Next to the Resurrection, the feeding of the 5,000, is the only story found in all four Gospels. Even though they all come from a little different perspective, the miracle was the same, and important enough to be recorded numerous times. On the disciples part, they’ve been traveling with Jesus and witnessing countless miracles, but when Jesus challenged them to feed the throng of people milling around, they froze. With a total lack of faith and vision they told Him, “We have only five loaves and two fish. We can’t start to feed this many people!” But Jesus then takes matters into His own hands, gives thanks for what they already have, and multiplies it. So what important lesson did the disciples learn that was significant enough to be recorded in all four Gospels? Jesus took what they already had and increased it a 1000 times over. He didn’t focus on their lack, but rather on how it could be multiplied and used for His glory. When God calls you to something, He’ll use what you already have…and as you move forward in faith and trust in Him, it will be multiplied.
Ask yourself what you hold dear today. What is it that’s precious and cherished in your life? Is it sitting in the garage, or on your wrist, or proudly placed in your house for all to see? Or are they intangible, incorruptible things that only come from a heart where the Holy Spirit abides? Jesus tells us that if our priority is gathering up wealth and riches down here on earth…our heart will soon become a haunt of unclean lusts. But if the things we value are Godly and right, we will have treasures in heaven that will never be exhausted. (Luke 12:34)
This verse comes from the Parable of the prodigal son…a young man, who after squandering his portion of his inheritance, found himself starving to death in the middle of a pigsty. It was in those deplorable conditions, that he finally came to himself…recovering his right mind, and realizing just how far he had wandered away. Repentance is a change of mind…leading to a change of heart…which leads to a change of our actions. Unfortunately for many of us, Godly sorrow is only attained when we find ourselves in the middle of the pigsties of life.
This comes from the Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector that Jesus taught to a group of self-righteous, haughty people. It says in verse 10 that both men went up to the Temple to pray. The Pharisee pushed his way up to the front of the crowd in order to be seen and heard by everyone, and once there, proceeded to pray loudly and arrogantly…basically telling God how lucky He was to have him. On the other hand, the Tax Collector stood way back in the courtyard, daring not to even look up to heaven, but rather beating his breast and whispering, “God have mercy on me.” In Jeremiah 31:19 it says, “After I strayed, I repented; after I came to understanding, I beat my breast. I was ashamed and humiliated because I bore the disgrace of my youth.” The road from self-deception to self-awareness requires acknowledgement…admitting I’m just as sinful as those around me and not one bit more righteous.
If you think about it…we’re all like the prodigal son. We were all spiritually dead – separated from God the Father, with no hope of eternal life…when we were made live again, by the blood of Jesus Christ. For we all had wandered away from our Heavenly Father, just like the prodigal son…and just like the prodigal son, when we had come to our senses in the middle of that pig pen – we realized we couldn’t make it on our own. That’s when we returned. We returned to a loving Father with outstretched arms, rushing to meet us and draw us to Him.
Zacchaeus was the Chief Tax Collector in Jericho. A much hated puppet of the Roman government who regularly exploited and gouged his own people. But Zacchaeus had heard of this man Jesus and wanted to get a closer look…so he decided to do something completely undignified for man of his position…he climbed a tree. He climbed a tree for the practical reason that he was a short man in a sea of people…but, as the old saying goes, “to be up a tree” could be fitting for him also. When someone is “up a tree” they are in a difficult situation without a way of escape. Could Zacchaeus had sensed the hopelessness and desperation in his soul as Jesus approached? As Jesus came near the tree, He looked up, called Zacchaeus by name, and invited Himself to his house in one short interaction…but this encounter changed everything for Zacchaeus. For the seeker now had been sought by the Savior, and his life would be changed forever.
Early in His Ministry, Jesus returned to His home town of Nazareth. There, He practiced the Ministry of Staying Put. Many of us rail at that Ministry, for we’d rather be used in the far-flung reaches of the world than to be utilized by God in the place we were born and raised. Just this past Sunday in Church I heard of an opportunity to go on a short-term mission to Guatemala to work in an orphanage of shunned and outcast children with handicaps and congenital defects…and my heart went out to them and their suffering. Does this mean I will go? That’s entirely up to the Lord, and I leave it in His hands. For my mission may be to remain where I am, touching the people around me… in the town where I was born and raised.