March 15, 2017
Some time after this, Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee (that is, the Sea of Tiberias), 2 and a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the signs he had performed by healing the sick. 3 Then Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down with his disciples. 4 The Jewish Passover Festival was near.
5 When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” 6 He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.
We are headed into sign #4, what might be called the pivot sign of the seven. At least it’s the middle one. For memory’s sake let’s rehearse. Sign #1: Water into wine. Sign #2: Long distance healing. Sign #3: Healing by pool. Sign #4 will be John’s account of the feeding of the multitudes.
Crowds are following him because they have seen the signs. Jesus wants them to see through the signs into the depths of who he is. It’s like he wanted to draw the crowd out of the hustle of village life and into a more reflective place. We might think of it like a place with no wifi or cell signal. ;0)
Jesus has set the scene for a sign. He is going to set a feast on the hillside overlooking the Sea of Galilee that will feed his followers until the end of time. He is going to feed his sheep with a kind of food that will all at once satisfy their stomachs yet stir an insatiable appetite in their souls.
I wonder what those multitudes, moving together like so many sheep, talked about on their way to be with Jesus. I wonder if their souls (or even their subconscious awareness) were stoked by the memory of these words:
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. Psalm 23:1-?
There’s another conversation always stirring between Jesus and his disciples. Remember, through everything he does, Jesus is discipling his followers. He’s training them (and us) for the mission of the Church he will found. It’s interesting to me, though, that he’s not focusing on strengths or looking for the can-do performer types. He is looking for people who know their human limitations. He’s not looking for people who know what they can do but for those who know what they can’t do. It seems counter-intuitive and goes against all that seems right to us. Here’s what I mean.
When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” 6 He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.
He wants Philip and the other disciples to grasp the absurdity of a can-do attitude in the face of sheer impossibility. The test of Jesus is always to bring us to the end of ourselves, to the places of impossibility, where we finally come to grips with our limitations. He always already has in mind what he is going to do. To pass the test of Jesus is to fail the test of self reliance.
How are you doing with that? I have found that preparing for this test requires a lot of unlearning.
Abba Father, thank you for your Son, Jesus, who always has in mind what he is going to do. Thank you for the ways he tests and trains us to unlearn our own ways that we might learn his ways. Come Holy Spirit and replace our can do mentality with the plans you already have in mind. We pray in Jesus name. Amen.
1. How do you deal with this counterintuitive way of Jesus– that it’s not about our strengths but his?
2. What have you had to unlearn in your discipleship to Jesus so far?
3. Are you facing an impossible situation which requires complete reliance on Jesus?
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J.D. Walt, is a Bond Slave of the Lord Jesus Christ. firstname.lastname@example.org.