I want to ask you two questions.
- Do you trust Jesus to satisfy and provide for you?
- Do you trust Jesus to work through you?
We are heading into a difficult winter with rising prices, a cost of living crisis and an energy crisis. Even with the help offered by the government, many will struggle. Are you anxious as we head into the winter? Perhaps you’re thinking that even if domestic energy costs are pegged that this doesn’t mean workplaces and churches will be okay. That might be worrying you about your church and how it will get on. You may be worried that you’re job could be at risk.
Can we trust God through a difficult winter? Well, that’s a big enough question isn’t it? But I want to suggest that the even bigger question is about our trust in him to provide for us spiritually, to provide everything that we need to live this life in a way that honours him and to go through death and into eternity.
This Bible passage helps us to answer both questions.
Do you trust Jesus to satisfy and provide?
Jesus’ disciples have just come back from a mission trip. He’d sent them out to proclaim the kingdom and he’d given them incredible authority to heal and cast out demons. He’d also told them not to worry about food, lodgings, clothes, money. They could trust God to provide. And God had.
When they return, Jesus plans to take them away somewhere quiet for a bit. I can imagine that they needed time to pause and recharge batteries. However, the crowd catches up with them. So we find Jesus, still providing, still having compassion, teaching and healing. He has more than enough grace.
Yet, when it comes to the crunch, even with all of that background, when the disciples are put on the spot, they fluff it. It’s getting late and the disciples urge Jesus to call a halt to proceedings so the crowd can go and find board and lodgings. Jesus says
“No, you feed them.”
The gist of their response is
“You’re having a laugh”
So, in effect, Jesus says “leave it with me.” He gets them to sort out seating arrangements and takes the picnic lunch they’ve found from somewhere. Then he blesses it and breaks the bread, foreshadowing another meal where he will break bread, his last one, which itself foreshadowed his body broken and given for us.
Then he gets them to distribute the food. Note, that this probably means that the crowd don’t actually see the miracle and where the food comes from. They are unable them to link the event with past miracles such as when God worked through Elijah and Elisha or especially the manna from heaven during the Exodus. The sign is primarily for those who are hungry for him not for sceptics, hence later they will demand a sign and Jesus will refuse.
The people eat and there is abundant provision meaning that 12 baskets are left over. We are meant to get the sense that this is not just a quick snack on the go but an abundant banquet. In fact,t he word used to describe the sitting of the people is about reclining, as you would for a full meal and even the day/sun is described poetically as reclining too!
The lesson is that they can trust Jesus to provide and satisfy. We can too. This doesn’t mean we can avoid struggles and hardship -this is not the prosperity Gospel. But we can find in Jesus everything we need to live for him, to glorify God and enjoy him for ever. This means there’s enough grace and compassion in Christ to forgive you and take away all guilt and shame. It means we can know the fullness of the Holy Spirit. It means that God’s Word, Scripture will provide us with all we need to know him and live for him.
This is important because so often we cling on to other things – we seek satisfaction in work, popularity, addictions etc. Why? Well it’s hard to let go until we know we are going to be caught. When the energy price freeze was announced, it still left some uncertain. Some were already being charged above the cap because they were on fixed price contracts. Why did we not all rush to cancel those? Well, I suspect we were nervous that if we did we might then be stung if the Government’s deal fell through.
You can be certain that Jesus’ offer of grace and compassion will not fall through. He will not let you go. You can stop clinging to the things you’ve depended on and hold on to him instead. Jesus will satisfy
Do you trust Jesus to work through you?
It is striking isn’t it that the disciples not only don’t trust Jesus to provide for them but also don’t trust him to work through them. He’s just sent them out and they’ve been used mightily but when they are back with him, they lose their nerve.
One reason why this happens I think is that we view God’s provision as stingy and rationed. That’s why churches often feel that there’s a dilemma between outreach to others and the pastoral care of existing members. We fear that the church will be spread too thinly and we won’t be properly looked after. My experience has been that when the church starts to look outwards, God more than provides. I remember on one occasion a very new Christian called me and said “is there anything I can do.” They agreed to go and visit a few older members. Do you know what? I reckon more pastoral visiting happened that week than had happened before.
In the passage, we see Jesus going back to basics with the disciples. Note, he doesn’t dismiss them as failures but instead, he involves them. He continues to use them in the miracle. And as they get involved, they see him provide not just enough but in abundance. There are 12 baskets left over. That’s one each or symbolising enough to look after the 12 tribes of Israel.
Are you worried about burn out or compassion fatigue? Can I encourage you to come back to Christ and to the Gospel. Ask the Holy Spirit to revive and renew you. Make yourself available again to serve Jesus.
Are you trusting Jesus to satisfy you?
How will you trust him to use you this week?