministering of Jesus.

They do so out of their concern for the people, “The day is closing.They have far to go. They will be hungry”, but I believe that it’s important for us to see that it is the disciples, the followers of Jesus who constrain the preaching and ministering of Jesus to the crowd.

How often is this true in our day also. How often are the modern day followers of Jesus guilty of this very same thing, “We must keep the preaching short, the people will get restless. People will need to get away for their lunch, so we need to keep it short and sweet”.

There were times of course when Jesus’ preaching was short and sweet, however, He was neither afraid nor was He apologetic in His willingness to preach and teach and minister at great length.

Just a thought.

So, anyway, before we get sidetracked too far on contemporary approaches to preaching and the organisation of the worship service, back to the point, back to Jesus.

Jesus responds to the disciples in a most unusual, atypical way.

“Give them something to eat then.” That’s basically what He says.

“What’s the problem here lads? If the people are hungry then give them something to eat. You feed them.”

Now at this point the disciples are a little bemused, and who can blame them, who wouldn’t be? This was a massive crowd of people numbering in the thousands and Jesus was expecting the disciples to cater a meal for them all.

Imagine the conversations amongst the disciples. “Right lads, let’s have a whip round. What have we got?”

The absurdity of it. You can almost see these poor hapless lads looking at each other in bewilderment, hands patting their pockets and emptying out their packs on the off chance that they might have accidentally stowed enough food to feed thousands of people in their tunics before leaving home that morning.

“Oh, right lads, here’s a catering truck stocked with enough food to feed approximately ten thousand people. I wondered where I’d put that.”

The disciples, at least in their minds, come up short. They only have five loaves of bread and two fish. There’s no way such a meagre amount of food could feed such a huge press of people; could it?

Of course not! That’s the point.

Jesus so often asks us to do impossible things, things that we couldn’t possibly hope to do were it not for His supernatural power working in the midst of our situation.

What Jesus is asking of the disciples, remember He has told them to feed the crowd, is, humanly speaking, impossible.

And yet…

The disciples must have looked a sorry sight as they presented their picnic lunch to Jesus. So lacking in understanding, and I can imagine, so overcome with the enormity of the task, especially in light of their complete inability to fulfil their master’s wishes, no matter how much they desired to please Him.

Thankfully Jesus steps in to bring them relief. He breaks the bread, prays over the food, and then hands the baskets to the disciples to distribute it amongst the people.

Now, again, imagine that. All the disciples have seen so far is Jesus praying and breaking bread, then putting those broken bits and pieces of food into baskets, no miracles yet.

They simply have to go out into the crowd and distribute the food knowing that there is by no means enough to go around; not by a long shot.

I wonder if they went out into the crowd with hearts full of faith, knowing that somehow Jesus would make everything right. Or did they perhaps simply go out in blind obedience simply because that is what the Master had told them to do?

Did they have a pit in their stomach, waiting for the food to run out, for the crowd to see what frauds and a bunch of failures they were, and then of course for the crowd to turn on them?

Or did they go out with nervous excitement and a little fear, not knowing what would happen. But hey, this was Jesus, anything could happen.

The passage doesn’t give us any of those details, it simply tells us that they went and distributed, and that not only did everyone eat and were satisfied, but that the disciples came back with more food than what they went out with!

Can you imagine the slow realisation dawning on the faces of the disciples as they realised that as they distributed the food it wasn’t running out?

“Surely it should have run out by now, I didn’t think I had this much. This is weird, there’s no way I could have fed all those rows with what was in my basket, but there’s still more in there.”

“No, I’m sure now. It would’ve been impossible to get this far with what I had, no way at all.”

You can imagine the truth begin to dawn on the disciples at different times as they made their way through the rows of people, looking up at each other sheepishly, questioningly, calling out to each other as they made their way up and down the rows, “Hey Andrew, how’s your basket doing? Got much left?” 

“Me too!”

What a thrill.

Can you imagine Jesus watching on, knowing full well what was about to unfold. Knowing that the penny would drop at some point.

It must have been difficult for Him to keep a straight face, to contain Himself as He watched on.

What a fantastic scene!

So here’s the thing. The disciples had no idea what would happen. They had no advanced warning. They were, in effect, simply asked by Jesus to trust Him and do as He had asked.

How inadequate to the task they must have felt. How pathetic the resources at their disposal must have seemed, especially in light of the seemingly endless need with which they were confronted.

They must have felt like they were not up to the task. Incompetent. Failures.

In this context, that is the voice of the flesh, telling you “you’re not good enough, you don’t have enough, you’re not skilled enough, you’re a failure.”

The Flesh always wants to make everything about us, even if it is to get us to see ourselves as failures, as long as our eyes are on ourselves and not on Jesus.

Self doubt, self loathing, self pity, self confidence, self love, all the same thing really - self;  flesh.

Jesus simply asks the disciples for what they have - not for what they don’t. He asks for what they do have then He multiplies it so that the many are fed.

So, here’s the rub folks. To me, this passage sums up all of life as a follower of Jesus.

All of the Christian life is loaves and fish. We take whatever meagre offering we have, regardless of how small, insignificant, and unfit for the task at hand, we take that meagre offering and put it in the hands of Jesus, who by His grace will bring the increase.

If you put what little you have in the hands of Jesus He will make a feast of it, and many will be fed. However, if I keep the little I have in my own hand I will make a meal of it.

There’s the choices. Either I make a meal of it or Jesus makes a feast of it.

In truth, as I write these words to you I feel very much like one of those disciples at the feeding of the 5000. Not sure what Jesus is about to do, not sure what He is expecting of me.

For many years now I believe I’ve been taking whatever I had and putting it into His hands. But it seems that every turn in ministry that He calls me to make, I have fewer and fewer resources to give.

The greatest desire of my heart and life is that the Lord would use me in service to His ministry, that I’d be able to make my living using all that I am and that He has given me for that very purpose.

However, there is so much that constrains life in this fallen world, money often being chief among them.

It has been a long walk of faith in the area of our finances. It has often been difficult, however, the Lord has always proved Himself faithful. We are so very grateful to the Lord for the supporters we have, and we are praying that He would add to the number of our supporters that our arm would be strengthened for service in His ministry.

There was a time not so long ago, when there were big opportunities before me, but I turned them down because I couldn’t sign up to the models and methods of ministry that I would have to adopt in order to embrace and capitalise on those opportunities.

I spent much time in prayer over those opportunities, and as I did, I was reminded of the Lord’s words that unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies it doesn’t produce much fruit.

That seemed to me to be very much like the Lord.

So in obedience and faith I turned my back on those opportunities and in doing so, limited my future opportunities - humanly speaking.

At every turn I believe I have done what the Lord has asked of me. Rather than focussing on those big platforms and speaking opportunities, Jodie and I believed that we were to create a space with a far more relational focus, somewhere between Francis Schaeffer’s Labri and Bonhoeffer’s Life Together,

We have pursued this vision as of the Lord, but now we have reached a pivotal moment.

Our financial position necessitates a drastic change in our fortunes.

Loaves and fish.

I will put the last of what I have in His hand and pray that He would transform it into a feast, and that we would be fed in abundance (financially speaking that is).

The irony is, that by the time I send this out to you, because of the financial pressure we are under, the decision will have likely been made.

I wonder where I’ll be and what life will look like when I type this up to be sent out?

Stay tuned. This one is going to be interesting.

Loaves and fish!

Devotional Part 13

13 May 2021

Matthew 4:1-11. We return to the scene of Jesus temptation in the wilderness, this time from the recollections of Matthew. Here we have the detail we lacked in Mark’s account, so we can begin to answer that question regarding how Jesus was tempted in the flesh?... continue reading...

Devotional Part 5

17 Mar 2021

Mark 8:34-9:1. “Take up your cross” We must lose our lives in order to save them.   Christ’s call to the disciple is to come and die. Take up your cross… so visual, so visceral.... continue reading...

Devotional Study Part 3

10 Mar 2021

  Mark 1:14-20.   Jesus comes out of the wilderness experience and comes to Galilee preaching the Gospel with power and authority. He then calls His disciples.   What has this to do with overcoming the flesh you might well ask? I did, however, I think it is important.... continue reading...

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