Feeding a crowd of five thousand people on a mountain, in the wilderness, with no source of food at the ready, was most definitely not a SMART goal. It was neither attainable nor realistic nor timely.Still, Jesus asks his disciple Philip, “where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?”
Right away, Philip states the obvious: it would take more than six months’ wages to feed this many people. That was reality. Given the circumstances, Jesus is asking them to do something that was downright impossible.And this would not be the only time in the Gospels when Jesus does this...
A few weeks ago, we heard of Jesus sending his disciples into the surrounding villages and towns—to preach the word, heal the sick, and cast out demons. But they had no form of religious training—and they had never done these things before. Not only that, he permitted them no extra food, a change of clothes, or money to boot.After his resurrection, Jesus commissions his disciples to go and make disciples of all nations—including nations which will persecute and exterminate the sheep of his flock.
All told, the odds were never in the disciples’ favor to accomplish those purposes for which Jesus sends them.But right after Philip states his objections, there appears a little boy—with a little bit of food in his possession. Five barley loaves and two fish—a small meal even for himself and his family—and certainly a mere morsel in the face of so much need. In spite of that, the child gives his meager offering to Jesus. And in Jesus’ hands, it’s more than enough. All the people do eat—and they eat their fill. And there’s more food left over than the boy presented in the first place.
What makes this story so interesting is that Jesus had the power to make food magically appear; perhaps to turn the grass into bread. But that’s not what he does. What happens instead is that a small child participates with Jesus in the feeding. Isn’t that what discipleship really is? Being a disciple doesn’t mean that we sit back while Jesus does all the work. A disciple is one who participates in what Jesus is doing.And what does Jesus do? He cares for those in need. He forgives sins. He makes himself one with the lost and the least of the world. And he calls all people into a relationship with himself. This is his work—as it is our work.
And throughout our lives as his disciples, we’re going to feel like Jesus’ (first) disciples did that day on the mountain—that Jesus is asking us to things that are impossible. It’s not that we would disagree with what Jesus wants us to do. Where we get stuck is in HOW we will do what Jesus calls us to do.Our minds and our imaginations become consumed by what little we have to offer—and how difficult the task at hand is going to be. We know our weaknesses, we know the threats that surround us; and we know that the work we do for Jesus comes with no guarantee of success. Then we get discouraged; and we say things like “we can’t.” “We’ve never done this before.” “That’ll never work.” In other words, we conclude that doing Jesus’ will is neither realistic nor attainable nor timely.
But today Jesus uses the example of a little boy who gives Jesus the best he has—and it is more than enough to accomplish Jesus’ will.Each of us has what it takes to be a disciple—because we all have gifts; we all have talents; we all have passions and dreams for a better world. We have our church—and we have each other. Because of that, we can (by God’s grace), transform the lives of our neighbors through Christ’s love. Yes, we have our challenges—but they’re no match for amazing grace.
When we give Jesus our best, he will take care of the rest.He can take our meager best and accomplish abundantly far more than we can ask or imagine.
And when we do this, we are drawn into a deeper relationship with Jesus—because we’ll be in a position to witness his power at work in us and in our gifts.This week, our congregation will be giving our best to our community with our clothing closet. You and dozens of others from around our community have already given so generously. And this week, it’s going to take a lot of time, a lot of work, and a lot of patience to see this through—but if you are able to come and give of your time and your faith, you will be drawn closer to Jesus. You will meet Jesus in the people we serve.
In whatever ways God has blessed you, there are so many ways to participate in Jesus Christ. What does Jesus do? He cares for those in need. He forgives. He makes himself one with the least and the lost. He loves.When we give Jesus our best, he will take care of the rest.
Miracles will happen. Grace will amaze. Love and hope will abound.