You may remember, in our last post, we started talking about activities that some find enjoyable, but others may actually find repulsive. Golf, Cleaning your house, Math, the Gym, and…Fishing. Ah, Fishing, an activity I never think about doing 🙂
All that was to lead us to this theme that we find in some parts of the Bible…stories that involve fish.
Brad Clarke started us off in the Fall…(Matthew 17, coin in mouth of a fish)
2 weeks ago we talked about Jesus calling Fishermen as his first Disciples.
In the fall we’ll hit the biggest of all Fish Stories…Jonah.
Today we jump into a story that, to be honest, the fish take such a small part of, but that’s the point of today’s text. It’s not about how much of the story you’re in, but that you’re in the right story. It’s not about how much you have to offer, but that you offer what you have. It’s not about the size of the your gift, but the willingness to give it, to use it, to share it, to see what God will do with the little that you have.
You’ll find today’s story in all 4 gospels. There are a few differences, as the gospels often offer, but otherwise basically the same. In Matthew’s version, it’s bookended with a story about John the Baptist’s death, and Jesus walking on water. One about grief, one about faith, and in the middle, one about Jesus doing what Jesus does with the little we have to offer.
It’s in Matthew 14:13-21, where we read about Jesus feeding 5000+ people.
(more like 15-20000)
Definitely one of Jesus ‘greatest’ and most ‘popular’ miracles…if we’re grading them 😉
Why? Simply the sheer number of people affected, and the craziness of the story. Let’s get into it and see why there’s more to this story than a crowd, a big dinner, and enough leftovers to feed an army.
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13 When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns.
In the verses just before, we find a gruesome story. John the Baptist, Jesus’ cousin, was beheaded. All this because the King’s daughter asked for his head on a platter, and the King obliges. So sad.
So when Matthew says, ‘Jesus heard what had happened.’ That is what happened.
And what was Jesus’ reaction? To be alone.
When were you last really sad? Death of a loved one, a break up, you didn’t get the job you wanted and thought you’d be getting, etc. In moments like these, you might wanna hide. You cancel your plans, you say no to your friend’s invites, and you stay home, or go to your favourite ‘alone’ spot. Jesus didn’t have Netflix to binge on, so solitude actually meant solitude.
Jesus is no different. That is his plan. To be alone. But that plan doesn’t transpire.
14 When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.
You get to your favourite spot and you see someone you know (bad timing).
You just settle into a night alone and the door bell rings. (bad timing)
It could be your best friend in these situations, but you don’t want to see anybody. (bad timing)
The crowd beats Jesus to his ‘alone’ spot. Not only is he interrupted, but they even get there before him.
3 things happen:
– He SAW people
– He had COMPASSION on them
– He HEALED their sicknesses
The only thing that could’ve changed his plans? COMPASSION. It always wins at the end of day.
- Compassion isn’t just feeling bad for someone, it’s feeling what they feel.
- It’s like you are suffering what they are suffering…you are suffering with them.
- It’s more than ‘too bad’…it’s more like…I see your pain, I feel your pain, how can I alleviate your pain.
15 As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.”
I love this scene. The Disciples are thinking, ‘good job Jesus, but let’s get these people out of here, it’s getting close to dinner.’ Smart. They propose an idea to Jesus. Jesus, of course, says, I take your idea, and I’m going to expand it.
16 Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.”
Jesus takes good ideas and turns them into great ideas…or crazy ideas, depending how you look at them. Probably more like crazy ideas that turn into great ideas.
His COMPASSION compels him to go further. They’re hungry? Let’s feed them ourselves. The disciples might say, ‘of course Jesus, that would be the more ‘compassionate’ thing to do…let’s go with your idea…as crazy as it is…BUT…
17 “We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,” they answered.
Words many of us have said before…WE ONLY HAVE…or…I DON’T HAVE enough.
These are regular, everyday, human reactions.
Here’s where the fish come into play. Told you… they are a very small part of this story. Only two of them. That’s it. Two fish.
What part do you play? Do you see yourself as insignificant? Or can you appreciate the role that you play, the part that you contribute?
We think this about ourselves too often.
- I’m not enough
- I don’t have what it takes
- I don’t have much to offer
- I ONLY HAVE 5 loaves & 2 fish
Just then, Jesus offers some of the best words we’ve heard uttered from him…
18 “Bring them here to me,” he said.
What do you have? OK. Offer it up. Give it to me. Hand them over. I’ll work with what you have.
I was at a leadership conference many years ago. It was inspiring and challenging and somewhat overwhelming too. I happened to meet one of the key speakers, and when I introduced myself I said, “Hi, my name is Jonathan Manafo, I’m just a 29 year old pastor from Canada.” And he replied with one simply, but powerful word, “JUST?”
Those are Jesus’ words to the Disciples and to us. JUST? You don’t ‘just’ have 5 loaves. You don’t ‘just’ have 2 fish. You HAVE 5 loaves and 2 fish.
BRING ME WHAT YOU HAVE.
NT Wright comments on these verses by saying,
Jesus takes ideas, loaves and fishes, money, a sense of humour, time, energy, talents, love, artistic gifts, skill with words, quickness of eye or fingers, whatever we have to offer. He holds them before his Father with prayer and blessing. Then, breaking them, so they are ready for use, he gives them back to us, to give to those who need them.
19 And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people.
This is interesting…Jesus takes the food, prays for it, breaks the bread, and gives it back to his Disciples.
Jesus will always turn back to us and say, ‘you in?’ Let’s do this together.
So instead of worrying about what you don’t have, Jesus reminds us to thank God for what we do have, and then use it.
The story ends with…
20 They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. 21 The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children.
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Let’s wrap things up with a few questions…
Will we be like Jesus and let compassion influence our actions & reactions?
- Jesus eventually does get some rest and alone time, we should too. But if we choose to be people of compassion, sometimes the rest will have to wait, but the possibility for a miracle goes way up.
- Simply put, compassion may take over, and if it does, follow it to see what happens.
Will we let Jesus take our good ideas and turn them into great ideas?
- Brainstorming in team settings is always the best way to arrived a preferred outcome, the same goes with Jesus. Don’t be afraid to offer up an idea, and don’t be sad when a better one comes along.
- Jesus’ ideas might even be crazy, but they are definitely worth entertaining if they come from him.
Will we let Jesus use our limited resources and turn them into miracles?
- Only in John’s gospel do we read about a boy in this story. He gave what he had, his lunch that contained only 5 loaves and 2 fish. And guess what? Jesus did what only he could do, and turned it into a feast.
- A lunch combo into a FEAST. Crazy? Yes. Amazing? YES.
I leave you with one line to remember and think about…