August 15, 2016
32 Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry, or they may collapse on the way.”
33 His disciples answered, “Where could we get enough bread in this remote place to feed such a crowd?”
34 “How many loaves do you have?” Jesus asked.
“Seven,” they replied, “and a few small fish.”
35 He told the crowd to sit down on the ground. 36 Then he took the seven loaves and the fish, and when he had given thanks, he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and they in turn to the people. 37 They all ate and were satisfied. Afterward the disciples picked up seven basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. 38 The number of those who ate was four thousand men, besides women and children. 39 After Jesus had sent the crowd away, he got into the boat and went to the vicinity of Magian.
Didn’t this just happen a chapter or so ago in Matthew’s Gospel? Matthew has limited space and he had many stories and incidents to choose from. Why would he tell another story so similar. Sure, the last time it was 5,000 men plus women and children and this time it was 4,000 plus. The last time it was five loaves and two fish and this time it was seven loaves and a “few” fish. Yes, there were twelve basketfuls of leftover last time and only seven this time. All of these differences seem to be inconsequential. So why the seeming “re-run?”
It can be so easy to forget the obvious in times like these. We can get so focused on the nature of the Kingdom, the mysteries of miracles, the grace of the Gospel and the sheer power of Jesus that we forget the bigger thing happening. I want to suggest that we must keep coming back and back and back and remembering something very simple, obvious and foundational about Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. They are discipleship manuals.
So many people have pulled so many principles and lessons and programs out of these Gospels it can become easy to lose touch with why we have them in the first place. The chief concern of the earliest church was to do exactly what Jesus commissioned them to do: to make disciples. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are chiefly, first, middle and last for the purpose of making disciples. These are not source texts from which to extract interesting, meaningful and even helpful lessons on Christian discipleship. These documents are inspired by the Holy Spirit just as they are, in their particular ordering, in their literary structuring, in their theological point of view to serve as the foundation, the center, the circumference, and the blueprints for making disciples.
That’s why we are slowly and somewhat carefully making this long journey through Matthew. We are discipling each other through this original text which details how Jesus made his first disciples and is still making them today.
Now, if I’m reading the text like that, here’s what I sense Jesus teaching me today. He is revealing my default way of thinking (and theirs) as a scarcity mentality. It means without divine intervention I will approach situations like the one in today’s text thinking, “There’s not enough.” Some of us are literally eaten up with the sickness of scarcity, always thinking, “There’s never enough.” Others of us think of ourselves as generous yet it does not take long to put us in a situation where we push the “there’s not enough” button.
Think about it. These disciples had just seen Jesus feed 20,000 with a single sack of food. Here they were in the same scenario asking, “Where could we get enough bread in this remote place to feed such a crowd?” Wrong question. That’s scarcity thinking. There’s not enough. Jesus is ever and always in every conceivable way trying to get the opposite teaching planted in his disciples minds and hearts: There’s more than enough. There is always more than enough.
The trap we tend to fall into as “can do” people is the trap of optimism. We look at a big challenge or problem and start strategizing as to how we can overcome it. Working together to strategize how to solve problems is not a bad thing. The problem is we start in the wrong place. We begin by looking at the problem, admitting to ourselves and each other that there’s not enough and then trusting our best thinking and ingenuity to find a way to meet the challenge. We then say things like, “We can end poverty.”
Jesus wants his disciples to begin with lesson #1 of the Kingdom of Heaven, three words: More than enough. He wants us to look into the face of what looks like oppressive scarcity and for our hearts to rise up with the retrained instincts of faith and say, “Because of Jesus, ‘More than enough.'” He wants us to live and move and have our being in that mentality, which is the kingdom of “On earth as it is in Heaven.”
This may sound subtle. It’s not.
Merciful God, we confess we are a “there’s not enough” kind of people. Save us from the trap of thinking we can make ourselves enough through our ingenuity and hard work. Instead, bring us to the place where we know you are more than enough and where we approach any and all situations with this deep conviction of faith. We pray in the name of Jesus, Amen.
1. How are you thinking through these three different starting points for approaching a challenge: a) There’s not enough. b) We can figure it out. c) More than enough.
2. Are you facing challenges in your own life where a scarcity mentality is telling you there’s not enough? What will it mean for you shift your center of gravity from the world to the Kingdom?
3. What if that shift is itself the faith-filled consideration that despite everything you see, there is more than enough? What does that feel like to you? insane? possible?
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J.D. Walt, is a Bond Slave of the Lord Jesus Christ. email@example.com.