Throughout the last couple of years I have revisited again and again the story of Jesus feeding more than five thousand people in one sitting. Elements of the story continually inspire me but this last week in reading it to Miss Puddleduck I was really struck by Jesus’ sense of humour.
The disciples have got a problem on their hands. Nothing had gone according to plan. They’d met with Jesus to report back to him all that they had done but so many people kept disturbing them that they decided to go elsewhere to a quieter place and get some rest. However, that plan was wrecked and their solitary place was invaded with a huge crowd of people. Jesus compassionately taught and met the needs of the people. But my imagination focuses on the disciples. They must have been so frustrated. They were supposed to have been having a private meeting with Jesus being discipled by him. But they’ve ended up in this remote isolated place with a sense of responsibility towards a vast number of people who weren’t even supposed to be there. How many leaders find themselves in that isolated and solitary place with a heavy sense of responsibility towards a number of people? Nothing has gone according to plan. They feel drained and in desperate need of quiet, refreshing time just learning from Jesus without the demands of others.
We see the disciples take their problem to Jesus, but to their credit they’re not worried about themselves, but the people. It’s late. It’s remote. The people need food. When we find ourselves faced with a similar problem of needing to meet people’s needs we talk to Jesus. We pray. But I love the way in this story the disciples tell Jesus what he needs to do.
“Send the people away so that they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.” Mark 6:36
I wonder how often we see a problem and tell Jesus the solution as we pray? Too often, I’m sure! It is Jesus’ response that really amuses me. I can imagine him saying with an almost mischievous twinkle in his eye, “You give them something to eat.” You answer your own prayer. You do it. You take action to meet the need. And the outrage, the shock, the response from the disciples that shouts off the page “What? Is this some kind of joke?”
“That would take more than half a year’s wages! Are we to go and spend that much on bread and give it to them to eat?” Mark 6:37
In effect they are saying, “We haven’t got the capacity or resources to do what you ask of us. Is that really what you expect?” And their exasperation hisses “We’re at the end of our tether here and we thought you knew that by bringing us away to this solitary place.” Hello indignation!
Still with the twinkle in his eye Jesus quietly asks them “How many loaves do you have?…Go and see.” Basically, he is saying “Well, what have you got? Have a look at what you already have. What is in your hands? What are you capable of? What is available to you?”
The disciples discover that available to them are five loaves of bread and two fish, which they bring to Jesus.
Then the miraculous happens! And that is the part of the story we are most familiar with. But only happens after the disciples have brought the ordinary, everyday, natural and ‘impossible solution to the problem’ to Jesus. They looked to find what was available to them, what they had that they could use. They acted first and then Jesus did the miraculous.
In this story, I found the answer to my plea. I am so challenged by the generosity and willingness to give that I see in people around me that I found myself earnestly asking Jesus to help me be more generous and open handed, for opportunities and the resources to give and what do I hear in answer? “What do you have? Use what you’ve got. I won’t let you down, but will make whatever ordinary, everyday things you have to give into supernatural acts of miraculous proportions, that bless many people.”
OK! I can do that! But please let me catch your sense of humour again in the things you say, Jesus.