Summary: Our job is to involve Jesus in any problems we are facing and to count on his presence and power. Jesus is present and ready to help in any situation of need. All we have to do is come to him in faith.
Have you ever had to prepare a meal for a large group of people with little or no advance notice? When you prepared that meal, did you ever stop to wonder how you would do it, especially if you realized that you did not have enough food and you did not have the time or money to go to the grocery store? If that is the case, perhaps you can sympathize with the disciples in the story of the feeding of the crowd, which we heard from John’s Gospel a few minutes ago.
Jesus had been teaching the crowd all day, and it was almost time for the evening meal. The disciples wanted Jesus to dismiss the people so they could go and buy food in the neighbouring towns and villages. Jesus had other ideas. He told the disciples to feed the people.
We see the reactions of two of the disciples to Jesus’ instruction. Philip saw the need for a miracle and calculated the odds. He tried to prove that it could not be done. How many times are we like Philip? How often do we fail to see what God is doing because we are focused on our selfish desires and needs?
Andrew, on the other hand, set out to try to solve the problem, and the solution he found is the key to the first part of this story. He searched for food among the people, but he found only one small boy with a small lunch that seemed inadequate for the task at hand. We have to give credit to Andrew for at least trying to find a solution to the problem.
Barley was a staple part of the diet for the poor. The loaves were small, flat wafers. The fish were the size of sardines. The meal was barely enough for one little boy, let alone sufficient to satisfy the appetite of a grown man. When Jesus accepted the boy’s gift, he blessed it, and in the blessing the small became great. There was suddenly enough bread because Jesus saw the people and wanted them to be fed, just like Jesus saw the fear in his disciples on the sea. He loved the disciples and the crowd and gave both groups the peace of his presence.
This story shows the difference between two types of churches-missional and maintenance. Missional churches welcome all situations and see the potential while acknowledging the challenges these situations create. Maintenance churches focus on creating committees that make decisions and not disciples. Maintenance churches distance themselves from problems because they are too busy having committee meetings. Maintenance churches are filled with tension because the members don’t know what’s going to happen or how to respond. They do just enough to get by. Missional churches look for things to do, even when their members are already doing things. They believe that because God is in what they are doing, God will provide everything that they will need. Maintenance churches are paralyzed by the size and scope of the task before them, but missional churches break the task down into manageable parts. They do not try to do everything all at once because they know they can’t be everything to everyone all of the time. Jesus accepts their limitations and only expects them to work with what we have and with the next people they meet. Which type of church would we prefer to be?
Jesus can take anything we give him, no matter how big or how small, and multiply it to be used to do his work in the world. My own ministry and spiritual life are good examples. God has taken the talents and gifts I have (and have offered to him) and used them to spread the good news and do his work both locally and world-wide through the worship services I lead and the sermons I post on my blog.
All life and all good gifts come from God. Jesus comes to open our hearts and our hands to those around us. We can do that only because he opens our eyes to his own presence as the grace-and-peace-filled “I” in the middle of the storm.
When Jesus sets an impossible task before us, he knows what he is going to do, but he wants us to see how we will react. Will we react in fear, confusion or faith? Jesus tested the disciples. He wanted them to fail so that he might strengthen them. Jesus also tests us for the same reason. Failure gives us strength. We and the disciples should have learned a lesson from this story. We must never gauge the size of a challenge in terms of our capability. God calls us to commit whatever we have, and he will use it for his glory. When we give ourselves into God’s hands, we become instruments in his service. We can then serve many people who are hungry physically and/or spiritually. When we come to the end of our resources, God comes in with his resources. In Jesus, there is more than enough for everyone.