"What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!'"
November 3, 2010
There are two stories recorded in Mark that have many similarities. In Mark 6:34-44 is the story of Jesus feeding 5,000 with five loaves of bread and two fish. Mark 8:1-9 is another story of Jesus feeding 4,000 with seven loaves of bread and a few fish.
In the first story, a great multitude of people had followed Jesus and the disciples to a deserted place, where they were going to rest. Jesus had compassion on them and began teaching them many things. When the hour grew late, His disciples came to Him and said, "This is a deserted place and already the hour is late. Send them away, that they may go into the surrounding country and villages and buy themselves bread; for they have nothing to eat."
Jesus answered, "You give them something to eat." They asked if they should go buy 200 denarii worth of bread and give them something to eat. But Jesus asked how many loaves of bread they could find amongst the crowd. They found out and came back and told him five loaves and two fish. He commanded them to make the crowd sit down in groups on the the green grass, so the disciples sat them in groups of fifties and hundreds.
Jesus took the five loaves and two fish, looked up to heaven, blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to His disciples to set before the people; and He divided the two fish among them all.
Everyone ate and was filled, and the disciples gathered up twelve baskets full of leftovers. Those who had eaten numbered about 5,000.
Sound familiar? I believe I wrote about this a couple weeks ago. But keep reading, I'm making a different point this time!
In Mark chapter 8, there was once again a great multitude gathered with nothing to eat. Jesus gathered His disciples and said, "I have compassion on the multitude because they have now continued with Me three days and have nothing to eat. And if I send them away hungry to their own houses, they will faint on the way; for some of them have come from afar."
His disciples answered Him, "How can one satisfy these people with bread here in the wilderness?"
Jesus once again asked how many loaves they had, and the disciples answered, "Seven." He commanded the multitude to sit down on the ground. He took the seven loaves and gave thanks, broke them and gave them to His disciples to distribute to the crowd. They also had a few small fish, which He blessed and gave to the disciples to hand out to the people.
After everyone was filled, they took up seven baskets of leftover fragments. Those who had eaten were about 4,000.
I don't know how much time passed between these two occurrences, but from reading the scripture it seems as if it were only a few weeks or months. It's easy to read these stories and wonder about the disciple's intelligence and faith. They traveled with Jesus and had listened to Him teach and saw the many miracles that He performed, yet they seemed to still have a hard time really grasping onto who He really was and what He was capable of doing. You would think they would always be full of faith, and anytime they had a need immediately look to Jesus for a miracle. Yet they seemed to struggle with this, as many of us do today.
I can somewhat understand them questioning how the crowd was going to be fed the first time. But after witnessing that miracle you would think the second time, when it was almost the same scenario, that at least one of them would remember the previous miracle of how Jesus had multiplied the food and spoke up. "Jesus, here are seven loaves of bread and a few fish. Could you not once again multiply it to feed the hungry?" But they seemed to look at their surroundings, and saw no way to feed them. The first time there were villages nearby where they could go buy bread, but this time they were in the wilderness.
How easy it is to read this and judge the disciples for their lack of faith. But aren't we much the same way today? God answers a prayer for us, but the next time we're faced with that same situation we'll worry and fret and try to figure it out. Instead of having faith to believe that Jesus can once again provide a miracle for us, we look at the impossibilities and become afraid or frustrated. It's almost as if we either think we've used up our supply of answered prayer or we hate to bother God with the same thing again. "Surely God won't answer the same way twice!" Or we simply forget what God did in the past. I believe that many times we limit what God can do by our own lack of faith.
In both of these incidences, Jesus could have asked His Father to send ravens with manna to feed the crowd. After all, that's how He fed Moses and the children of Israel in the wilderness. But He chose to use what was available, bless it, and multiply it to feed the people.
Jesus could have done all this on His own, but He chose to utilize His disciples. They had to go out and find the available food, they had to set the multitude in groups, then they had to distribute the food. Lastly, they had to go and pick up all the leftovers.
Sometimes when we need a miracle, we have to get up and do something. Jesus is the one who will answer our prayer and make the provision, but it takes us acting in faith and putting forth some effort.
I find it interesting what happened immediately following this second miracle. The disciples got into a boat to go to the other side. They had forgotten to take some bread with them (there were seven baskets of leftovers they apparently forgot to take along), and they had one loaf to share amongst all of them.
Jesus warned them, "Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod."
The disciples were confused by His words and trying to reason it out among themselves said, "It is because we have no bread."
I think Jesus was getting a little perturbed at them by this time. "Why do you reason because you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive nor understand? Is your heart still hardened? Having eyes, do you not see? And having ears, do you not hear? And do you not remember? When I broke the five loaves for the 5,000, how many baskets full of fragments did you take up?" They answered, "Twelve."
"When I broke the seven loaves for the 4,000, how many large baskets full of fragments did you take up?" And they said, "Seven."
So Jesus said to them, "How is it you do not understand?"
It kind of seems as if the disciples were being a bit dense. Jesus was telling them, "Hey, this isn't just about the bread!"
But I must admit that more often than not, I'm spiritually dense. I only see what's before my eyes. I see the hunger or the lack of bread. Instead of focusing on Who provides for my needs and going to Him for help, I focus on the need before me. Jesus has answered prayer after prayer for me throughout my life, yet when faced with a need, I began trying to figure it all out on my own. I mentally visualize or think about what all could go wrong, about all the "what ifs", about every possible scenario I can imagine, and generally work myself up into a frenzy. Then I try to reason it out and figure out the answer on my own. Then when I begin questioning why this is happening to me, it's as if I'm saying, "Jesus, is this happening because I have no bread?"
And I imagine many times Jesus gets a little put out with me and says, "Loretta, forget about the bread! After everything I've done for you, do you not get it? Is your heart still hardened? You have eyes, but do you not see what all I've done? Have you not heard my Word? Do you not remember all the prayers I've answered for you and how I've blessed you? How is it that you don't understand?"
In my hometown there was a family who was well-known for their meanness, especially in their younger days. The sister married and she and her husband had several children, and most of them were taken away from them, except the two youngest boys. When one of those boys was in kindergarten, the teacher worked and worked with him on his colors. It was hard to tell if he was color-blind or was just ornery, but it was more than likely the latter. One day he finally got them right! She was so excited that she ran next door and got one of the other teachers. They got back to the room and she pointed to red and said, "Jerry, what color is this?" "Blue!" The teacher was so frustrated. She thought he'd finally got it and was so excited, only to immediately have him mess it up again within just the space of a few minutes.
I think we do this many times with God. He thinks that we're finally getting it, only to have us turn right around and mess it up again.
It's easy to think, "If I could have lived back in Bible days and been chosen to be one of Jesus' disciples, I would have been full of faith and it would have been awesome!" But I think we probably would have been much like His other disciples; not quite getting it, and not quite understanding the magnitude and impact of Jesus' ministry. I'm not sure we would have realized the honor it was to be one of the chosen twelve. And I sincerely doubt that we would know the impact that our lives would have upon the world for generations to come. We can think that we'd do things differently because we weren't there at that time, and we can read the entire story. We have access to all the written miracles and ministry of Jesus. They were living it one day at a time and couldn't see the full picture.
Yet with us having access to the Word of God, we still don't get it most of the time. We, like the disciples, only see our lives one day at a time. We can't see the full picture. We have no knowledge of what the future has in store for us. We don't know the length of our life, or how our life will end. We don't know what may happen at any given moment. And when we pray, we don't know how or when God is going to answer.
Life is filled with many struggles, and has been since the beginning of time. But we need to learn to focus on Jesus, not our circumstances. And we need to learn that it's "not about the bread" but it's about the One who provides the bread.
Almost everything we read in The Bible must have taken longer to happen than it takes to read. I'm curious just how long it took to feed everyone. From the time people started to think about dinner till the time the food got passed around may have been hours. Just from human nature, I'd guess a lot of people gave up in that time. They probably saw how little food there was, and decided they'd be the first to get into town and buy a bowl of soup before they ran out. How many people missed out?
We've seen some of the testimonies from a current revival in Alabama, and in almost every case, the miracles took place over several minutes, hours, or even days or months. Just because the miracle you need doesn't come as quickly as you hope isn't a reason to think it isn't coming, or it's time to go on your own to get a bowl of soup for yourself.
Baked Potato Casserole
8-9 medium potatoes
1/2 cup chopped onions
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 cup diced ham (optional)
1 Tbsp. Butter
Salt -- to taste
1/2 cup milk
Boil potatoes with skin on; cool and peel. Cut into cubes. Add the rest of the ingredients (reserve some cheese) and stir well. Put in baking dish and bake 1 1/2 at 350. When almost done, add cheese to the top (recommends 3-4 slices of Velveeta cheese), and finish baking.
Recently, my sisters and I were asked to write a letter of memories to a pastor and his wife who were celebrating 30 years of pastoring at their current church. Their first pastorate was at our church in Lampe, MO approximately 40 years ago. As we were all trying to think of stories, it was amazing the little details that we could think of. For instance, they had their first child while they were our pastor. One of my sisters remembered that when he was about a year old, his mom would bring him a little bag of Cheerios to eat during church for when he got cranky. The pastor's wife started a choir while they were there. The choir consisted of adults and teens, but for whatever reason, she let me be a part of the choir, and I was maybe 5-6 years old. I'm sure I thought I was big enough to do whatever my older sisters could do! Two of my sisters also remembered that when this couple first starting pastoring the church they lived in an old parsonage that sat at the end of the church parking lot. One afternoon they were gone and the house caught on fire. They had just recently got married and had all their new wedding gifts in the house. The pastor's brother drove by, saw the smoke and started trying to pull as much stuff out of the house by himself as he could. We're thinking that he somehow managed to get his sister-in-law's piano out. After the fire, the wife mentioned that she had put many of her nicer wedding gifts back, thinking she'd save them for later. She said that she would never do that again, but would always use everything she had and enjoy it. Alone, none of us could really think of a lot of memories, but after we started talking and reminiscing it would bring back other things that we had forgotten. God has blessed us throughout our lives by placing many wonderful people in our path.
If you have nothing to say, don't publish it by talking. (taken from Amish Mennonite cookbook)
We love you!
Loretta & Jon