When I read through the Gospels, I like to imagine myself in the disciples’ shoes (sandals?) as each story unfolds… it helps me with understanding & also keeps me from distancing (or at least attempting to distance) myself from their often less than stellar responses to Jesus’ teaching, His questions, & what He’s asked them to do. Here’s what I mean.
Today during the Zoom Bible study I’m a part of, someone brought up the story of Jesus feeding the 5000, in the context of what specifically Jesus asked His disciples to do. (For a refresher, check out Mark 6:30-44.)
The disciples are tired. Bone tired. All they want to do is go somewhere quiet to rest. WITHOUT crowds. WITHOUT interruptions. WITHOUT anything to DO. And yet… somehow, the crowds find them, & like He usually did, Jesus had compassion on the masses & taught them. At some point, a couple of the disciples, (don’t know who) saw that it was late. They had been tired before, but NOW… now they were exhausted. Some brave soul among them encouraged Jesus to send the crowds home so they could get something to eat (& perhaps so the disciples could EAT & get some well-earned REST.
And then Jesus threw them a curveball: “YOU feed them. You guys – feed THEM.” I can only imagine the side-conversations between the disciples as they tried to figure out what Jesus really meant when He told them to feed the crowds…
“He said to feed them? No way. No how. HOW would we be able to do that? We are TOAST & we have NO supplies.This is impossible.” We don’t know if anyone tried to reason with Jesus at the unreasonableness of His directive, or if any disciple attempted to explain that feeding people (esp. so many people!) required either a) a whole bunch of money &/or b) a whole bunch of food, both of which the disciples DID NOT have.
If this is me in this situation, I am frustrated. Not because I’ve been asked to do something when I’m super tired (ok, maybe that is part of it) but really, mostly it would be because I was asked to do something that was IMPOSSIBLE to do. On my best day, with a veritable Costco/superstore amount of food at my disposal, I would be hard-pressed to do THIS. The impossibility of the task highlights one of my (our?) great struggles: I am inadequate. I do not have the resources to do what needs to be done. I am (I feel like) a failure. I am not enough. And now I am exposed.
Jesus isn’t messing with His guys – He asks, “What DO you have? I know what you DON’T have, but what DO you have?” A quick survey discovers that there are exactly 2 fish & 5 loaves of bread that were offered up by someone to share with the 5000. (We also don’t know if other people had brought food with them & hadn’t wanted to SHARE with others when the disciples were asking around for any donations… I can totally see people in the crowd hiding their own resources to make sure that they’d have food for themselves, & if other people wanted to eat, well, “…they should have been responsible & brought their own.” But I digress…)
A disciple brings Jesus the meager offering & He blesses the fish. He takes the bread, blesses it, breaks it & hands it to the disciples nearest Him.
“Go ahead. Pass it out. These people are hungry! Get to it boys!”
I wouldn’t say I’m a perfectionist or an overachiever, though I would say I like to get things right & I want to (need to?) follow through with an assignment I’ve been given. To not be able to finish something, to not have the ability to accomplish what I’ve been tasked with… that is one of the worst feelings in the world. The 1st-born (perfectionist overachiever?) part of me takes pride in my hard work, my ability to DO what needs to be done, to Step Up & be responsible & perform well. And if I can’t? Not usually an option…
When I think of Jesus asking me to feed the 5000 with an inadequate supply of food, my stomach turns. I think of the awkward conversations. Hungry people looking to me for dinner only to find that I’m not able to give them. Excuses. Worries. Fears. Insecurities. I am not enough & now I am exposed.
But Jesus didn’t ask if I had enough – He asked WHAT I had. HE gave thanks. HE blessed it. HE gave it to me & HE told me to start passing it out. He didn’t give any qualifiers. He didn’t ask my opinion on how I thought it would go or if I thought it was fair, right, or good of Him to ask me to pass out the fish & bread.
He just asked me to take what HE gave me & share it with others. Not to keep track of it. Not to measure how much each person got. Just to give to others as I’ve received. To OBEY, not evaluate.
The disciples passed out the loaves & the fish… & kept passing it out. And kept passing it out. And pretty soon, everyone had enough. More than enough. People were leaning back on the grass with contented bellies, big smiles on their faces, & the beginnings of a food coma creeping up on them. As they began to head for their homes, Jesus had the disciples pick up the leftovers(!) from the feast… & there were 12 small baskets FULL. (I’m not a math whiz, but 12 small baskets FULL of fish & bread seems to be > 2 fish & 5 loaves of bread.)
There’s no indication that anyone besides Jesus, the disciples, & maybe the dude who shared his food had any idea of the miracle that Jesus accomplished that day. And really, it wasn’t about food. It was about His disciples. It was about trust & faith. It was about believing that if Jesus SAID to do something, you did it. You didn’t look at your inadequacy, your lack of ability to perform, your potential for failure… you just obeyed & believed that the responsibility for providing the feast fell on Jesus.
Ever since the lunch Bible study/discussion, I’ve been thinking on how often I evaluate situations I am facing based upon my ability to accomplish the tasks in front of me instead of looking to the One who’s asked me to simply do what He said, to share what He’s given to me. Without looking at my resources, abilities, energy (or lack thereof…) And I’m reminded that the Jesus in the Bible is the same Jesus that is working so patiently with me to transform me, to work through me, to make me a blessing & a help to people who need some sort of sustenance, physical or otherwise.
And in that situation, I am enough, because Jesus is MORE than enough & I can share what He’s given (& continues to give) to me, with others.