We Have (Nothing) to Eat

There were nine of us gathered in a coffee shop in "the biggest town in Scotland" (where we were visiting friends for a couple of days). As we opened to John 6 together, it didn't matter that I didn't know most of them and they didn't know me, nor that I had to strain to understand some of the accents; the familiar joy of opening the Bible together, of seeking together, was mounting in my heart and I breathed deeply.

Perhaps the story is familiar to you: Jesus has been teaching crowds of people and they have lingered and followed for long enough that they are in need of food. Jesus tells his disciples to give the crowds something to eat (which would be impossible - even if they had enough money, where could they locate enough resources for such a crowd?). Then Jesus does the miraculous and manages to feed 5,000 men (up to 20,000 people including women and children) with 5 loaves and 2 fish.

As we read the passage this bit jumped out and, as I shared my initial insight, it ripened as we discussed it together:

Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?” He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he would do. (Jn 6:5–6)

It reminded me of times when my children have needed a snack and, knowing the abundant supply that we had hidden away in our cupboards, I would tease them saying, "Oh no! What shall we do?! You're hungry and look, there is nothing!"

Perhaps it is easier for my children to know that I'm teasing because they have seen the supply in cupboards... But isn't it just as silly for the disciples (me) to suppose that we should be in a panic over a need simply because we cannot see inside the heavenly cupboards? Isn't it remarkable that the disciples (us) could have walked with Jesus, seen who he is and what he can do, and still suppose that we need to figure out how we are meant to make the miraculous happen with whatever resources we have in hand?

A funny, and quite wonderful, thought occurred. Perhaps Jesus allows the need simply so that we can see him do "what he would do." Suppose that the need is purposefully highlighted to me, to us (just as Jesus said to Philip "Where are we to buy bread?"), with the precise intent of allowing us to see him do the impossible.

Jesus could have said, "Right. These people are all hungry. I want you to find the boy with his lunch. Let him know that if he gives that up I will make enough food out of it to feed all of these people until they're full and there'll be a ton of leftovers. K?" But he didn't do that because he's so much kinder than that. Where would be the growth in faith there? We need to see the need so that we can step into the realms of faith - doing what he has asked even though we don't yet know the outcome.

We're in that space. Perhaps you are, too.

I wish that Jesus would say to me, "OK! So here's the plan..." Then I would know that what I gave up and the needs before us will all be sorted. But I do know it. That's the thing. If I really allow myself to stop worrying in the moment about where we'll find enough money, let alone all the bread, needed to feed all of these people (figuratively, if not literally), and I allow myself to dwell on what I know of God and what he has hidden in his cupboards, it's ridiculous to be worried about the outcome.

In his goodness, he doesn't yet let us see. He let's us enter into the realms of faith: we do not know the outcome, but we can know it will be good! And it will be better for having not known it because we will be tested and grow in the best possible way. Is this not good news?!

What situation is your faith being grown in? Is there an area where you see the need but do not know yet how he will accomplish it? May we begin to comprehend that seeing the need is his grace for us so that we can see what miracles he will do.