The passage above, from Mark 6, is the story of Jesus feeding 5,000 men plus women and children with five loaves of bread and 2 fish. It is a tremendous miracle, one I find myself returning to often. I’d like to discuss one more dimension of this miracle in this post – the idea of “looking up to heaven.” The Greek word translated “to look up” is also the word that means “to recover sight,” as when Jesus healed someone of blindness. That particular piece of information caused me to approach this passage in a different light.
Jesus was surrounded by a huge crowd of people. They had been with him for some time and now they were hungry. Rather than send them away to fend for themselves, Jesus, the Good Shepherd, wanted to feed them. Jesus shared his intentions with the Disciples and they responded just like you or I would have – “Jesus, there are thousands of people here. We don’t have enough money to cater a lunch for this many people. You have to send them away.” Jesus was insistent, “No, you feed them.”
The disciples did a quick search and found five loaves of bread and two fish. They brought them to Jesus. “Jesus, here is what we have… enough to feed one, maybe to people. What about everyone else?”
Jesus responded by taking the loaves and fish and then directed the people to sit down and ready themselves for a meal. What great faith – both in Jesus and in the crowd. The people had no clue what was going on except that the Teacher said they were going to have dinner. I can imagine more than a few people mumering under their breath, “I wonder how that is going to happen.”
In the midst of the murmering and noise of the crowd, Jesus took the loaves and looked up to heaven. Jesus refused to be blinded by what was in front of him. Instead, he recovered his sight, he cured his own spiritual blindness by looking to heaven and seeing Father for who he truly is. In the midst of tremendous human need and an even greater lack of resources, Jesus began speaking to our Father. ‘Daddy, there are so many hungry people here and I want to feed them. I want to reveal to them that you are the God who Provides. I want them to understand that I am the bread from Heaven by giving them bread from heaven. But there is so little bread and so little of me…’ Faith has no problem acknowledging the facts. Faith is grounded in reality, not fantasy. Faith also refuses to leave God out of the equation. ‘…but you are Good. You are generous and kind. You sustained your people for 40 years in the wildnerness and you have brought us to this point. It was your idea to do this, you want to reveal yourself to these people. You want to show that you are trustworthy and you want to take away any excuses they have for not believing you care about them.’
Looking up to heaven and seeing God for who he truly is allowed Jesus to act in faith. He began blessing the bread, multiplying it before his very eyes as he broke it and gave it to his disciples to distribute. The miracle continued as the disciples broke the bread and gave it away and it continued further as the crowd broke the bread and gave it to one another. By the end of the meal there was more left over than what they had started with! Everyone ate and was satisfied. What a wonderful picture of God’s love, mercy and grace – the more we give it away the more we have, in fact, we end up with more than what we started with. In God’s Kingdom, things grow as they are given away and shrink as they are hoarded.
What Jesus models for us is a profound understanding of faith. As Bill Johnson says, “If you ever look at a problem and feel hopeless you need to redo the math and factor in God’s faithfulness and ability.” Faith is so much more than belieiving God can do something – it is believing he wants to and will because we asked. Faith isn’t presumptuous, we aren’t entitled to a miracle and God doesn’t owe us anything, rather, it rests on the promise of God’s word. God really is a good Father, he really does love us, he really does delight in us and longs to partner with us to release His Kingdom on the earth.
Many of us will never need to feed 5,000 people fish sandwiches for dinner, but we will need to look to heaven for answers to our marriages, our difficulties with our kids, our problems at work and countless other things. The temptation in each of those situations is to be blinded by the facts and to operate from a place of lack. The challenge for us is to “recover our sight” by looking to heaven and factoring in the goodness of our Heavenly Father. Then we will probably have to give up or give away the things we’ve been holding onto, even hoarding, for this miracle manifests in brokenness. It won’t be easy, it may or may not be fun, and it will certainly be worth it.
I try to never ask people to do what I have been unwilling to do myself, so I’ll close with this story:
Several years ago, my wife and I were both working full time trying to pay off our student loans. I felt God calling me to give up my full time job with benefits and to go into ministry in the House of Prayer, which meant fundraising my entire salary. Quitting my job and asking other people to pay my debts absolutely rankeled my soul, yet God was insistent. So I quit my job and spent one month simply sharing with my family and friends what I believed God was calling me into. Now, to be totally honest, I have AMAZING and generous family and friends, but their response totally blew me away. Without even asking, my family and friends honored the call of God on my life and ended up supporting me with more money than what I was making working a full time job.
God is faithful.
I hope my story inspires you to step out in faith. You will never build a satisfying and compelling history with God by playing it safe. Don’t be foolish, but don’t be afraid to take risks. You never know when you might end up walking on water.