107. Full and fed – what now?

What would happen if all our prayers were answered in one go, suddenly, just like that? We would be overwhelmed with gratitude with the One who made it possible and spontaneously worship Him. There is no doubt in my mind that this is a natural response to greatness and miraculous deeds, just like the crowds in John 6:14-15.

They wanted to crown Him king. He gave them what they needed. They could see the spectacular course of their lives, ending well with no worry or fear. If they could just keep this Jesus on hand to provide, to create, to heal and to bless, their lives could be lived in the most luxurious manner possible – a life without fear, a life of provision and protection, an abundant life, a life of excellence. How were they going to keep Him close?

Do you also think this would be a good life? Jesus with us always, answering prayer, providing, protecting, healing and being present in every detail of every struggle. Does this not sound familiar? Is it not the foundation of the ordinary Christian life?

Then you will agree with my statement.

All our prayers are answered, once and for all, for all time. The promise of provision, protection, healing, and blessing stands written in the blood of Calvary over every life that has chosen to submit to God, through His beloved Son. We have it all!

Just a few, by far not all, remarks to support my statement (all discussed in previous Pebbles).

All our prayers are answered – Revelation 5:8, Matthew 7:7,8.

A life of excellence guaranteed – Jude 24.

We are protected – Psalm 91 and 121.

Provision for all things – Hebrew 13:5-7 Amplified, Malachi 3:10-12.

We are healed – Isaiah 53:4,5, Psalm 103:3.

 

Now you will immediately ask why so many Christians do not live this outwardly superior life of distinction.

Let us dig deeper into John 6.

Jesus withdraws from the euphoria of the crowd. He will never mislead them to promise superficial, instant answers. He promised a LIFE of abundance. It implies a deep change in thinking, attitude and vision. He will always communicate the cost of following Him.

The nature of a mob in a situation like this can be summed up as: “a lively sense of favours still to come.”

Would they be willing to sacrifice, to get rid of their worldly baggage, to forgive and love unconditionally? Are you willing to live the full extent of the Christian life – or do you just want Jesus added to enable your idea of a good life? Do you want God for what you can get out of Him – to use Him for your own purposes, to reach your own goals?

Your Messiah may be so unrecognizable in your life as Jesus was to the Jews of the time. Do you only want to get rid of the Romans as rulers so that you can rule, or do you think of your generational legacy? Godly lives change our world through our children as well as our community, our territory, our “tent”.

THINK – where are you now? What brought you to this place? Make the declaration: This is my best life now!

WHY? You have never known so much about the Lord as right now. That is ALL that matters. Submit all circumstances to your knowledge of Jesus and His character.

There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life—fear of death, fear of judgment—is one not yet fully formed in love. (1 John 4:18)

Where will you be with the gifts and no cross? What are the gifts without the cross?

Reading further (6:16-21) we have to see that this account is not just the story of a miracle. It is a peep into the character of Jesus.

The crowd wants to crown Jesus; He slips away and stays away to disperse the crowds. The disciples set sail for Capernaum to meet up with Him again. He sent them on (Mark 6:45).

The Sea of Galilee is a landlocked lake and the wind moves though a trough towards the lake. It was about six kilometers rowing and they were probably hugging the coast for shelter.

The beauty of the story is that Jesus was busy with the people and still He had not forgotten His disciples. He was very much aware of the storm. Life is lived with the loving eye of Jesus on us. He is there when our strength fails.

He always helps – we are never left alone to see how we cope.

He is in the midst of the fiercest storm – ready with a miracle.

Let us read on. (6:22-27)

The people lingered. They were in awe of the miracle and wanted more. They were surprised at His presence on the other side of the lake and could not work out how He crossed.

He does not explain Himself. To understand God and exactly how He does things, is not the key to faith and miracles. He acts without explaining. Dr Paul Tournier puts it this way: God works, God disciplines without stopping to explain…and the adventure continues.

He talks about their lives and the way they need to discern the more important things.

Do not think with your stomach?  You need to think with your soul. Think upon the Bread of Life.

It is the man with vision into the heavenly that is truly alive. Earthly perspective brings shortsighted living. (Isaiah 55:2)

The excesses of the Roman Empire were rife at this time. Meals cost thousands and sometimes millions of denarii. The people feasted for days, taking medicine to vomit to be able to eat more, eating pearls soaked in vinegar, nightingale tongues, and peacock brains. The clothes were embroidered with gemstones and spaces decorated with the best the Empire could offer. There was a deep hunger in society for satisfaction, which the best of the best could never satisfy.

Jesus alone can only satisfy the hunger for truth. He is the only One in the history of mankind who said: I am the TRUTH.

Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him.” (John 6:27)

A seal was more than a signature. It was authenticity. It made a document valid and guaranteed the contents of commercial goods.

The seal of God is written with three letters in Hebrew – aleph the first, min, the middle and tau the last. The truth of God is the beginning, middle and end of life.

God’s truth can truly satisfy the hunger of the soul, which he created.

For the Jews the work of God was synonymous with “good” works, to earn God’s favour. (6:28-29)  Jesus says: God’s work is to believe in Him, Jesus. Work for God can only be measured in faith. Jesus is the face of God. True fellowship is the work of God.

Our lives change in the Presence of the Father. No work on our part can change our inner beings. We respond to God’s holiness, love and wisdom.

The essence of God’s work is changed lives.

Can we close by coming back to answered prayer? All our prayers are answered. Can you trust God for the timing? As we count days in calendar time [chronos], He sees your life in the fullness of time [kairos].

 

The Lord is my best friend and my shepherd
I always have more than enough.

 (Psalm 23 in The Passion Translation)

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106. Little is much…abundance.

We so love the success stories of this world – the rags to riches type of thing. Ordinary people becoming rich and famous, commoners marrying royalty to live the fairytale life so many yearn for. Dreams of big money, luxury lives and desirable possessions drive the mad rush towards achievement, life at the top and maybe some rest and peace after all.

Very soon in the ministry of Jesus He was famous and known throughout the land. People talked about Him. He was controversial and He fully recognized His divisive message. In His own words:

Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. (Matthew 10:34)

People flocked around Him to admire and to judge. Is it not the same with earthly fame? I sometimes think people yearn for fame, as it is a sure sign of success when their name is on the lips of the masses, without having any idea of the sacrifice to their personal life. Famous people’s lives are in the public domain, unfortunately not just the good, also the mistakes, bad judgment and failures. It is outright cruel.

When life hits hard, it is no fun to read media interpretations of vicious envy and a good measure of “schadenfreude” (joy in the misfortune of others). The man in the street judges and throws the stones, all from the safety of anonymity. Media attention has challenged many people, their strength of person and above all their core values. Living a life of fame should be carefully approached with God’s wisdom for guidance through the volatile and brutal desert of public opinion.

And what about us? We are the man in the street with the stone in our hand. We feel free to gossip and dissect the scandals with no fear of personal sacrifice. If we want to live a life of excellence, gossip on all levels must be confessed and banned from our discussions. The very important principle of Luke 6:31 applies here.

And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise.

When we gossip, we will be the subjects of gossip. I believe there is a spirit of lying and deceit in every piece of tittle-tattle. My attitude and tone of voice in retelling a story can make it a lie. If we are not careful and fearful before God, we can wound and hurt with the violence of a swinging knife. (James 3). I picture some words in the image of a dagger to the heart, turning it now and then to inflict more pain.

Let us then step up and leave the judgment of famous people to God, lest we are judged by our own harsh words.

In the first verses of John 6 Jesus is found at the Sea of Galilee with a multitude following Him. He retreats to the mountain with His disciples. Jesus getting away from the people implied that He made time for His disciples for in-depth discussions. He made time for prayer. He deliberately avoided arguments with the authorities. Alone time is not defeatist. It is a vital part of living a public life, crucial for straight and God-centered thinking.

From Capernaum to other side of Galilee was about six kilometers. People followed Him. They were astonished about His teaching and yearned for more. They followed on land. The village Bethsaida was near the fords of the river on a plain where the grass was smooth. It became the setting for a miracle.

People made haste to find a good spot. There were bigger crowds as the feast of the Passover was near and everybody was travelling. Pilgrims on their ways to Jerusalem were also among the crowds, choosing a route to avoid Samaria.

The sight of the crowd stirred sympathy in Jesus’ heart. They were hungry and tired. Philip was the man to ask as he came from Bethsaida (John 1:44). Where could they get food? It would cost more than 200 denarii to feed the vast crowd. About four pence made one denarius and that was a day wage for a labourer. It would cost more than six month’s wages to feed the crowd.

Andrew came with the boy carrying five barley loaves and two little fishes. Andrew was always bringing people to Jesus. Barley was the cheapest of all bread and was held in contempt, regarded as the bread of the poor and animals.

The fishes were probably the size of sardines. Pickled fish was staple in Galilee. Fresh fish was a luxury unheard of. Fish could not last without preservation and therefore it was dried and salted.

The people had to sit down, Jesus blessed the food. He was acting as the father of the family and prayed a prayer of thanks for the food. He acknowledged God as the Source of food for the family.

Take a minute to think about your table prayers. When Jesus took the bread and the wine at the Last Supper with His disciples before the crucifixion, He said: remember Me. I believe we pray at the table to remember Jesus and what He has done for us. We should build a unique prayer of gratitude and remembrance for blessing at every meal and not mechanically repeat a senseless rhyme to get it over and done with.

The people received from the disciples. The disciples were an interesting bunch, from a variety of backgrounds. I am sure they distributed the bread in very individual ways, each one with a different approach. They represent the variety in the church of Jesus today. We minister culturally and individually as the situation demands.

The foremost consideration is that we minister the bread from Jesus’ hand.

 The people ate enough. They were filled. The word used for filled means to be filled to repletion, to be completely full after a meal.

 The fragments were gathered. At Jewish feasts it was regular practice to leave something for the servants. The people would have known. Twelve baskets, bottle-shaped baskets without which no Jew left his house were filled with leftovers. The food was more than enough.

There are interesting ways to look at the miracle:

Of course Jesus is the maker of the miracle and multiplied the loaves and fishes. It reminds us of the widow and the oil in 2 Kings 4 where she was set financially free by miraculous multiplication.

Pilgrims and labourers usually carried food with them for kosher requirements. It is very possible that every person had some food with him or her that day. The people were selfish and human. While travelling the food would have been carefully planned for a few days for personal use only. It would have been reckless to share and much safer to keep it for own use. Sharing of food would have been miracle in itself, with no regard to provision for the days to come. To share the food could have been a fearless abandon of the worry and planning where tomorrow’s provision is going to come from. A crowd of selfishness became a sharing feast. The change of heart and freedom from anxiety about provision made the miracle so much more intense.

The meal with divine provision became a sacramental meal with the words of Jesus. Later in the same chapter He speaks of drinking His blood and eating His body. The wonder of His presence made the food different. Ordinary food became spiritual food.

Let us consider the people instrumental in the miracle:

The contrast between Philip and Andrew is distinct. Philip spells out the impossibility of the situation. Andrew brings what he has.

This is SUPER important. What happens if we bring what we have to Jesus with our heart’s cry? Jesus would do what is necessary to provide what is lacking. We provide the material for a miracle.

The boy brought his ridiculously small contribution. Anybody looking at the crowds and his lunch would have laughed at the silly, absurd thought of feeding a multitude with a boy’s lunch.

Jesus only needs what we can give. Are you denying yourself a miracle because you think what you have is not worthy?

 Little is always much in the hands of Christ.

Are you problem orientated? Do you see the complete desperateness of the situation under the banner of realism? People, who do not like miracles, compliment themselves with realism.

Have you thought of the people you brought to Jesus? Do you think of your children and what they might become in the Kingdom?

 

[There is a tale of an old German schoolmaster who, when he entered his class of boys in the morning, used to remove his cap and bow ceremoniously to them. One asked him why he did this. His answer was: “You never know what one of these boys may some day become.” He was right – because one of them was Martin Luther.]