The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food at the proper time. You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing.
“There isn’t enough.” A nation of recently liberated slaves wandered their way through the wilderness. They had their freedom, but they didn’t have their food…and this was a tragedy. They weighed the options and thought it would be better for them to be well fed slaves under an Egyptian thumb rather than people who’d been set free by the God of all creation, on their way to the Promised Land. “There isn’t enough…and we resent God for it.” There isn’t enough…that’s what the congregation in Corinth was tempted to think. They’d promised to support their fellow believers in Jerusalem who’d fallen on hard times, but now when the time came to donate the drachmas and shell out the shekels, they weren’t so sure they’d have enough for themselves. There isn’t enough. That’s what the disciples thought as they held five barley buns and a couple snack fish and looked out over a crowd of thousands of hungry congregants. There isn’t enough…so God’s people have thought and lived and given since the Fall into sin.
The perceived lack of resources is nothing new, but it can take on a decidedly 21st century flavor in our lives. It seems like everywhere you turn, there’s some kind of shortfall. There’s not enough time in the day. There isn’t enough money to float the budget this month. There aren’t enough supportive people around me to help me. There isn’t enough love in my marriage. There isn’t enough of a future in my career. There isn’t enough stability in my family. There isn’t enough, there isn’t enough, there isn’t enough. We put all of our attention and focus and energy and worry on everything that’s not there that we think should be, and meanwhile we completely miss what is there, more specifically, who is there: the God who promises to provide. Our attention is diverted from the One who gives everything and shifts to all the stuff we can’t get enough of.
The crowds around the town of Bethsaida couldn’t seem to get enough of Jesus. You might remember last week’s gospel lesson; Jesus had taken his disciples for a time of rest and reprieve, but then the crowds showed up. Jesus looked out over that multitude of sinners and he had compassion on them because they harassed and helpless. They were like sheep without a shepherd. So Jesus, consumed by their need, drops everything and feeds their souls with his Word. But now, after a few hours of listening to Jesus, another hunger was growing. By this time it was late in the day, so his disciples came to him. “This is a remote place,” they said, “and it’s already very late. Send the people away so they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.” The disciples were thinking practically. It’s the reason why when organizations hold big community events, they usually go from 9-11 AM…so you don’t have to provide lunch! But there they were, Jesus and his twelve, surrounded by 5,000 men plus women and children; harassed, helpless, and hungry.
But then Jesus shows up…and we’re ready for our gospel inspired sigh of relief, but listen to the first solution he suggests to his disciples: You give them something to eat. I don’t think it’s uncommon for people to get nervous cooking for 10 or 12 people (think about when you last hosted the family Thanksgiving dinner) – and that’s with a fully stocked kitchen and a grocery store down the street. Now put yourself in this situation. How about cooking for a crowd that would just about fill Bramlage Coliseum plopped right in the middle of the Konza Prairie? And you hear Jesus say, You give them something to eat. What do you expect to happen here, Jesus? Aren’t you asking a bit much?
Does Jesus ever seem to ask too much of you and you feel like you have no resources to pull it off? It might be easier to be a faithful worker, a loving spouse, a diligent student IF I had some more supportive people around me, but as it is, Jesus, I’m alone out here. It would be easier to look to the needs of my neighbor IF I could be sure that me and mine are taken care of. I could love my family IF only they’d start to appreciate me and all I do a little bit more. The disciples’ reaction was pretty similar. Did you notice their response to Jesus telling them to give the people food? Suddenly they were experts in catering for a crowd and the coin it would cost, “That would take eight months of a man’s wages! Are we to go and spend that much on bread and give it to them to eat?” They were keeping tally of all they didn’t have and what they couldn’t get, rather than focusing on what Jesus was offering. When faced with a shortfall in supply and an expectation of abundance, we’d probably do the same. It’s a whole lot easier to speak with unabashed confidence about what can’t possibly happen, rather than trusting in the God who promises that he’ll provide for all our needs – yes, all of them.
Maybe, the unstated question that runs underneath all of this is: Why? Why does it happen so often that I’m faced with a shortfall in resources and the expected result of an abundance? Why do I so often very acutely feel the lack in my life and my abilities? Why does it seem like Jesus simply asks too much of me? For the same reason Jesus invited his disciples to feed that crowd of thousands – to despair of themselves and look to the One who has promised to provide. This is the only miracle recorded in all four gospels, and looking at the content of this probably most-well-known miracle of Jesus, we learn some important lessons: Jesus is determined to make good on his promises. Even when the situation seems impossible, especially when the outlook is hopeless, Jesus is everything. Jesus said, “How many loaves do you have?”…When they found out, they said, “Five – and two fish.” Then Jesus directed them to have all the people sit down in groups on the green 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 his disciples to set before the people. He also divided the two fish among them all. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces of bread and fish.
When faced with an impossible situation, Jesus did the impossible. And what a wonderful story it is. But does it really matter in 2018 Manhattan, KS? We have so many grocery stores right here in this town that we can pick and choose based on which ones have the best sales and whose carts have cup-holders. I’m not telling any secrets here, that I could probably afford to skip a few meals and be OK. But when you hear about this miraculous feeding, please, don’t miss the point: this miracle isn’t just about food. It’s about a God who provides, even and especially when the situation is impossible and the outlook is hopeless. It’s about a God who makes and keeps promises with your name on them. So where are you feeling like there isn’t enough in your life today? It’s easiest to look at the people around us, and blame them. If only my spouse kicked it up a notch and loved me like the day we got married, then I’d have enough…If only my kids would quit grumbling like a bunch of wandering Israelites, and thank me for everything I do for them, then I’d have enough…If only my teacher would get it, my boss would play ball…and on and on it goes. But what happens when you look in the mirror? Have you ever felt like there just wasn’t enough there? There isn’t enough patience in God to deal with a stubborn sinner like me. There isn’t enough hope in the gospel to turn around this hopeless situation that I call my life. There isn’t enough forgiveness to wash clean a filthy beggar like me. And just like that, we’re setting the limits for the limitless Son of God. We can’t even make it past the first of the Ten Commandments – fear, love, and trust in God above all things!
When you think that there simply isn’t enough in your life – money, time, love; when you feel like before God there isn’t enough that could possibly make you right with him, remember – you have a Savior who provides. With Jesus, there’s always more than enough, because in him, you are completely forgiven. You are wholly holy. Though you feel like nothing, in Christ, God has proven that to him, you’re everything. Your situation is never hopeless when Jesus is involved, because he’s the One who brings abundance from nothingness. In Christ you have freely received. In Christ, you can freely give.
But that’s easier said than done. So often, I operate from a perspective of scarcity. My time, my abilities, my mind, my money – there’s only so much of it to go around, so I’d better make sure I’m taking care of me and mine. Then, when I’m set up nicely, then I’ll think about giving back; then I’ll look to see if I could meet the needs of my neighbor next to me. But do you see how backwards that is? My time, my abilities, my mind, my money – all of those are really God’s! If we realize that all we have and all we are is a trust or a loan from the boundless God who owns everything and has given everything to us in his Son, we won’t think in terms of scarcity anymore. We’ll be able to fight against that terrible math of the sinful nature that says, To use and give more means that I’ll have less for me! In God’s economy, to give means to receive more. We don’t need to operate from a perspective of scarcity. Because in Christ, we have everything. His life was a constant exercise in trusting every promise his Father made, and when it came to the greatest test of all, Jesus didn’t fail. He didn’t think of his divine glory or even his own life as something he had to jealously hold onto – instead he gave them up, all to save you. God’s unbelievable generosity and providence to you encourage God’s unbelievable generosity and providence through you.
Did you catch that in our second lesson for today? And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work… You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. We can live our lives from a perspective of abundance, because that’s how God always deals with us in Christ. With Jesus, there’s always more than enough. Yes, he provides daily bread. Thank him for it. Yes, he gives food and drink, clothing and shoes, family and friends. Thank him for it. But even more, Jesus has taken care of our greatest lack – our lack of holiness before a holy God. On Calvary, he opened his veins and shed his perfect blood to cover your every sin. And into your void of holiness, he has poured his perfect righteousness. With Jesus, there’s always more than enough – forgiveness for every sin, grace for every day, and hope for every tomorrow. With Jesus, there’s always more than enough, and it’s all yours; yours to savor and yours to share.
And the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.