Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Good News for Hard Times Week 3: Jesus Feeds 5,000

The other day I was keeping my granddaughter Olivia.  Livie is 1 1/2 and she is chattering away these days.  Last week her favorite word was "bus" but on this day, she keep jabbering to me, "slibdobydbowzidazzd...cups."  I was doing the dishes and she was playing in her stand-up station thingy and she would say, "dkshvocidncbyd..cups!"

At lunch, Livie was sitting in her Bumbo eating cheese and she kept pointing towards the pantry and asking, "cbobodywoeibyzzz cups?"  And I would say, "Yes, we have cups."  And I would bring her a cup from the pantry.

When her mother picked her up, I said, "What's the deal with cups?" and Arley said, "Oh, she was saying 'grapes'!"

Great.  All day Livie was asking, "Do you have any grapes?" and I was answering "Yes, we have cups!"

Later I thought about when Jesus said:

If your child asks you for bread, do you give him a stone?  
If he asks for fish, do you give him a snake?  
If you know how to give good things to your children, 
don't you think your heavenly Father can do even better?

I think many times I am busy blabbering to God about grapes and I'm a little astounded when he gives me cups.

Like one time, when we were first married, and we lived far from home, we were running really tight on money.  And I was worried about having groceries.  And I kept going around our little duplex blabbering to God that we needed more money.

There was a knock at the door, and it was our neighbors, standing there with grocery sacks.

"Hey, we're going out of town," they said.  "And we had to clean out our fridge.  Could you use these?"

I had spent all day blabbering, "!" when God knew that what I needed was food.

This week's Bible story is about God providing food.  In an astounding display of power to provide, Jesus feeds over 5,000 men, plus their women and children, with only five loaves and two fish to work with.

This is one of the only stories told in all four gospels.  Apparently all four of them thought it told us something that we must know about Jesus.

If I was telling you this story in our Wednesday Bible study, I would ask you:  What does this story tell you about Jesus?

There is a conversation in this story that I never knew existed until I began learning to tell it this week:

Now it was evening, and they were a long way off from any village.
Jesus asked Philip, "Where shall we get food to feed these people?"
He said this to stretch Philip's faith.  He already knew what he was going to do.

He already knew what he was going to do.  He wasn't worried about how much money they had or fish or bread or where the nearest store was.  He already knew what he was going to do.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurable more
than we could dare to ask or imagine
according to his power at work -
to him be glory!
-Ephesians 2:20-21

Later in the story, Jesus has a conversation with the people about this miracle, in which he says, "You come to me because you want your stomachs filled: bread.  But I can give you life forever: Bread."

"Your heavenly Father knows what you need," Jesus had told the people.

It is so much more than we know to ask for.

Click here to listen to the story and learn it.  

Who will you tell this story to?

Some notes for further study:

1.  What do my listeners not know about Jesus?
All four gospel writers tell this story, but not in the same way.  Each gospel writer had a different audience, or "people group", to whom they were telling the good news of Jesus.  When we tell a story, we must look at the people we are telling the story to.  What do they believe about the world?  About how life works?  About God?  What are their needs and challenges?  What are their greatest values?  And then we ask ourselves, What do they not know about God that this story tells them?  That's how we decide what details are important to include.  All the gospel writers got the main thing about Jesus consistent in this story.

2.  What are barriers in this story?
In John's account of this story, John says that Jesus asked Philip, "How will we get food for all these people?"  John says he asked Philip this to stretch Philip's faith, because Jesus already knew what he was going to do.  Your translation might say, "He said this to test Philip."  My Wednesday group didn't like this;  they didn't like the word "test."  For our demographic, a test is something you must get right.  you either pass or you fail.  Why would Jesus do that to Philip?  That's not consistent with Jesus' character.  So we look at what the word means and we read a lot of translations.  The Message translation, I feel, captures best the intent of the moment:  Jesus asked this to stretch Philip's faith - to see if he would use his faith in Jesus to think outside the box of what Philip could do and instead think of what he knew by now that Jesus could do.

When you tell a story, you have to consider words that might be barriers, that give people problems that really aren't in the story.  We never change the meaning of what is said.  But we try to avoid words that are cultural triggers for our listeners.

3.  What are bridges in this story?
The main thing, which every gospel writer told us, is that Jesus has compassion.  And he cares that we have physical needs met.  And he is able to provide—abundantly—for our physical needs!  The bridge to the gospel in this story is that everyone has needs.  They worry about not having enough.  They live out of a scarcity mentality and they worry because they think it's up to them to provide well.  Yes, even wealthy people in Williamson County worry about this.

Think about these things as you're learning and telling the story this week.

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