February 15, 2014
Today’s gospel: Mark 8:1-10
Jesus was preaching to a great crowd for already three days. Expressing his desire to feed them before sending them home, his disciples told him, “Where can anyone get enough bread to satisfy them here in this deserted place?” (v.4). Jesus then took the seven loaves and a few fish, multiplied them, and fed everyone, with even more left over than what they started with.
We have much to learn about how God provides.
We often look to what we lack. Not enough money, no warm bodies, lack of experience, lack of training, lack of leaders, no connections. When his disciples told him there was not enough bread, Jesus simply took what was there and performed his miracle.
Lesson #1: If it is God’s work, if it is what God wills, then He will provide.
Well, yes, we know God will provide. But often we look to just making do. We look to just having enough. We at times just hope we can get by, and get the task over with, without any major problem. But that demeans a great God. That diminishes an all-powerful God. That reduces God to our level. When what God wants to do is to raise us to His level.
So lesson #2: God not only will provide, but will provide abundantly. God does want to pour out the fullness of His blessings upon His people.
But even that is not enough. Human beings can also provide abundantly. But only God can provide miraculously. Jesus took seven loaves and a few fish, fed about four thousand hungry people, who “ate and were satisfied” (v.8a), and still ended up with so much more! “They picked up the fragments left over–seven baskets.” (v.8b).
So lesson #3: God not only will provide abundantly, but will provide miraculously.
What must we do to experience such provision?
First, we must know what is in the heart of God and what He wants to be done. “In those days when there again was a great crowd without anything to eat, he summoned the disciples and said, ‘My heart is moved with pity for the crowd’” (v.1-2a). We must be there when God summons us, and we must go to Him to listen to what He has to say. This enables us to conform our lives in such a way as to be able to be used by Him.
Second, we must look to what God has already provided for us, and make use of that. “How many loaves do you have?” “Seven” (v.5). We do have God-given gifts and resources. Granted they are not enough to do the mighty divine work of God. But God uses those as His starting point.
Third, we must turn over what we have to God, so He can bless and sanctify them, and make them ready for use. “Then, taking the seven loaves he gave thanks, broke them” (v.6b). We do God’s work, and so we need to ask for God’s blessing upon ourselves and our meager resources.
Fourth, we must know that God uses us as instruments of His will and channels of His grace. Jesus “gave them to his disciples to distribute” (v.6c). God acts in and through ordinary human beings such as us. This is the mysterious way that God works. This gives us confidence that indeed, even with meager resources, we can move ahead.
Fifth, we must use what God has given us, and in faith trust that His provision will be more than enough. “And they distributed them to the crowd.” (v.6d). We simply act, making use of what we have. It is up to God to provide what is lacking, and to multiply whatever we already have.
Given the great work of God entrusted to us, we will often think we lack adequate resources. And indeed that is true. But this is precisely the situation that God allows us to be in. It is a situation that allows God to manifest His greatness and power. Out of our weakness is His strength. Out of our scarcity is His abundance. Out of our inadequacy is His full competence and power.
Further, as we go forth in weakness but looking to God’s provision, then we grow in humility, in expectant faith, in hope and trust, in total dependence on God. Here we see why God indeed might cause situations of a lack of resources. It keeps us from pride, from self-sufficiency, from being self-referential, from no longer begging God for His help.
A final word. The great crowd had nothing to eat and were hungry, but they stayed with Jesus for three days because what they were really hungry for was the word of God, and with Jesus’ preaching, even before the distribution of the loaves and fish, they already ate and were satisfied. They partook of his wisdom and were full.
Further, they were in a deserted place. Unlike the disciples’ limited outlook, that was not a bad thing. They were away from the hustle and bustle of the towns and villages. They were with Jesus, and could focus on him, without the distractions of everyday life.
Jesus wants people with him so he can feed them. Jesus’ “heart is moved with pity for the crowd” (v.2a) since many of them are lost, are hungry, are in the deserts of their lives. Jesus wants to feed them and satisfy them. Jesus wants to manifest his glory among them. And he will …. but only as we allow ourselves to be used as his instruments, with whatever meager resources we have.
God does provide. Jesus is indeed there with us as we go into the regions of the world to bring him into the midst of people. Jesus “got into the boat with his disciples and came to the region of Dalmanutha.” (v.10).
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God bless you.
“For to me life is Christ, and death is gain.” (Phil 1:21)