This article first appeared in The Southeast Outlook: Faith to do it anyway.
Sometimes I think I try to fit Jesus into my world instead of fitting into His. It’s sort of like me letting Him be a part of my everyday life. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, but what if He wants me to be in His world instead? I think that’s where reading the gospels comes into play.
I was recently mediating on the story of Jesus feeding the 5,000 in the book of Mark, chapter six. We’ve all heard the story many times before but this time I decided to imagine I was there watching. What would it have been like to have been an eyewitness, one among the crowd that day, listening to Jesus teach and watching Him perform this miracle?
As I imagined the scene, I couldn’t help but notice that the disciples were looking a little haggard. The day was growing long; the sun steadily moving across the sky toward the west. The disciples knew the people must be getting hungry. They had listened for hours as Jesus taught with authority. The disciples had watched Him walk among the crowd, touching their heads affectionately as He passed by. It had been quite a day, but the disciples felt like it was time to wrap it up.
The crowd seemed restless. Parents wanting to tend to their families, to make sure the children were properly fed before making the trek home. But the pull to stay was strong. They didn’t want to miss a word of what was being said by this man who spoke with such gentleness and love. So, they lingered just a little longer.
Finally, by silent consent, the disciples gathered around Jesus to tell Him of their concerns for the people. Jesus was moved. He smiled at the disciples and His eyes lit up while He listened. He liked what He was hearing. He liked that this chosen group of loyal friends had compassion on the people who had thronged to hear Him speak.
What happened next took the disciples by surprise. Jesus told them to feed this mass of people. They looked at each other bewildered. Feed 5,000 people? Did Jesus just say what they thought He said? Jesus wanted them to feed all these people with a mere five loaves of bread and two fishes?
It’s not that they thought Jesus couldn’t do this thing He proposed. After all, they had been around long enough to know that He could heal the sick and raise the dead. But feeding a hungry throng of people? They had expected Jesus to dismiss the crowd instead, telling them it was time to go home and tend to their families. They expected Jesus to bid them farewell and call it a day.
But He didn’t. So, these men who had chosen to leave their former lives and follow Jesus, began the task at hand, to feed the people in attendance. Because that’s what they had signed up for, to follow Him wherever He went and to do whatever He said. Jesus knew they surely had doubts and questions, but they did what He asked of them anyway.
How great a faith, to do it anyway.
Jesus knew all of these things. He understood that they had doubts. He knew they had questions. But I got the feeling that this was about more than just feeding the hungry mob of people. This was about the disciples and their faint in Him. Isn’t it always about more than just one thing? Jesus is a multi-tasker when it comes to loving us well.
I imagined Jesus’ heart filling with love for the disciples as He watched them act in simple obedience. He knew they needed to do the things that seemed outlandish to them. He knew it was in the doing that would cause their faith in Him to grow. He knew they needed to have doubts and questions but do it anyway.
Then, as I continued to imagine being there that day among the people, watching the disciples do what Jesus had instructed them to do, I felt Jesus inviting me to do the same. It was more than an invitation though. He was encouraging me to do what the disciples were doing, even in the midst of my doubts and questions, to trust Him. To go ahead and do it anyway.
He has met me many times just for being willing to do what He asked of me. Just for being willing. It wasn’t because I had such great faith in Him to show up in my life and make it all better. It was because I had doubts and questions but did what He asked me to do anyway.
He meets us where we are, in the messiness of life, with all our doubts and questions in His ability to make all things new.
But He does it anyway.