Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Biblical Math Is Just about as Confusing as Algebra

So I’m reading the Scripture around the story of Jesus walking on the water, and right before He walks on the water is the story of Jesus feeding the 5000 men plus women and children. You know, math is NOT my thing. If I can't get it by using my fingers and toes or a calculator, well, let's just say X will have to resolve itself.

Let me set it up for you. The twelve disciples have just returned to Jesus after having been sent out. Jesus had given them the ability to heal and cast out demons, and the disciples were telling him everything they had done. It is exhausting work to do the work of Jesus whether it’s in daily life, in a ministry position, in or outside the church walls. It can just wear you out. It’s a good type of exhaustion, but it is still fatigue. Jesus realizing they could use some down time, gets everyone into a boat and heads to the other side of the lake. The people who have been following see where they are going and run around the lake telling others who they are going to see. The disciples may be looking forward to some alone time with Jesus or some down time, but when they arrive on the other shore, people were arriving.

Always the teacher, Jesus tells the disciples that they will need to feed this group. Jesus knows what He’s
going to do, but it’s an opportunity to refocus the disciples from what they just had accomplished in Jesus’ name to what they were about to witness. It was Jesus’ opportunity to allow man (aka Phillip) to figure out that it was impossible for them to feed this many people with the limited resources they had. This story is also in John 6, and by digging a little deeper into Phillip, I discovered that he was from a town called Bethsaida which was 9 miles away. If anyone is going to know where to find something good to eat, it’s going to be a hometown boy. When I go to New Orleans for seminary or for business meetings, I always ask a local, “Where’s your favorite place to eat?” OH MY WORD! YUMMMM!

The Bible tells us it’s near Passover time. For us women, we know that holidays mean eating. Am I right? We go to the grocery store to get all the supplies and start cooking. If Passover was near, my guess is that grain may have been short in supply, or at least difficult to find enough to feed close to 15,000 people. When thinks look impossible or improbable, God is up to something. So, pay attention, He’s about to show up.

I can see Phillip now doing estimation. Let’s see, there’s 5000 men plus women and children so around 15,000, plus Peter eats as much as two men. There’s forty dollars for bread. I can buy 40 of the short loaves for 40 dollars, divide that by 15,000, carry the…wait! There’s nothing to carry over. Everyone would get like maybe one bite of bread to eat. Then there’s Andrew. I’m not sure, but I think he was being a little sarcastic too when he pointed out, There’s a kid with five loaves and two fishes. That’s enough for us, but what about them? (Of course, I added my own goofiness to it, but you get the point, right?) Now apply this to you and where you sit right now. You have been responsible with your finances – no excessive spending, no budget blowing, no shopping sprees. You’ve given to God, and yet it doesn’t look like you are going to make it to the end of the month. You’re looking at your check book, I can buy one loaf of bread and maybe some milk. If I do that, subtract it from what’s in the account… WOOWEE! Have I been there. But God. God sees what you have. You take what you have. You lift your head up to the heavens. You ask God to bless, and Jesus satisfies. It’s a faith-builder or a faith-buster. Some pull out a credit card. Some go upside down. Some bounce checks. Wouldn’t you rather sit at the feet of Jesus, let him bless what you have, and wait for him to satisfy your need? I would.

One other point to make, a child brought forth his five loaves and two fish. Jesus does not discriminate because of age. Jesus uses what a child brings to the table to bless a multitude. Never, never, never, never prevent your child from giving to the kingdom whether it is a favorite doll, all of their savings, their baseball card collection. You find a way to make it into the kingdom work, and you show your child how God can use it, bless it and multiply it. What a great teachable moment!

So they are on the shore and we’re not exactly sure how the disciples feel about the crowd being there, but the Bible says in verse 34, “He was moved with compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and He began to teach them many things.”

If you contrast Jesus to Herod the territorial leader of the time, you will see Jesus led with compassion for others. Herod led by focusing on self-love and selfish desires. Jesus provided for the mass, but Herod gave only to his inner circle. There are a lot of contrasts, and I could go on, but there is something that catches my attention more in Mark’s version of this story.

Jesus instructed the people to break up into groups and to repose, recline, get comfortable on the green, herby grass in order to be fed until they were satisfied. Does this sound familiar to anyone?

Psalm 23:1-3

1. The Lord is my Shepherd,

I shall not want.

2. He makes me lie down in green pastures;

He leads me beside quiet waters.

3. He restores my soul;

He guides me in the paths of righteousness

For His names sake.

4. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

I fear no evil, for You are with me;

Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

5. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;

You have anointed my head with oil;

My cup overflows.

6. Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life,

And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

WOW! Isn’t that beautiful!? This group of 5000 men plus women and children may not have realized they were living Scripture, but I do. I wonder what I miss. I wonder what Scripture God has me in right now, and I don’t recognize it as such. These people eating a satisfying meal from 5 loaves and 2 fish were satisfied completely, contently at the feet of Jesus. Jesus knows exactly where you are today, what your needs are, what your desires are, and He wants to be your Shepherd. You have a choice to make: Do you follow the Shepherd and find peace? OR Do you continue to focus on what is in your bank account, the troubles you are in, the stress your sitting in? It’s a no-brainer for me. Give me peace. Give me Jesus.

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