There is a crowd large gathered, after all Jesus has been doing signs and wonders. Jesus was seeking out some down-time but as the crowds gather Jesus chooses a grassy hilltop on which to teach them.
Seeing approximately 10 000 – 15 000 men, women and children gathering to hear Him Jesus leans over to Phillip and essentially says; ‘How are we going to feed all these people?’. Philip is astounded. I can imagine him thinking; ‘This is unreasonable, this is not our problem, we don’t have the resources for this, Lord what are you suggesting?’
Can you empathise with Philip?
Have you ever felt like God was being unreasonable?
John doesn’t record Philip ever recovering from his feeling limited by their apparent available resources – in South African currency Phillip estimated that it would have cost R20 000 to buy enough bread to go around.
What is going on here?
Why would God ask us to do what only He can do?
John 6:6 contains the key to the answer to questions such as these.
He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he would do. (John 6:6)
Jesus is not scatterbrained, hasn’t lost the plot, isn’t unaware of realities and constraints. No Scripture pointedly reveals Jesus’ motive in the scenario; ‘He said this to test him’. Jesus was not uncertain as to how He was going to deal with this dilemma of so many people and feeding them, John records; ‘for He Himself knew what He would do.’
There is a difference between what we think we believe, what we say we believe and what we do believe. What we truly believe is revealed by our responses to situations and our actions.
I know this feeling. It’s easy sitting in your room with your bible or sitting in church listening to preaching or in a small group discussion thinking or saying what you believe… And then it happens! Something arises in real life and that belief is tested, is it real, do I really believe?
Philip no doubt has just been with Jesus, heard Jesus’ clear claims to being the divine Son of God, has seen Jesus do amazing miracles – but did Phillip truly believe?
Jesus sets up a scenario that will test him, will squeeze out of Philip and the other disciples whether they truly believe that Jesus is God, that Jesus has authority over all things.
Paul writes to the Thessalonian believers in such a way that it is clear that he can empathise with Phillip, Paul knew what it felt like to have God test his faith, test him to see what was really in his head and heart. (1 Thessalonians 2:4)
Likewise, James urges believers to consider it pure joy when we are tested, when our faith is put on trial because such tests from God give us the opportunity to see steadfastness grow in us so that we might mature in our faith not. (James 1:3)
What’s happening in your life that might be God testing you?
Is there anything God’s asked you to do that you think is unreasonable?
Friend. God’s not malicious, He’s not having fun with you. No, your heavenly Father wants to test the genuineness of your faith, wants your faith to grow and to mature.
Andrew did better than Phillip in this moment. Philiip doesn’t manage to lift his thoughts above the challenges and constraints and reasons why he can’t do what Jesus is suggesting he do.
Andrew at least thought about what they did have and believed Jesus could do a miracle. He probably didn’t know what Jesus would do, didn’t know the magnitude of the miracle Jesus would do, but his actions do reveal that he did believe Jesus was able to, was going to do something astounding and miraculous.
What do you have in your situation?
Focus on what God had entrusted you with.
Give that to Him for His purposes mixed with faith.
And watch Jesus grow your faith and reveal His majestic power and purposes.
When it comes to questions regarding the end of the ages, the last days, the tribulation, judgement day & Jesus’ second coming – there are lots of questions and abounding interpretations.
Chapter 13 starts with one of the disciples remarking to Jesus how amazing the architecture of the temple in Jerusalem was. Maybe surprisingly to them Jesus replies prophesying about the imminent destruction of the temple (which happened in AD70) and launches into a discourse that teaches them regarding this imminent tribulation in Jerusalem & also instructs the disciples and us on the end times.
When we read sections like this in Scripture, may I suggest an approach. Focus on the imperatives – the crucial action items, the things we are urged to do.
Its a bit like driving in thick mist. Most years around this time of year when I and my family travel down to another part of the country at night, there is a section of the trip that almost invariably poses the challenge of really thick mist at night. The national speed limit is 120km/h but on those night long sections of driving safely require a speed as low as 20-30km/h. There is just too much that can’t be seen, questions as it were; is there an oncoming bend in the road (with dangerous cliffs), is there a truck or car just around the corner? In moments like this, apart from slowing down, I choose to focus not on what I can’t see, but to focus on what I can see! I can see the yellow line on the left margin of the road & I can see the middle line of the road. So I focus on those and know that what’s imperative is for me to stay between those two lines in order to stay on the road and to stay on my side of the road.
Passages like this are similar. Sometimes they uncover more questions than answers, provide more mystery than revelation. They are difficult to reconcile with other passages at times… However they also contain yellow & white lines – the imperatives.
Read again through this chapter and look for every imperative, everything you can do, are instructed to do.
What’s the overall impression you have now of what Jesus is telling you regarding the end times?
- “Be on your guard” 3x
- “Don’t be anxious” 1x
- “Persevere” (implied from ‘the one who endures to the end will be saved’ vs13) 1x
- “Stay awake” 3x
We are to be watchful & alert, not fearful, we are to persevere knowing Jesus will come for His ‘elect’ (vs20&27)! Come Lord Jesus come. Choose your focus!
pistĕuō (Greek): to have faith (in, upon, or with respect to, a person or thing), to entrust, to believe, commit (to trust), put in trust with.
Faith is believing God. Faith is to put one’s trust in God regarding something when one has yet to still see the outcome. Faith is believing and acting according to that belief. Faith is always rooted in SOMEONE or something.
Jarius the Synagogue ruler had a need, his daughter was desperately ill. Jarius has seen or heard of myriads of people being healed by Jesus and on that basis Jarius believes that Jesus is worth approaching and reveals his faith when He says to Jesus (Mark 5:21-23); “Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well and live”.
Coming to Jesus revealed his belief that Jesus was worth coming to, imploring Jesus to lay His hands on his daughter puts his belief about what was possible with Jesus on display.
Similarly, the woman who has seemingly unsolvable long-term medical issues believes, has faith. Scripture clearly explains that the reason for her action was;
She had heard the reports about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment. For she said, “If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.” (Mark 5:27-28)
Her thinking was, Jesus is the answer to my unsolvable problem – that’s faith! And faith is what God loves. Jesus commends the woman for her faith (vs34) and Jesus urges Jarius to keep believing (vs36) when he hears the news that his daughter has passed away.
Why does God love faith?
Is it because of the relational component that there is to faith?
I remember teaching my children to swim in the pool and in the ocean. I remember so clearly just wanting those little freaked out kids to trust their dad, to believe that he would not let them get hurt or worse, to believe that he knew what they could handle. I know what it feels like now teaching my 18yr old how to drive, when she is panicking that she can’t do something I know she can do, or drive somewhere where I know she can drive, I know what it feels like to just want her to trust me, to trust that I’ll help, I’ll direct and counsel and together we will achieve things she will be proud of and delighted with in the end… Faith has a relational component to it.
God loves it when we trust Him, when we choose to believe He is good, He is loving and all powerful and that He knows what’s best for our lives. Will you trust Him, will you have faith like this woman, faith like Jarius? They saw their unsolvable problems solved because they believed!
In closing, Mark 6:1-6 is set in stark contrast to this. Jesus goes to his hometown and He encounters the exact opposite of faith, people don’t believe they disbelieve He is anything special and so it says;
And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them. And he marveled because of their unbelief. (Mark 6:5-6)
Jesus still did some miracles, but it was not much, He was astounded at their unbelief and as a result of their unbelief, His hometown lost out on what might have been if only they had believed like the woman, like Jarius.
Will you believe?
Do you trust Jesus in everything?
Are you living today, filled with the faith that God loves?
We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.” (Proverbs 16:9 NLT)
This week started as what felt like a normal week for me, a diary full of great people to meet with. Multiple meetings to discuss how to see God’s kingdom advance in the lives of those around us, time to pray and prepare to preach, a time for rest and family…
I had a plan, and plans aren’t bad to have, but God determined my steps!
And so for me, this week hasn’t been anything like what I thought it would be – but I am so grateful to God that He orders my steps. I wasn’t visiting the hospital to find out I really needed to. However, God determined my steps through the wonderful influence of people he put in my life and whispered to me by the Holy Spirit to go and get checked out…
For me, knowing that my sovereign Father who loves me determines my steps is not offensive in any way (as some find the idea of sovereignty) but is calming in the extreme.
And yet within the safety net of our loving Father’s sovereignty, He permits us freedom to make plans and decisions in such as way that somehow upholds our freedom yet does not restrict or limit His sovereignty – amazing.