Sunday, January 8, 2012

Stretch Your Faith

After this, Jesus went across the Sea of Galilee (some call it Tiberias). A huge crowd followed him, attracted by the miracles they had seen him do among the sick. When he got to the other side, he climbed a hill and sat down, surrounded by his disciples. It was nearly time for the Feast of Passover, kept annually by the Jews. 6When Jesus looked out and saw that a large crowd had arrived, he said to Philip, "Where can we buy bread to feed these people?" He said this to stretch Philip's faith. He already knew what he was going to do. Philip answered, "Two hundred silver pieces wouldn't be enough to buy bread for each person to get a piece." One of the disciples—it was Andrew, brother to Simon Peter—said, "There's a little boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But that's a drop in the bucket for a crowd like this." Jesus said, "Make the people sit down." There was a nice carpet of green grass in this place. They sat down, about five thousand of them. Then Jesus took the bread and, having given thanks, gave it to those who were seated. He did the same with the fish. All ate as much as they wanted. When the people had eaten their fill, he said to his disciples, "Gather the leftovers so nothing is wasted." They went to work and filled twelve large baskets with leftovers from the five barley loaves.  (John 6:1-13, The Message)

It’s a story we learn in Sunday School from a very early age.  It’s one of the most memorable miracles Jesus performed - and he did it two different times.  But there are some lessons within this story that deserve more than just a “Sunday School” look because they cut to the very heart of how I should and do believe.

Jesus is asking His disciples for some input on a very practical problem - hungry people.  He already knows what He is going to do (I just love that part), but He wants His men to think about the challenge, perhaps even think “out of the box” a little.  And, as we see so often, they fail to see beyond their noses.  They miss the point of His questions because of their pre-conceived notions about how things work and the way they believe they ought to happen.  Philip says they can’t possibly buy enough.  Andrew finds a small lunch, but then notes it wouldn’t provide even a crumb for everyone present.  But at least there is that lunch …

Now, we don’t know anything about this little boy.  We don’t know if he offered his lunch up or if Andrew spotted it.  I’d like to think, given the way Jesus and children interacted, that the boy was open to the possibilities of what might happen.  He was willing to accept that Jesus would do something not normally expected.  And, as the story unfolds, that is exactly what happened.

But, Jesus doesn’t just tell the Disciples to “Stand back and let Me handle this.”  He begins by thanking His Father and then He enlists their help in passing out the meal.  He involves them, gets them to participate in what is going on so they can stretch their own faith and see first-hand the lavish abundance God provides to the crowd.  Jesus took the small faith of the disciples and that one tiny lunch and made a picnic in which nobody walked away hungry.

As I face this New Year on the Crooked Path, I want to pause and ask myself a single question.  Am I willing to give up what little I hold and stretch my faith?

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