I’m preparing to teach the first 24 verses of the 6th chapter of John to approximately sixteen 3rd and 4th graders Monday night, at least three of whom are rambunctious.
The chapter begins with Jesus feeding the five thousand.
And guess what?
Before He feeds anyone He says, “Have the people sit down.”
Because it’s hard to pass out bread and fish when people are milling about.
He sees the crowd approach.
He knows they are hungry. (Because He is omniscient – our attribute this week.)
He gathers the available resources. (Thanks to a boy’s willingness to share.)
He has the people sit down.
He looks up to heaven and gives thanks. (Because gratitude turns what we have into enough.)
He distributes the food to those who are seated. (I’m going to draw the children’s attention to that detail because it’s hard to pass out spiritual food when children are milling about.)
Finally He gathers up the leftovers so as not to waste God’s provision. (If I were teaching the senior level again this year I might be tempted to say something about the wasting of our tax dollars, but these are third and fourth graders.)
He distributes the food to those who are seated.
God blesses obedience.
That’s not a popular statement in current Christianity, where obedience doesn’t matter because Love Wins.
Love does win, and Love told the people to sit down and then distributed the food to those who did as he instructed.
What’s Christianity if we ignore Jesus?
What’s Christianity if we aren’t going to actually do what Christ says?
Or care to know what He says?
That part isn’t for the youngsters on Monday night, it’s for us.
Leadership skills + full bellies.
The five thousand were impressed. They had it in mind to make Jesus their king.
By force if necessary.
The adoration and the earthly kingdom were a bit tempting, so He scrammed out of there, got alone to talk with His Father, refocused on the heavenly kingdom He was aiming to establish.
Prayer is essential in the face of temptation.
So is a little help.
1 Corinthians 10:13 says, “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so you can stand up under it.”
I might tell the students the true story I told you last December: And She Heard God Say No. (Leaving out the part about adultery.)
John said the disciples got into a boat and set off across the lake for Capernaum.
Mark’s gospel says that before Jesus went off to pray, He made His disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of Him to Bethsaida.
Capernaum and Bethsaida were both, according to my Bible study tools, on the eastern shore of Lake Gennesaret, not far from where the Jordan empties into it.
So I’m thinking they were twin cities – kind of like Minneapolis/Saint Paul. You might say you are heading to St. Paul, I might say I’m heading to Minneapolis and we’re both landing at the same airport.
I’m not going to mention any of that to the kids, either. That’s just for the trolls who love to jump on discrepancies, wow me with their brilliance, evangelize me away from my faith.
The point is that Mark said He made them get in the boat and He sent them across to the other side. And that’s an important detail.
Because after they had been rowing for three or four miles, and they were worn out, and it was now dark, and the wind was blowing and the water was getting rough, and He had still not joined them, they may have been tempted to wonder what the heck. Without Mark’s detail, they may have started to wonder whether the trip to the Twin Cities was their idea; whether, perhaps, they had misunderstood the mission.
But there it is, in black and white and read all over – Jesus made them get into the boat. It was His idea.
And, as Beth Moore once said, “He didn’t send them to the bottom of the lake, He sent them across the lake.” I love that. I’ve remembered that in my own “what the heck” moments.
His idea + His destination = guaranteed success. He knows how to get me where He’s going.
I think I’ll tell that part to the youngsters- it’ll come in handy when they find their own exhausted, rowing little selves in a wave-tossed boat wondering if they’ll make it to the other side.
You Bible scholars already know that Jesus did show up.
He walked right across the water. For three or four miles?
The disciples, their night vision not that great, were, of course, freaked.
Until they realized who it was.
As soon as they were willing to let Him in the boat, they immediately reached their destination.
Let Him in the boat, guys, you’ll get there a whole lot faster.
Well there you go, I think I’m prepared.