Have you ever experienced the energy high that accumulates on a life-changing missions trip? Maybe you’ve experienced it with pushing through a long conference, riding the hype of your child’s tournament weekend, or enduring the process of messy house renovations? Or maybe some other new and exciting transition? Adrenaline often pushes us through those big experiences, but then leaves us depleted on the other side.
I wonder if this is how we find the disciples in Mark 6:30.
Some quick background: Jesus had previously sent the disciples into all the villages, two by two, “with nothing for their journey except a walking stick – no food, no traveler’s bag, no money.” They went out “telling everyone they met to repent of their sins and turn to God. And they cast out many demons and healed many sick people…” (6:6b-13).
This was intense. And “the apostles returned to Jesus from their ministry tour and told him all they done and taught.” (6:30)
Jesus is such a good leader and easily recognized the disciples’ need for rest. He said, “Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.” They had a long, hard but exciting journey and needed some good R&R, with some basic nourishment to recuperate. The word plainly tells us that Jesus said this because so many people were coming and going and “his apostles didn’t have time to eat” (6:31).
JESUS HONORS MY NEED.
I love that Jesus sees what we need, even the needs of our frail human bodies! He honored the disciples’ need in this moment and took them “by boat [to] a quiet place where they could be alone” (6:32)
There’s just one problem… If you’ve lived on earth for any amount of time in any number of situations, I’m sure you can relate… The people wouldn’t leave them alone! The “people from many towns” (6:33) actually ran ahead along the shore to meet them. When they arrived at their place of respite, instead of finding the rejuvenating solitude they so desperately needed, the were overwhelmed by more people needing to take from them when they had nothing left to give. Haven’t we all been there!
Here’s the kicker… Instead of protecting the sacred time set aside to minister comfort and strength to his disciples, Jesus “had compassion on [the people] because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began to teach them many things” (6:34).
He had honored the disciples’ need for rest, and often sought those precious moments of prayer and solitude, but was moved to compassion by the greater need of drawing lost people into the safety of his fold.
THERE IS A NEED GREATER THAN MY NEED FOR REST.
As someone who cherishes my own rest and solitude, I am confronted by passages like these, where Jesus demonstrates an audacious confidence in our capacity to follow him into situations beyond us. I believe very much in our need to take care of ourselves, be healthy, rest and sabbath. In our humanity, we have limitations! But the Spirit does not… Jesus keeps pouring out, because he knows no lack. (“The Lord is my Shepherd, I lack nothing…” Psalm 23:1)
Jesus honors my need, but will still respond to the needs of others, without concern for lack, even when I’m exhausted!
JESUS RESPONDS TO NEED, WITHOUT CONCERN FOR MY LACK!
It is no surprise, considering this situation, that as the day wears on, and it becomes late in the afternoon, getting dangerously close to supper time, and the disciples are now officially hangry... that they approach Jesus and say, “Jesus, don’t you think it’s about time to send these poor people home so they can get something to eat? (6:35-36, my paraphrase).
What they really meant, but didn’t want to come right out and say, was, “Hey Jesus, we’re exhuasted and starving! Remember that thing we just did travelling around on foot, two by two, without our own provisions… Sure we care about these people, but we’ve given everything we have to give. We need some rest. Haven’t they had enough? Can you please send them away!?”
The disciples echoed what I often feel in my own depraved understanding of what it means to be his…
WHAT ABOUT MY NEED?!
There is incredible brilliance and strategy to Jesus’ response… Something only God could come up with!
“You feed them” (6:37a).
Us? Me? You want me to feed these thousands of hungry people?
The audacity of this command is mind-blowing to me. Jesus clearly knows something the disciples do not. I can almost see the twinkle in his eye! They are absolutely depleted of all human resources. They are at the end of their rope. They are hangry and cranky. They just want some time alone with a cup of water and a decent piece of bread!
Like a Good Father and a Great Teacher, instead of giving the disciples what they wanted, (even though it was his heart to do so from the beginning), Jesus begins to unveil one of the most powerful truths in all of Scripture, the secret to a life of influence and impact beyond ourselves.
(Wait for it…)
WHAT DO I HAVE?
I’ve noticed this thing that I do. It’s subtle, but there… It’s one of those old lingering habits that has worn out its welcome.
When I find myself in a situation like the one the disciples encountered, where the need around me is obviously greater than my own natural capacity, I tend to pull away a bit from God. I start to withdraw. My natural depraved mind would have me believe that I am not enough, and therefore, I will fail. He clearly expects too much from me. I might as well stop here because I don’t have it in me to keep going on this journey…
I’m sitting there on my lonesome, having pulled back, trying desperately to ignore him… and he whispers this question into my spirit: “What do you have, Natasha?”
He asks me the same question he asked the disciples on that long, hot, never-ending day, “[What] do you have? Go and find out” (6:38).
“Well, I’ll tell you what I don’t have…!”
“No, what do you have? Go and find out.”
“Well, this is it, Lord. I have “5 loaves of bread and 2 fish” (6:38b). It’s nowhere near enough. Not even close to what’s needed to accomplish your purposes!”
“Give them to me, and see what happens…”
Jesus took the five loaves and two fish, looked up toward heaven, and blessed them. Then, breaking the loaves into pieces, he kept giving the bread to the disciples so they could distribute it to the people. He also divided the fish for everyone to share. They all ate as much as they wanted, and afterward, the disciples picked up twelve baskets of leftover bread and fish. A total of 5,000 men and their families were fed. (Mark 6:41-44)
WITH JESUS, THERE IS ALWAYS ENOUGH, for everyone!
When I get overwhelmed, my natural tendency is to pull away from God, but in doing so, I am cutting my self off from the very source of Life itself! I am withdrawing from the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth, who, out of his “glorious, unlimited resources” loves to “empower [me] with inner strength by his spirit” (Ephesians 3:16).
He is my strength, my provision, and my Peace.
With Jesus, there is ALWAYS ENOUGH!
This is KINGDOM OF GOD ECONOMICS. Only God can honor our need, and be moved to compassion toward the needs of others, and somehow develop a masterful plan that meets all the needs, leaving everyone with more than enough!
It reminds me of that phrase Lynn used to say, though I think my mentor Carla said it first, “With Jesus, we are always a majority.”
Me + Jesus = more than enough
THE STORY DOESN’T END THERE.
One of the most amazing parts of this whole story to me, is that the disciples couldn’t grasp it. They couldn’t quite get it in their heads that the Living God was always with them. So Jesus follows up the amazing demonstration of his Presence and Provision with a test.
NOTE: Some things in life are actually a set up for something else!
“Immediately after this, Jesus insisted that his disciples get back into the boat and head across the lake…” (6:45).
Some of you are familiar with the story that tells of Jesus’ disciples out in the boat, and a storm sweeps up, and the disciples (still exhausted if you remember) are rowing and struggling terribly against the wind and waves. They see the shape of something like a ghost walking on the water and are terrified!
Can we just say… LONGEST DAY EVER! They’re coming off an intense ministry tour, depleted and in need of food and rest, only to push through another long day of ministry. Then, they finally get to eat some food, hallelujah, only to be sent out on the boat again, into a storm, and labor to work the boat for hours, getting absolutely no where! And then… be terrified by a ghost-like image walking near them on the water.
Longest. Day. Ever.
So, this part is amazing…
Jesus was on the shore, seeing his disciples from a distance as they struggled. Then, as in later, potentially hours later, at about 3:00am, he started walking toward them on the water. BUT, “He [had] intended to go past them” (6:48b)!
Hold on. Not only did Jesus wait potentially hours before he sauntered out to them on top of the waves (compare time references in v.47 and v.48), but even when he started out, he didn’t intend to go to their aid!?
SOMETIMES WHEN THERE’S A NO FROM GOD, IT’S REALLY A YES HIDING IN A LESSON.
Jesus was trying to teach them something they desperately needed to know. Inside their boat were the 12 baskets full of left over bread and fish from his provision earlier that day. How big was this boat? How glaringly obvious was the presence of these baskets? This tangible reminder as they rowed and rowed, struggling against the storm into the night?
The phrase “He intended to pass by” has some amazing significance. It’s possible that it is a reference to God’s encounter with Moses on the mountain in Exodus 33. Moses asked, “Please show me your glory.” And God said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The Lord.’” (Exodus 33:19a).
(There are some other possibilities that it could refer to as well, like the parting of the Red Sea.)
Either way, God is continually revealing himself to his disciples. He’s saying, I am that I am! I am Yahweh, the God of Israel, here to seek and save the lost.
JESUS COMES CLOSE WHEN WE’RE AFRAID.
The disciples weren’t getting it and I love that, when they cried out in fear, our sweet Jesus turned toward them. He changed his direction and came near, saying “Don’t be afraid! Take courage, I am here” (6:50, emphasis added).
That is so like a parent to me. We have to push our kids as they grow so they learn the confidence of being on their own, but I never get so far that I can’t hear them when they really need me… And I will always respond when they cry out in fear.
The grace of God is such that, even when we’ve pulled away, if we call his name or cry out to him, he comes!
He “climbed into the boat, and the wind stopped…” He came and stilled the storm.
BUT, it is not what he had originally intended to do. He wanted them to grasp what they still couldn’t wrap their heads around, that he was God.
“…They were totally amazed for they still didn’t understand the significance of the miracle of the loaves. Their hearts were too hard to take it in“ (6:51-52).
What was “the significance of the miracle of the loaves?” What is it their hearts couldn’t grasp?
The point of this story is not that Jesus is so amazing that he can walk on water and calm the wind and the waves, though there is that! The point of this story is that Jesus is God! AND we are his, and therefore have more than enough!
Jesus didn’t need to get in the boat to calm the storm, he needed to give them a revelation of who he was so they would understand all that they had in him.
Jesus was trying to teach them who they were because of who he is. As God’s beloveds, they were never alone. And because they were never alone, they always had enough! They had all of Jesus, at all times!
They had his Authority. They had his Presence. They had his Provision.
“Everything belongs to you, and you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God” (1 Corinthians 3:22b-23).
THIS IS THE SECRET: THAT WE ARE ONE WITH JESUS [who happens to be GOD], HIM IN US AND US IN HIM. AND WITH JESUS, THERE IS ALWAYS ENOUGH!
How many of us have a hard time grasping this truth in our own life?! When one challenge piles on top of another, when I’m hangry and depleted of energy, and when someone says something that leaves me hurting and putting a wall up to protect my heart…
Sometimes we just plain forget that he’s with us in the mud and mire of our daily lives! We forget that he’s always there, and that he’s on our side.
Is God using a storm in your life to force your eyes to look and see those baskets of provision from your previous victory? Are you, like the disciples, being set up by your current circumstances to experience a new revelation of who he is?
Where is God working in your life to teach you the secret of KINGDOM ECONOMICS, that he is with you, and with him, there is always enough!?
Where in your life could Jesus be “passing by” in all his fierce glory and goodness?
Can you grasp a life lived in the constant awareness of his Authority, Presence, and perfect Provision?