Where’s The Fish?!

John 6:12-14

12 And when they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, Gather up the leftover fragments, that nothing may be lost. 13 So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves left by those who had eaten. 14 When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!

Remember that old Wendy’s commercial where you have three elderly women inspecting this hamburger with a massive bun?  They remove the top of the bun to reveal a tiny hamburger patty that’s almost too small for a “slider.”  Then the most outspoken of the three utters that classic line, “Where’s the beef?!”

I know the workings of my mind are a tad off, but that’s what comes to mind when I read this passage of scripture.  You see, bread wasn’t all that was miraculously divided over and over that day, was it?  And yet, that’s all that the leftovers consisted of according to John.  WHERE’S THE FISH?!

Did folks just chow down more on the fish, leaving no leftovers?  Well, if you glance over at the Gospel According to Peter—otherwise known as the Gospel of Mark because Mark was the scribe recording the words of Peter—you’ll read the following:

Mark 6:42-43

42 They all ate and were satisfied, 43 and they picked up the broken pieces and fish that were left over, twelve baskets full.

So there were fishy leftovers!  And boy, you know what it’s like to take such leftovers in your car and the “aroma” that you get to enjoy for the next couple of days.  Can you imagine hauling twelve baskets of the stuff?

However, John doesn’t mention the fish.  He was focused on the bread, the broken bread.

John was already beginning to foreshadow for his readers what was coming.  The One who broke five barley loaves into enough pieces to feed 5,000 was Himself the Bread of Life who would soon be broken into enough pieces to pay for the sins of the world.

John 6:14

When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!

Jesus Himself distributed the bread and fish.  The folks who were fed—far exceeding 5,000 given that that was just the number of the men present—witnessed this as well as the fact that there was more food leftover than the amount with which they started.

As a result, they believed that Jesus was the Prophet who would come spoken of by Moses in Deuteronomy 18.  John was big on the word “sign.”  He made it clear that Jesus’ divine claim—that He was the Son of God—was confirmed because of the miracles He performed.  They were “signs” proving He was telling the truth.

There were are a lot of people who witnessed this sign (and were filled to the brim as a result); however, there were even more people in that day who missed it.  The same is true of nonbelievers today.  They can’t go back and witness this amazing sign confirming the gospel of Jesus.  That’s where you and I come in!

Have you partaken of the Bread of Life?  Have you believed the gospel and received the gift of eternal life?  If so, that makes YOU a sign too!  Your changed life and my changed life is a sign to the world that Jesus’ claim to be the God-Man who takes away the sin of the world is still true!

They’ll have to go to Wendy’s for their fish sandwich. 😉

Matthew

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God’s Somewhat Vague Directions

John 6:8-11

8 One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, 9 There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many? 10 Jesus said, Have the people sit down. Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, about five thousand in number. 11 Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated. So also the fish, as much as they wanted. 

“Have the people sit down.”

I wonder if the disciples were like, “Okay.  Then what?”

They were being instructed to have everyone sit down as if they had something to give them to eat WHEN THEY DIDN’T.  Keep in mind, that Jesus was the only One who knew what He was about to do.  We see nowhere in Scripture where Jesus pulled the disciples into a huddle to let them know what He was going to do.  The crowd, it seems, had no reason to think that there wasn’t anything to eat, did they?  The twelve were really the only ones being asked to have faith.

They had to be a little nervous.  “Go ahead and have a seat.  Yeah, we’re going to eat in just a moment.”  The cool thing is that the scriptures record no hesitation on the part of the disciples.  Though they had expressed their doubt earlier, from this point on—at least in this instance—they followed Jesus’ instructions without question.

Have you ever found yourself in such a situation?  You knew God was leading, and you even knew what He was leading you to do, but you had absolutely no idea why.  It just didn’t make sense!

We see God do this a few times throughout scripture.  I’m reminded of Abraham being commanded to sacrifice his son Isaac.  I think of Israel being commanded to march around Jericho instead of attacking it head on.  Later on, Jesus would tell His band of fisherman, “Hey, why don’t you try fishing on the other side of the boat” as if it were a completely different body of water.  Time and again these folks responded affirmatively to God’s somewhat vague and confusing leadership, and they were rewarded with a deeper relationship with Him.

I know I’ve found myself in this scenario a few times.  I tell folks that I have a Hot Wheels car testimony.  I don’t always understand why God leads me the way He does, but I’m able to look back and see Him steering my life like it’s a little toy car, turning it this way and that.  I can see why things happened the way they did, and I can see how they all worked together to bring me where I am now.  As such, my faith to respond in the moment is strengthened because my life testifies to how He always comes through.  I don’t have to worry about where He’s taking me because I know all the time and places He’s brought me through!

So in the here and now, I’ll join with the twelve and tell folks to have a seat, “Jesus is getting ready to do something!”  I know I don’t have the big picture, but thankfully, that isn’t required for obedience.  I’m just going trust Him and continue on this adventure.

Matthew

Willing

John 6:8-11

8 One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, 9 There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many? 10 Jesus said, Have the people sit down. Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, about five thousand in number. 11 Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated. So also the fish, as much as they wanted. 

The first thing that comes to mind for me with this passage is Pastor Kevin’s preaching on giving.  Luke 6:38 says…

“give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”

This is exactly what’s getting ready to happen!  Jesus tells everyone, “sit down.”  They’re getting ready to have a feast.  And what are they feasting on?  BLTs?  No!  The boy gave his lunch which consisted of fish and some small loaves (probably the size of biscuits), so more like fish sandwiches.  I love fish sandwiches!

This fella had no idea what was about to happen.  I wonder if the loaves and fish he brought from home was enough to fill him up for just tide him over.  One thing’s for sure, he ate all he wanted that afternoon.

“give and it will be given to you…”

That’s just what happened with this young man, and it’s what happens when you and I let go of the resources God has given us and give them back to Him for His use.

This young man had a lot of trust in this Teacher to whom he’d been listening.  That was his meal, and from the sounds of it, he kept nothing back.  He gave it all!  That’s awesome!  In the end, he came away with more than he started with.

That’s the kind of trust God wants from us.  He wants us to have impossible expectations of Him and a willingness to following Him to the place where we must depend on Him for the impossible.

He loves us so much!  He’s ready to prove it.  From an earthly standpoint, I know it’s scary.  It’s a scary thought to live life with such abandon.  However, I can say from personal experience—and I bet you can too—that I’ve put God to the test and taken Him at His Word countless times in my life, and He’s always come through.  It was terrifying, but I knew I had nowhere else to go, and He knew that I knew that.  Each time, He just rolled up His sleeves and showed me how much He loved me.

It’s such a full, rich way to live!  And it isn’t experienced just because you are giving.  It’s experienced through obedience.  I know I’m stuck on this in my devotions, but I want to experience Jesus every day!  And that happens when I say “okay” to His leading.  Scripture doesn’t record how the boy came to give up his meal.  Were the disciples asking?  Did he just see the need and offer it?  Bottom line, we know he was WILLING, and God can do anything with that.

So how about you?  Want to take a leap?  The next time you sense a leading to do something out of the ordinary for God, I say, as long as it’s biblical, go for it!  You could wind up as surprised as this young man.

Matthew

 

 

What Now?

John 6:4-7

4 Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand. 5 Lifting up his eyes, then, and seeing that a large crowd was coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat? 6 He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he would do. 7 Philip answered him, Two hundred denarii would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little. 

So Passover is approaching.  Lots of people are in town.  Jesus has just escaped from a bunch of legalists who were chewing him out for healing a man on the Sabbath.  He’s just sat down to spend some time with His disciples, and here they come.  But can you blame them?  This massive crowd has seen and heard about the miracles He’s done, they’ve heard His teaching, and they want more!

Jesus knew that He was going to miraculously feed the 5,000.  He knew how Philip would respond to His question before He even asked it, so He wasn’t “finding out” what Philip would do.  As verse six explains, this moment was to test Philip.

He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he would do.

In a previous devotion, I mentioned that Jesus would sneak away with His disciples for training purposes.  Well, this crowd didn’t interrupting anything…they were just part of today’s training.

You see, Jesus wasn’t caught off guard by the day’s events.  I can somewhat imagine His divine itinerary for that day:

  • Spend some time with My Father
  • Swing by the Pool of Bethesda and heal a lame dude
  • Teach the masses who gather afterward
  • Meet with my boys in secluded location to get in some training
  • Picnic with a few thousand people (provide all the food from a couple fish and some biscuits)

And the list goes on.

I can imagine Jesus wrapping up a topic, looking up and seeing the approaching crowd and thinking, “Right on time.”

The twelve suggested that Jesus send the crowds away to eat.  Instead, Jesus responded, “Hey, Philip, you’re from these parts.  Where’s a good place to buy a LOT of bread to feed these folks?”

HAHA!  I love it!  Jesus had perfectly orchestrated this moment.

Before we can really rely on God, we have to recognize our own inadequacy.  The twelve weren’t going to feed them initially, but Jesus asserted that they were responsible for them.

“We can’t!”  Philip exclaimed.

The lesson Jesus is preparing to teach them is to never forget that HE CAN.

And that’s why insurmountable obstacles are allowed in our lives.  Just like this massive crowd that needed feeding beyond the disciples’ ability to provide, Jesus isn’t surprised by our problems.  Instead He uses them to pull us more into Himself, to show us more of Who He is.

Oh yeah, He’s going to let you feel the pressure.  How else would we realize that we need Him?  If He always intervened before we even knew we were in trouble, our lives would feel like a family TV show (are there any of those anymore?), where every problem is solved in 30 minutes.  “Whew!  That was a close one!”

As we study the four Gospels, we see that Jesus lets His merry band find themselves in a dilemma many times before intervening.  That’s because, I believe, they needed reminding of the One with Whom they were travelling!

What peace that thought brings!  Just like He knew what He was going to do with feeding the 5,000, He already knows what He’s going to do in your situation right now!  He already knows!

I hope that, when trials come, you’ll lean further into Him.  Yes, you’re going to feel the pressure from time to time; you’re supposed to.  That just makes the Lord’s work in our lives that much more amazing.

Matthew

Alone With Jesus

John 6:1-3

After this Jesus went away to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tiberias. 2 And a large crowd was following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing on the sick. 3 Jesus went up on the mountain, and there he sat down with his disciples. 

I love scenes like this!  I love getting outdoors on a trail, hiking along a beautiful ridge, overlooking a gorgeous view.  I enjoy standing in a stream fly rod in hand, flick-casting into the current, and just playing with the trout while listening to the sounds of the woods and water.  I love how the scriptures record Jesus just going out to sit by the sea shore or going up on a mountain to talk to His Dad alone.  So much of Jesus’ teaching happened outdoors too!

However, what we are privy to here is even more special.  It’s been said that Jesus didn’t come to change the world; He came to change the twelve who would!  Before and after this scene are accounts of powerful teaching and miracles being performed, but this extremely brief moment is a snapshot of Jesus loving on and pouring into His disciples.

Sure.  Immediately following the crucifixion of their teacher it seemed that these moments had little effect; they were nowhere to be found.  However, after they saw the resurrected Savior, these men (Paul replacing Judas) became lions!

Acts 4:13

13 Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.

That last part is key.  “…they had been with Jesus.”  Jesus specially crafted moments like the one recorded at the beginning of John 6.  Think about it.  How might things have transpired had Jesus just spent all His time performing miracles and doing public speaking gigs?  What if the twelve were only utilized as errand boys and never trained like we see here?  The first coming of Jesus might have been just a bright but brief moment in history.  No, lives were changed in moments like this, and history and all of eternity as a result!

So what about you?  Do you make time to get alone with Jesus?  He wants to use us to continue changing the world for His Name’s sake, but that won’t happen without regularly and intentionally escaping from the world for a moment to learn at His feet.

You know, the world is set up to prevent this.  The ruler of this age, the devil, wants to keep you either too busy or too distracted to make time for this.  You can even get so caught up with doing good that time with the Lord gets forgotten.  If you’re like me, you have to meet with Jesus in His Word before the sun’s up, before the world and life crash in.  No matter what habit you have to install to meet with Him regularly, never forget that HE IS A PERSON to spend time with, not just a task to check off a list.

19148_Quiet_Time.jpg

So, will you meet Him on the mountain, or maybe early at the breakfast table?  The real live Person, Jesus Christ, wants to spend time with you.

Matthew

You’re Not Doing It Right!

John 5:45-47

“45 Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father.  There is one who accuses you:  Moses, on whom you have set your hope.  46 For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. 47 But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?”

These Jewish leaders made all this fuss about this man not adhering to the law of Moses (because he was carrying his pallet on the Sabbath), but Jesus said that they themselves didn’t adhere to the writing of Moses because they didn’t believe Jesus, about Whom Moses wrote!

“You judge this man by the law of Moses, but you’ll be judged by it too” (paraphrasing).

They forfeited the heart and character of God, which entirely made allowance for what this man was doing, in exchange for perceived piety.  They completely ignored the second greatest commandment, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

You see, they cared nothing for the man who had been healed.  We know that much from the beginning of the account where the man tells Jesus that he had no one to help him into the pool of Bethesda to receive healing.  They couldn’t be bothered to help him in his time of need.  Oh, but they were more than ready to condemn him.  Had he somehow been able to get into the pool and had gotten healed, they probably would have accused him of doing water aerobics on the Sabbath!

Do you know folks like this?  Someone in your church does something out of the ordinary, and there’s a crowd of people ready to tear him or her down for it.  The individual could have been attempting something great for God—you know, altering their method for reaching people with the gospel, not altering the message of the gospel itself.  Perhaps the person was just a brand new believer and didn’t know to behave differently.  It usually doesn’t matter.  Folks seemingly need a target for disgust to somehow prove their “faithfulness” to God.

Is it okay to point out this calamity?  Perhaps it’s too convicting of a topic.  We’ll wrap this up.

The point here is that when you receive the Word of God, it changes you.  Jesus said that if these Jewish leaders had believed Moses, they would have believed Him.  There would have been a change in the way they dealt with people, a change in how they viewed all of life.  They wouldn’t have chewed him out for walking around with his bedding.  They would have been like, “WHOA!  You’re walking!  This is amazing!”  However, it’s clear from what’s written that the overall sentiment was disgust.

The world is full of people who believe they’ll get to heaven by doing.  These Jews believed that strict adherence to the Law would save them, and all the other world religions teach salvation by works today.  They need to be told that that isn’t the case, that Jesus perfectly did the will of God, and that He died for those who didn’t—me and you.

However, the Church is full of professed believers who believe that they’ll somehow be rewarded for behaving like these Jewish leaders.  However, I believe the rewards will actually be for those who LOVE others enough to seek to understand them, teach them, and seek God alongside them.

Matthew

Seeking Glory: God’s or Mine?

Today’s Scripture is straightforward.  Jesus doesn’t mince words as He talks about false religion and seeking glory.  The question is:  Whose glory are we seeking?  God’s or ours?

Hold on to your seat.  Jesus doesn’t hold back when He says this…

John 5:39-44

39 You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me.

Jesus said (my paraphrase):  “You Pharisees, Scribes, and teachers of the Law are clueless.  You read the Old Testament but you don’t even understand that they speak of me.”

40 yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life. 

The religious elite refused to come to Jesus.  They would never surrender and submit to this carpenter from Nazareth.  Now watch this next verse…

41 I do not receive glory from people.

Let those words sink in for a moment.  Jesus doesn’t receive glory from mankind.  Do you get that?  Jesus doesn’t receive glory from my life.  Do you want to know why?  Because I can add nothing to His magnificence or the essence of Who He is.

You see, Jesus is not after our begrudging submission.  He’s after our hearts.  He gets no glory from you or me in our works apart from Him.  That’s what the Pharisees were trying to do in their “service to God.”

Here’s the cold, hard truth:  God created you and me for Himself!  Does that bother you?  Does that make you think God is somehow stuck on Himself?  Absolutely not, and I’ll tell you why.  Who or what is greater or more magnificent than God?  There is nothing or no one in the universe greater or more majestic, powerful or supreme than God.  Therefore, the greatest expression of any activity in the universe is to worship, honor and magnify the name of God.

No!  God doesn’t exist to make us happy and prosper us and make us wealthy and rich. No!  That’s the “prosperity Gospel.”  That’s the “It’s all about me Gospel.”  No sir.  We exist to bring Him glory.  David said it this way:

Psalm 23:3

He restores my soul.  He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Yes, God loves you!  And because it would bring Him glory, He would send His one and only Son to die for you!  But, even that was FOR HIS GLORY!

42 But I know that you do not have the love of God within you.  43 I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not receive me.  If another comes in his own name, you will receive him.  44 How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?

Sharp words from Jesus, wouldn’t you say?  He goes straight to the heart.  He cuts with His words.  And He still does today with these words…

“I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not receive me.”

That’s the key to life:  Receiving Jesus.  When you receive Him, you will seek to bring glory to His name, not yours.  You won’t seek glory for yourself.  In fact, you won’t even think about yourself.  You’ll only think about how you might bring glory to the Father’s name.

Are you angry, frustrated, or just plain mad?  What are you mad about?  What’s got you angry?  What’s frustrating you?  Does it have anything to do with you and your happiness?  I bet it does.

What if God is allowing that difficulty in your life to bring Him glory?  Will you RECEIVE that from Jesus?  Yes, I know it’s easy to receive the blessings, but what about the pain? What about the difficulties?  What about the hardships?  Will you receive those things and still honor the name of Jesus?  That’s the real test, isn’t it?

We’re all seeking glory.  But whose?  Ours or His?

Kevin