Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Matthew 14 - Part 2

 Read Matthew 14

 John’s disciples told Jesus of John’s death.  Jesus withdrew from the crowds to what is described as a solitary place.  It wasn’t solitary for long.  The crowds found Jesus.  A huge crowd found Jesus.

In fact, the crowd must have also known this location because they beat Jesus there.  The crowd was waiting on Jesus when he arrived.  He didn’t go looking for another place.  He didn’t say, Hey! I reserved this spot.  He had compassion on them and began healing them.

As evening approached, the disciples reminded Jesus that they were in the middle of nowhere and these people would need to go to town to get something to eat.  You probably had better send them on their way now.

What did Jesus tell his disciples?  They don’t need to go.  You feed them.

Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.”

The disciples did what we would have likely done.  They took inventory.  They had 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish. There were about 5000 men plus women and children. 

I don’t care if you use the old math, new math, Japanese math, or common core math, you just don’t have enough food.  There is no way this even gives the first 100 people a snack.  No way!

In Matthew’s gospel, Phillip and Andrew don’t get speaking parts.  We don’t get a cost estimate on the price of feeding this crowd.  What we find here are instructions from Jesus to feed these people.

We don’t get doubts from Thomas.  Peter doesn’t put his foot in his mouth with some crazy remark.  We see faith not doubt.  There is no way this is enough food but the disciples just followed orders.

Jesus asked for the food, broke the bread, gave thanks, and sent the disciples into the crowd with the mission of feeding them.

The people sat down to eat.  The disciples took the food to them.  Each person only got a pinch of either bread or fish.  Not!

The scripture said that the people ate and were satisfied.  They were satisfied. 

Now, you might think that maybe each person only got a pinch and Jesus gave them the sensation of being satisfied.  We have experienced that.  We are hungry and then for some reason other than eating we are not hungry.

That wasn’t it.  How do we know?

The disciples collected more left-over pieces than the food that they had when they began this dining experience.

Everyone ate and was satisfied and there was more food leftover than when they began!

Yes, this was a miracle.  Jesus performed many miracles, but what is unique here is that it is the disciples who actually perform the miracle.

God is at work.  There is no doubt that God multiplied the food, but this was done through the disciples.  Jesus told them that they were to feed the people.  The multiplication of the loaves and fishes was done at the hands of the disciples.

Yes, it was by the power of God.  Yes, it was a mighty act of God that came through Jesus, but the disciples were a part of the miracle.

Imagine how they felt when they started into the crowd with very little food.  How did they feel 30 minutes later when they hadn’t run out?  How did they feel when the last people were fed?  How did they feel when they collected baskets of leftovers?

Think upon whether the disciples even looked at the size of the crowd while they were feeding each person.  Why would I suggest this?  Consider Peter walking on the water so long as he focused on Jesus and his command to come Peter stayed atop of the water.  Once Peter noticed the storm, his buoyancy factor changed immediately.

The disciples didn’t just see the miracle.  They were part of the miracle.

About twenty years ago, we needed a new building or to build on to the old building by the football field.  There wasn’t a lot of land there, so a new building was the most likely course of action. 

This building came available and we bought it.  That’s the short version.  It came available and it was way too expensive.  It was feeding five thousand plus expensive.  It didn’t happen, at least not then.

But we didn’t throw in the towel.  We worked with what we had, prayed, and were faithful and the building became available at auction and we bought it.  I think we had to buy it twice, but in any case, we got it for what we thought was reasonable.

It took a big loan to get us what we wanted out of the building and that loan was paid off in 2019, well ahead of schedule.  There was a bunch of bread left over.

The building was paid off at exactly the right time as the Pandemic of 2020 came at a price, at least as far as the economy in western Oklahoma goes.

About a decade ago, we started this crazy thing called Chewy Tuesdays.  It took a couple summers to get it right.  At first it was a lot of food and few people receiving help.  The workers ate well though.

Over time this turned into taking lunches to children.  The cuisine was not fancy but it hit the spot with the kids.  The kids would run towards those who delivered the meals.  The disciples were in the middle of this modern-day miracle. 

What was the miracle?   

Love was delivered in a paper bag by people who didn’t normally get out that much.  The disciples completed the miracle.

So, I ask everyone to consider the measure of faith we have each been given.  Even if it is just a mustard seed’s worth of faith,

Would you have walked into a crowd of more than 5000 with so little food?  Do you become anxious when it looks like things are not going to be what you thought?  Do you trust in the Lord with all of your heart, even when your own understanding is telling you something else?

The message today is be a part of God’s mighty acts.  Be a part of the miracle.  We don’t have to see the whole picture.  We just see the part that God gave us. We trust that God loves us and has good plans for us and don’t require him to present an estimate of supportability.

We should keep moving forward in our faith and discipleship, keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, but every once in a while, we should look not at the size of the crowd or the storm but back at where we have been. We do this in affirmation that though our part be small, God has done great things through us.

We have lived through 100% of all of our worst days ever.

We have made it to the verge of 2021, a new century that was ushered in with both hope and uncertainty, is now 20 years behind us.

We have seen growth in the kingdom of God.  We have been a part of the kingdom of heaven growing within us and around us.

We have been a part of the mighty acts of God in this age, in this millennia, and in this century.

You have done more than purchase a new building.  You have done more than build this crazy thing called a Gaga pit that the kids love so much they ask if they can go out in the rain and play in it.

You have sent missionaries to Africa from this body.  You have sponsored a girl in Sierra Leone.  You send shoeboxes full of love across the globe.  You contribute to buying shoes for the shoeless.  You feed families year-round with a little extra at this time of year.

You have helped so many get to church camp—a wonderful experience for many of our children and an overwhelming experience for some that we don’t see much during the year—that don’t know the Lord as we do or as our children do.

You have put people up overnight, purchased fuel to get someone to work or to the hospital for an appointment or surgery, and you have taken meals to those who are not only hungry but lonely. 

You could have looked at the crowd of more than 5000 and said there’s no way we can make a difference, or you could have taken the bit of bread and fish that you were given and been a part of a miracle.

We don’t do anything of substance on our own.  We are a part of something bigger.  We are part of God’s mighty acts in this age.  As we do our part, we may not even see the whole, or the finish line, or the abundance left over at the end, but we do our part.

The first inclination of the disciples was to ask Jesus to send the crowd away so they could eat.  In reply, Jesus said, you feed them

Jesus gave thanks and sent the disciples into the crowd before them with a simple instruction—you feed them.

How many times do we see only the size of the crowd and not the size and wonder of our God?  How many times do we miss being part of a miracle, because we can only see an obstacle?

The world is a mess.  It looks like it might get worse sooner than later.  Evil is having a heyday.  Yes, the church is even persecuted in this country now.  It’s fines and prison now, not death, but it’s new territory for us.

But here’s the thing.  We cannot only have peace in this troubled world, we can be a part of God’s mighty acts in the small parts that we have been given. 

You never know when you are going to have more leftovers than you had food to begin with, but you will never know if you just sit on the sidelines, never get out of the boat, or never take what little food you have and start feeding people.

Trust in the Lord.

Do your part.

Let God’s mighty acts work through you.


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