Hunkered Down Devotion

John 6:1-15 (Voice)
6 Once this had transpired, Jesus made His way to the other side of the Sea of Galilee (which some these days call the Sea of Tiberias). 2 As Jesus walked, a large crowd pursued Him hoping to see new signs and miracles; His healings of the sick and lame were garnering great attention. 3 Jesus went up a mountain and found a place to sit down and teach. His disciples gathered around. 4 The celebration of the Passover, one of the principal Jewish feasts, would take place soon. 5 But when Jesus looked up, He could see an immense crowd coming toward Him. Jesus approached Philip.
Jesus (to Philip): Where is a place to buy bread so these people may eat?
6 Jesus knew what He was planning to do, but He asked Philip nonetheless. He had something to teach, and it started with a test.
Philip: 7 I could work for more than half of a year and still not have the money to buy enough bread to give each person a very small piece.
8 Andrew, the disciple who was Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up.
Andrew: 9 I met a young boy in the crowd carrying five barley loaves and two fish, but that is practically useless in feeding a crowd this large.
Jesus: 10 Tell the people to sit down.
They all sat together on a large grassy area. Those counting the people reported approximately 5,000 men—not including the women and children—sitting in the crowd. 11 Jesus picked up the bread, gave thanks to God, and passed it to everyone. He repeated this ritual with the fish. Men, women, and children all ate until their hearts were content. 12 When the people had all they could eat, He told the disciples to gather the leftovers.
Jesus: Go and collect the leftovers, so we are not wasteful.
13 They filled 12 baskets with fragments of the five barley loaves. 14 After witnessing this sign that Jesus did, the people stirred in conversation.
Crowd: This man must be the Prophet God said was coming into the world.
15 Jesus sensed the people were planning to mount a revolution against Israel’s Roman occupiers and make Him king, so He withdrew farther up the mountain by Himself.

We know this story.  We may get the details wrong, or confuse them as there are multiple miraculous feeding stories in the gospels.  But, we know what is going on here: there are a lot of people, they are hungry, the disciples suggest that Jesus sends them on their way to get something to eat, Jesus instead takes a small amount of food and feeds thousands, somehow there are more leftovers than there was food to begin with.

Sometimes stories become too familiar and we end up missing important elements or key learnings because of familiarity, but I don’t think that is the case here.  So why spend time with this story we know so well?  Because the lessons it teaches, the obvious ones right there in the story, are important enough that we can’t hear them too often.

The first lesson to learn from this story is that Jesus knows what we need.  He is aware of what we have, what we lack, where we are, and what we need.  Jesus cares about us and our lives.

The second lesson is closely related to the first: the best way to get your needs met and find fulfillment (spiritual or otherwise) is to prioritize spending time in the presence of our savior. We often think that we are responsible for taking care of ourselves, but here Jesus takes care of all of those that forgo their needs – or at least postpone them – in order to remain with him.

The next lesson that we can learn, another familiar one, is that God is able to provide even when we can’t see or understand how that might happen.  Maybe this is obvious when we are talking about a miracle, but God is capable of more than we can imagine, more than we can understand.

Finally, in God’s economy things don’t necessarily work the way we think they might.  In the arithmetic of the kingdom, the way to multiply blessings is by dividing them and sharing them with others.  The more you split, share, and give away the more you will have.  

Sharing God’s Love,

Prayer: Lord, thank you for the ways in which you provide for us, both the common and miraculous ones.  Help us multiply your blessings as we hold them with an open hand. Amen.

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