Monday, August 22, 2011

Um...yeah...there's five loaves and two fishes


We find in the Gospel of Mark, chapter 6, the disciples wanting some time with Jesus alone after several months of missionary work around the Sea of Galilee. They tried to withdraw to a desolate place by boat, but the huge crowds still tracked them down.

Jesus had compassion on the mass of people and so taught them many things. No where does the text say the disciples were jealous or irritated, but you can sense a touch of frustration as they warn Jesus to send the crowds away before it gets dark and they have no where to get food.

And when it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, “This is a desolate place, and the hour is now late. Send them away to go into the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.

At first blush the disciples come off as caring administrative types who foresee the hungry suffering of the masses and want them to be fed. Upon further review, it seems unlikely their focus is really on the crowds because it was pretty unreasonable to think the small, nearby villages would have the capacity to feed thousands of people. The disciples probably just wanted to send them off to fend for themselves so they could be with Jesus.

The tension rises as Jesus responds with an unexpected command-

But he answered them, “You give them something to eat.

Despite all they had seen from Jesus and their own witness of the miraculous when they went out "two by two" ministering in Jesus' name, they respond to Jesus' command with exasperation-

And they said to him, “Shall we go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread and give it to them to eat?

They are saying it is impossible for them to accomplish Jesus' assignment to feed 5,000 plus people. They don't have enough money to go buy the food necessary. They also calculate the cost of feeding the people at a year's wages. They are saying to Jesus- "your request is unreasonable...we can't possibly do that."

Such is often the case for us when we know God is calling us to do something. We take inventory of what we don't have to accomplish the task and declare a forfeit. We might even get frustrated with God for calling us to such a hard task or thing. Well, in this case, we learn something of how God works most often- by using our inadequate resources to manifest His power. Let's pick back up with Jesus' response to the disciples miffed "no can do" declaration-

And he said to them, “How many loaves do you have? Go and see.” And when they had found out, they said, “Five, and two fish.”

OK. Hang with me on this. I have a theory about what just happened. It's sort of like when my son prepares to walk out the door for school with no belt declaring he can't find it. I send him upstairs to get it, he comes down in seconds saying it's not there. I think the disciples were hacked about Jesus not following their plan (to send the crowds away) and so only half-heartedly ventured about the crowd to inventory the actual food available. Are you telling me that a crowd of over 5,000 people didn't even have a stick of beef jerky between them? I don't think the disciples checked very hard.

When the text says "when they had found out, they said, 'five, and two fish.' But we know from the Apostle John's recounting of this story that a young boy had volunteered his food (five loaves and two fish) to the disciples. I think the disciples were ready, like my son, to return to Jesus quickly to declare- "Nope, no food." Instead, a little faithful boy tugs on one of their robes and offers his food to the disciples. So, begrudgingly no doubt, the disciples bring what they have to Jesus as much to say "I told you so" as anything else.

Of course, you know how the story goes-

And taking the five loaves and the two fish he looked up to heaven and said a blessing and broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to set before the people. And he divided the two fish among them all. And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish.

There's lot to learn from this story. Most poignant is the way God takes meager, inadequate resources, and multiplies them. When God calls me to something, He will give me what I need to accomplish the task. It's not for me to declare "it cannot be done" if God says it can. Instead of immediately taking stock of what I don't have or whatever my manifold weaknesses are- may God help me to be more patient and careful to consider what I do have- even if it isn't much.

God seems to delight in using broken, inadequate, skewed, weak, marred, stuff to bring Glory to Himself. Take what He's given you- offer it up to Him- and watch Him bless it.

1 comment:

Woody Woodward said...

Deep probing thoughts that brings us to the reality of Who HE TRULY IS! Rightfully name for our mission purposes, “5-Loaves & 2-Fish” outreach. When we go in His Name and see the many needs of the poor, and we are prayerful in following the Lord’s same simple commands.
As our Lord commanded-obedience means:
1. Bring whatever we have to HIM
2. Lay our gifts, time, talents and treasures at HIS feet
3. We allow HIM the honor of BLESSING IT.
4. We give HIM the freedom to pass it around!
5. And we allow HIM the sovereign grace to decide how far our gifts are to go.
6. We will never waist one crumb of our gifts.

Even those faithless and confused disciples were amazed at the miracle that was about to unfold before them. They seemed to quickly put their selfish pride in their pockets and follow the Lord‘s directions. As soon as the Lord has finished His sermon, they finally determined among themselves, even what seems to be a very insignificant amount, if they brought their offerings to the feet of Jesus, HE would bless it beyond natural comprehension.

It then became a matter of getting out of the way and trusting HIM for HIS DESIRED results.
Many times we feel our gifts are too small. How could what I do or what I give into God’s work really make a difference?
We need to understand the worshipful act of giving hilariously. We never give to a cause or to a work or even to a special ministry. We give TO THE LORD AND THRUOGH THE LORD!~
No matter how little it might seem, when given in HIS NAME, Jesus is the one who will distribute the “food that will never perish!”
It is by our own faith, in action, that HE always measures the size and the results of the gift. HE alone decides how far our gift will go!
When we realize how helpless and needy we are, only then do we give Jesus the freedom to do His best work.