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[You can listen to Clive reading this by clicking the link at the bottom of this item]
Years ago, there was an advertisement for a magazine - it couldn’t have been a very good one as I can’t remember which magazine it was. But the slogan was ‘I never knew there was so much in it’.
In a way I think we can apply that slogan to the story of the feeding of the 5000.
It’s one of those Bible stories I think of as a ‘Sunday School staple’ - everyone knows what happened on that day. But given it’s one of only two miracles that appears in all four Gospels - and the other one is the resurrection - it was clearly memorable and important.
It’s not the first time God provided bread in this way. There’s Manna from Heaven for the Israelites and in 2 King chapter 4 Elisha feeds 100 men with a few barley loaves. I’m sure there are other examples.
But this time Jesus is performing the miracle and it’s all the more miraculous.
The background is that Jesus has been teaching and healing non-stop all day. In fact, the crowds following Jesus have got so huge and unmanageable that we are told Jesus and the disciples had to get in a boat to escape for a bit of quiet and rest.
So there they are, tired, hungry and Jesus was probably upset too as he’d just been told of the violent death of John the Baptist. They have the brilliant plan to sail to a place they think is deserted and secluded but some people in the crowd see which way the boat is heading and get there first. The result? No food, no rest - just more crowds!
But Jesus won’t turn his back on the people he sees are in need. He begins teaching and
healing all over again. He’s still going strong as it’s getting dark and the disciples - who were probably tired and hungry themselves - suggest Jesus sends the crowd home to get some food and sleep.
But Jesus has other ideas (how many times have we heard that?!). “You feed them” he tells the disciples. I can just imagine their reaction of disbelief, and fear - they might even have laughed out loud. We know Philip argues about how expensive it would be to buy food for the whole crowd.
Jesus is not laughing.
Yes, Jesus was the Son of the God that spoke the world into existence in seven days and as such, could have simply commanded the crowd’s stomachs to be filled, but he doesn’t. Once again, Jesus chooses to use his followers to do God’s work. In this case, a small boy with a small packed lunch.
Just imagine the scene. Jesus asks the disciples to get everyone sat down as if they are all about to eat. He then prays and offers God thanks for this tiny offering, while he is standing in front of a huge crowd of 5000 men - which, when you add in their families was probably more like 10-15,000. The disciples must have been petrified there would be a riot!
Jesus then divides the food and tells the disciples to begin distributing it. You can almost hear the disciples rehearsing in their minds what they would say to the third or fourth person after the food had run out. Or what they would say to urge each person to only take a tiny crumb, but then their amazement and delight when the food just kept appearing.
I wonder how long it took the disciples to realise that Jesus had done it again. That the food wasn’t going to run out. That everyone was going to be fed.
As we know, after everyone had eaten they gathered up all the leftovers - they obviously had a seagull problem too - and those leftovers filled twelve baskets. A doggie bag for each disciple!
God, through Jesus, had provided for everyone.
God, through Jesus, had performed a miracle using a contribution from the humblest of his followers.
God, through Jesus, had given them a gift far greater than anyone had expected.
God, through Jesus, had given them all they needed.
God, through Jesus had empowered his servants to achieve the impossible.
Serve the Lord with gladness.
Welcome to today’s devotions.
We cannot underestimate the joy that friendship brings, it’s such a good gift from our God.
How wonderful it is to be invited to your friend’s house and just sit with them and chat, to have a meal with them to enjoy their company, to hear the laughter, to see the smiles and the glint in their eyes!
Not so long ago that was the norm for a lot of us; we could do what we wanted to and go where we wanted, and see who we wanted, but life has changed so much within this year. Who could believe that one virus like this could affect the whole world and the way we think and the way that everything has changed around the world?
We listen to the news and try to work out what the new guidelines mean to us. Are we allowed to do something or not? It all gets a bit confusing and when we ask our friends and family they’re not quite sure either.
The Good News is that we have a God who is the same yesterday, today and forever.
He doesn’t give us new guidelines to follow from week to week.
As we read in James 1 verse 17,
every good gift and every perfect gift is from above and comes down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.
He is unchanging.
His love for us never ceases.
He is who he says he is. The great I AM.
How do we serve this God that we say we serve? It’s so easy to say that we serve our God as we help in the community, as we help our churches, as we do those little things which we believe God is asking us to do.
We believe that we are a servant of God doing his will. But how do we serve Him when we are at home and not doing things in our communities?
We read psalm 100
“Make a joyful shout to the Lord all ye lands.
Serve the Lord with gladness,
Come before His presence with singing. Know that the Lord, he is God.
It is he who made us, and not we ourselves. We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.
Enter into His gates with thanksgiving.
And into His courts with praise.
Be thankful to Him and bless His name.
For the Lord is good.
His mercy is everlasting.
And His truth endures to all generations.”
This psalm encourages us in verse 2 to Serve the Lord with gladness.
One of the ways that we can do this is by having a thankful heart. As we pray about the little things in our lives and see our God answer those prayers it gives us hope to pray for bigger things and see God answer those prayers also. In turn this will give us a heart of thankfulness and as we share the answered prayers one with another we will begin to be more and more thankful in our heart as we see our God at work within our own lives and within the community. So let’s not be afraid to ask for prayer from one another and let’s not forget to share the answers of prayer with one another and have a thankful heart and serve Him with gladness.
Let me share a little something that happened.
During my phone calls someone asked me if I would pray with them about the pain that they were suffering. We prayed on the phone.
I phoned them again the following week to see how they were. They told me that it was the first day that they had had no pain in the areas where there was pain before.
We didn’t leave it there but again we prayed that God would bring the next bit of healing to this person’s body. God asks us to pray. It is He who brings the answers.
The question might be do I want to be drawn deeper into God’s love or am I happy where I am in my Christian walk?
For me I feel that if I spend more time just sitting and thinking about the Lord and reading His word it will cause me to be more open to Him so that He can pour more of His love in.
As we stop to read the word, to pray and ponder, let’s think about how loving a Father we have who draws us by His love into His Kingdom.
We are complete in Him.
He loves us unconditionally, we don’t have to try and please Him. He is pleased with us.
He is for us and not against us.
He walks with us.
He knows the number of hairs on our head.
So what does that mean to us individually, to know that love of God and that God loves us:
the thoughts that come to me are:
To love someone you need to build a relationship with them, to share with them, to listen to them, to laugh with them to cry with them, but most of all to be with them.
Romans 8 vs 38:
And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love.
1 Corinthians 13:7 Love never gives up on people. It never stops trusting, never lose hope and never quits.
We read in Songs of Solomon 2: 4
His banner over me is love.
What a fantastic image that is.
Let us pray.
Dear Lord as we come before You we thank You that you are who You say you are.
We thank You for being with us in every situation.
For all the ways that you help us, even though we cannot begin to comprehend how much you do for us.
We thank you.
Help us through your Holy Spirit to come nearer to you, to hear what you have to say to us.
Help us through your Holy Spirit to come nearer to you that we might serve You with gladness.
We ask this in the name of Jesus.
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