September 23 “Baskets”

Baskets

The Twelve disciples carried a collective worry as they saw the tremendous crowd following Jesus into the Galilean wilderness.
Attracting such a gathering implied certain responsibilities. Who would care for them? Who would dismiss them? How far would they follow Jesus away from their villages, homes, and lives? Jesus seemed totally unconcerned about these things. The Twelve did not know what He was planning as He selected an impressive mountainside as their stopping place. Turning to look behind Him, Jesus saw the vast multitude following Him. The feast of Passover was near so the multitude should have gathered at the Temple but there they were at the foot of a mountain in Galilee. What would Jesus do? Surely they were His responsibility.

A Test in the Wilderness
Knowing the thoughts of His men, Jesus decided to test them. He asked the one named Philip,

“Where shall we buy bread that these may eat?”

Philip did the math in his head and gave a reasonable answer.

“Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them,
that every one of them may have a little.”

Philip glanced at Judas who carried the meager funds Jesus and the men relied upon. Judas clutched the money bag to his heart and shook his head. The prognosis of Andrew hung in the air like a foul odor. Foreseeing the crisis, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother had surveyed the closest members of the multitude. He reported his findings.

“There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two small fish,
but what are they among so many?”

It was a reasonable question. In normal circumstances, Andrew had a point, but following Jesus led to anything but normal circumstances.

A Miraculous Meal in the Wilderness
Jesus began His miracle, employing His men in the process.

“Make the people sit down.”

The grassy knoll was well chosen. The disciples organized the people instructing the men to sit down. Their wives and families followed; they counted 5000 men plus the women and children.

Jesus took the bread and fish, looked to heaven and gave thanks. Next, He distributed the blessed food to the Twelve. Uncertain looks passed between the men as each received his portion from the hands of Jesus. To their utter amazement, the food multiplied in Jesus’ hands until each man had his own equal supply. The bread and fish were strangely warm, as if the power of the Lord had heated it in the multiplication process.

Twelve Baskets Full
The strange, warm multiplication continued as each disciple supplied row after row of hungry people. In a little while, everyone had eaten his/her fill and there was still food left over, an almost invisible steam rising from each portion. Jesus told His men to gather the leftovers in baskets. Each of the disciples had a basket brimming with warm bread and fish.

The laughter of full bellies rippled through the crowd like a stone tossed into pool. Soon though, the laughter was overcome by a whispered confession, gathering force as it moved through the multitude:

“This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world.”

The Twelve looked at their teeming, steaming baskets, the satisfied faces of the people, and the smile of Jesus. This was a meal they would never forget.

Scriptures:
John 6:1-14

After these things Jesus went over the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tiberias. Then a great multitude followed Him, because they saw His signs which He performed on those who were diseased. And Jesus went up on the mountain, and there He sat with His disciples. Now the Passover, a feast of the Jews, was near. Then Jesus lifted up His eyes, and seeing a great multitude coming toward Him, He said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread, that these may eat?” But this He said to test him, for He Himself knew what He would do. Philip answered Him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may have a little.” One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to Him, “There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two small fish, but what are they among so many?” Then Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand. And Jesus took the loaves, and when He had given thanks He distributed them to the disciples, and the disciples to those sitting down; and likewise of the fish, as much as they wanted. So when they were filled, He said to His disciples, “Gather up the fragments that remain, so that nothing is lost.” Therefore they gathered them up, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves which were left over by those who had eaten. Then those men, when they had seen the sign that Jesus did, said, “This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world.”

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, You are Jehovah Jireh, the Lord Who Provides. To this day there is a multiplying warmth to Your touch. Time and time again, You have taken what we have to give and multiplied it to meet the need. I will trust You today to take my meager supply and heat it up, making it sufficient for the challenges facing me. May I never doubt the power and thoroughness of You, Lord Jesus! Amen.

Song:
Jehovah Jireh

Words and Music: Merla Watson

Jehovah Jireh My provider His grace is sufficient
For me, for me, for me
Jehovah Jireh My provider His grace is sufficient For me

My God shall supply all my needs
According to His riches in glory
He will give His angels Charge over me
Jehovah Jireh cares for me, for me, for me
Jehovah Jireh cares for me

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

TheJesusStory devotions are also found at KingdomWinds.com.

April 27 “Feasting”

Feasting

Following Jesus into the wilderness was an experience not to be missed.
There were signs and wonders. There were debates with entrenched leaders (which they always lost!) and there were those wonderful stories about the Kingdom of God. Hearts were stirred. Minds were challenged. Even so, bellies still tended to report empty. The disciples reported this hunger crisis to Jesus and much to their surprise, He told them to feed them. Of course, the only thing to do was break up the meeting and send the people on their way left to their own devices as far as provisions were concerned. They were all too far into the wilderness to supply food beyond what the most farsighted of them had thought to bring. Of these farsighted ones, a solitary little boy was found to have a small lunch. Jesus commanded the small provision be brought to Him.

“Little Is Much when God Is in It”
There is a vintage gospel song by this title and it remains true to this day. Remember that Jesus measured faith in grains of mustard seed—small measures in the world’s eyes. The disciples could not see the little boy’s lunch as relevant to the massive needs of the multitude, but Jesus knew better. He took the loaves and fishes in His hands, gave thanks, and blessed them. (The word used in John’s gospel is the root word of Eucharist, the “Great Thanksgiving!) This “little” bit of food became “much” in the hands of the disciples. As they broke the bread and the fish, it multiplied before their eyes. A miracle of creation occurred with each plunge of their hands into the baskets and they had enough for each group of people all sitting orderly on the ground. There was no panic, no rush to get food before it ran out. Jesus was in charge, this one who commanded demons and disease with equal authority, so people quickly relaxed and waited their turn. If the fish needed salt, I am sure the tears of the disciples supply that seasoning as well.

The Fellowship Meal
Eating together is an indispensable method of spiritual fellowship. The Old Covenant was celebrated by the Seder and Passover meals. For New Covenant worshipers, the Communion Meal is the heart of public worship. Why are these feasts important?

  • They physically represent spiritual realities. We are family, committed to God and to each other! Our souls are nourished by this fellowship.
  • Spiritually, the things of God and His Kingdom nourish our spirits, strengthening us for demands of the times in which we live. In the Bible, the Word is called meat and bread, the flow of the Spirit is New Wine, and the waters of worship are the very River of Life.

The feast in the wilderness teaches us that to follow Jesus is to be well fed. He can take “little” and make it “much.” There is always enough because Jesus is serving the substance and life of His own victory over death.

One More Thing
Like the tiny mustard seed in the parable and the little boy’s lunch in this feast, when the Lord takes into His mighty hands what we have to give, He blesses it. He blessing is so powerful, what we have becomes enough!

Scriptures:
Matthew 14:14-21

And when Jesus went out He saw a great multitude; and He was moved with compassion for them, and healed their sick. When it was evening, His disciples came to Him, saying, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is already late. Send the multitudes away, that they may go into the villages and buy themselves food.” But Jesus said to them, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.” And they said to Him, “We have here only five loaves and two fish.” He said, “Bring them here to Me.” Then He commanded the multitudes to sit down on the grass. And He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, He blessed and broke and gave the loaves to the disciples; and the disciples gave to the multitudes. So they all ate and were filled, and they took up twelve baskets full of the fragments that remained. Now those who had eaten were about five thousand men, besides women and children.

Prayer:
Communion Prayer from the Book of Common Prayer (adapted SRP)
We celebrate the memorial of our redemption, O Father, in this sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving. Recalling Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension, we offer you these gifts. Sanctify them by your Holy Spirit to be for your people  the Substance and Life of your Son, the holy food and drink of new and unending life in him. Sanctify us also that we may faithfully receive this holy Sacrament, and serve you in unity, constancy, and peace; and at the last day bring us with all your saints into the joy of your eternal kingdom. All this we ask through your Son Jesus Christ: By him, and with him, and in him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit all honor and glory is yours, Almighty Father, now and forever. Amen.

Song:
Little Is Much
Words and Music: Kittie L. Suffield

1 In the harvest field now ripened
There’s a work for all to do;
Hark! the voice of God is calling
To the harvest calling you.

Refrain:
Little is much when God is in it,
Labor not for wealth or fame;
There’s a crown, and you can win it,
If you go in Jesus’ name.

2 Does the place you’re called to labor
Seem too small and little known?
It is great if God is in it,
And He’ll not forget His own.

Refrain

3 When the conflict here is ended
And our race on earth is run,
He will say, if we are faithful,
“Welcome home, My child, well done

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

TheJesusStory devotions are also found at KingdomWinds.com.