A Devotional from Central Presbyterian Church.Find another day here.
Wednesday, October 28, 2020
The apostles returned to Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught. 31 And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. 32 And they went away in the boat to a desolate place by themselves. 33 Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they ran there on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. 34 When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things. 35 And when it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, “This is a desolate place, and the hour is now late. 36 Send them away to go into the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.” 37 But he answered them, “You give them something to eat.” And they said to him, “Shall we go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread and give it to them to eat?” 38 And he said to them, “How many loaves do you have? Go and see.” And when they had found out, they said, “Five, and two fish.” 39 Then he commanded them all to sit down in groups on the green grass. 40 So they sat down in groups, by hundreds and by fifties. 41 And taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing and broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to set before the people. And he divided the two fish among them all. 42 And they all ate and were satisfied. 43 And they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish. 44 And those who ate the loaves were five thousand men.
About 10 years ago on a youth summer mission trips to West Virginia, one of several work projects was to create a new, safe staircase for old concrete bleachers built into the side of a hill. Before new stairs could be installed, the existing crumbling concrete steps had to be completely removed using chisels, sledge hammers, and pickaxes. When it came time to select work assignments that first morning, nearly all of the teenage boys took one look at the hammers and axes and volunteered for demolition duty. Now, while ferociously swinging a sledgehammer might be a great way to take out some aggression, the reality is that it gets really old, really fast. After a few enthusiastic initial blows, nearly all the loose stone disappeared, leaving behind sizable remnants of seemingly impervious rock and mortar. Just a few seconds of clobbering concrete under the unseasonably warm West Virginia mountain sun was just about all the young men were able to handle. With more than an air of arrogance, I decided to show them how it was really done. My plan was to swing the sledge just long enough to make a decent dent in the work before turning it back over to the youngsters, but I soon realized why, despite my repeated requests, no one volunteered for a second attempt. With every violent collision of steel against rock the bones in my hands ached more and more until mercifully they just became numb. After only about 10 minutes, my back and arms were screaming to stop but my pride was telling me to press on. When it was finally time to break for lunch the boys miraculously, and instantly, recovered enough energy to race each other to the dining hall; meanwhile even today I can still feel the reverberating handle of the hammer in every joint of my hands.
After being sent out by Jesus on their missionary journey, the apostles came back on a spiritual high. They excitedly reported all of the miraculous things they had seen and done; preached the word, healed the sick, and cast out demons. Because of their mighty words and deeds throughout the region, the crowds grew larger than ever before, the people pressing in so tightly that the disciples’ euphoria was soon replaced by exhaustion. Jesus saw they had reached their capacity for human interaction, let alone productive ministry, and urgently needed a break, so they once again boarded the boat and set sail for a desolate place to refresh and recharge.
The problem, however, was that the entire Sea of Galilee is visible from the shoreline, so before they even reached the other side a great crowd had amassed eagerly awaiting their arrival. Just as He empathized with the twelve, Jesus had compassion on the crowd. He could see that the people were not flocking to Him out of curiosity, but desperation. Men, women, and children left everything behind as they traveled for miles out into the wilderness just to be with Jesus, who welcomed these wayward sheep of Israel by captivating them with His teaching.
The weary disciples became increasingly agitated as the hours melted away and, anxious for the promised respite they had yet to receive, asked Jesus to dismiss the crowds to that they might at least have a peaceful dinner together. But instead of ordering the people to go find their own food, Jesus commanded the disciples to feed them. Looking out over the hungry and restless crowd, which now numbered well over five thousand men, let alone the women and children, in his gospel John recalls that Philip quickly did some back of the envelope math and realized that even two hundred denarii—equivalent of a days wage, for our purposes we can say $20,000—would only be enough for everyone to have just a little morsel of bread, if it would even be possible to obtain such a quantity from the small surrounding villages.
Jesus asked the disciples to take inventory of the bread they already had on hand and, after realizing they had not even brought any for themselves, Andrew discovered a young child who had packed his lunch consisting of five small loaves of bread and two fishes. While this was sufficient for the boy, it was not even enough to share among the disciples, let alone the masses, yet Jesus had them organize the people together in smaller groups of the grassy hillside. After giving thanks to the Father, Jesus broke the bread and divided the fish the disciples distributed baskets of food to each of the groups. The entire crowd ate, not just until they had a morsel, but until their hunger was completely satisfied, and there was far more than enough, as each disciple brought a basket full of leftovers back to Jesus.
Just as God had once provided manna for the Israelites in the wilderness beyond the Red Sea, so Jesus now supplied bread and fish on the lakeside in Galilee. The disciples, who had come to the end of their own strength and patience, once again wondered in amazement. Each group was anxious and hungry, longing not only for food, but for the compassion of the Lord and the next great sign of His power, and on all accounts Jesus did not disappoint.
Where do we turn when we come to the end of ourselves? How do we respond when our energy is depleted but the tasks that lie ahead and the demands on our time only continue to grow? When we turn to Jesus, time and again, He proves to be more than enough for all of our needs. Like the disciples, we instinctively take credit for all of our success yet quickly blame others, or even God, for our frustration and failure. Jesus showed His disciples that no matter how much He might ask of them, He would always supply everything they needed. He still does the same for you and I.
When we place our faith and trust in Jesus, He is more for us than a get-out-of-Hell-free card. Not only does He forgive our sins, but He welcomes us into His family, and actually invites us to join Him in His sacred work. As Scripture says, we are His workmanship, created, from before the beginning, for the good works that He has prepared for us. He does not just give us a strong hammer and brittle frame and tell us to come back when the chore is completed. Jesus has promised that He will be for us everything we need, and so much more, and He will be with us every step of the way.
Prayer for Today:
Lord Jesus, You are more than enough for us. Forgive us for relying on our own power instead of resting in Your care, for believing that if we don’t help ourselves that no one else will. Our burdens at times are impossibly heavy, yet You have told us that Yours is easy and Your yoke is light. Help us to surrender ourselves fully and completely to You. Have Your way in us today we pray, Amen.