“Bring Them to Me”
Bring them here to me, He (Jesus) said.
Into each of our lives there come times that test us, times that seem overwhelming; situations through which we question whether we will have the stamina to make it. Some of these are defining moments, often involving significant sacrifice and risk; some dealing with life and death issues, and others just stretching us. The former events are weighty; the latter tend more toward anxiety and uncertainty.
I am encountering one of those latter events as I write. My wife and I have three grown, married children. Our youngest, a daughter, gave birth on Saturday to their third child. When we received the phone call at 3:00 am we made our reservation, flew to Denver, and arrived 15 minutes after the baby was born. That is the joy. The challenge is that we will be spending 2 weeks with them during this time of adjustment—4 adults and 3 children (newborn to 3 years old) under one roof. Oh, and did I mention in a 900 square-foot condo? In the days leading up to this trip I have found myself questioning the Lord and whether I will be able to make it through and truly “be present” and supportive for these two weeks—a personally stretching time.
The feeding of the 5000, as it is known, is an event from Jesus’ life that is familiar to many people. We may look at it through the lens of the mighty power of Jesus that is able to do a miracle…back then. But there is more here. In Matthew’s account we see what it means to follow Jesus as a lifestyle and what that means for our lives today.
John the Baptist, cousin of Jesus and herald of His ministry, had just been killed by Herod. Jesus needed this time to be away from the crowds so He withdrew with His disciples to a private place for some rest and relaxation. But when they arrived, the crowds had discovered where they were going and followed them. Jesus cared for the crowds even though He was in need of rest.
The disciples’ comment in v. 15 seems both logical and compassionate: “…send the people away…they haven’t had anything to eat all day.” But in their haste to send people away they almost missed a miracle. Are we sometimes hasty to send people away, to avoid certain stressful situations, to do the “logical” thing rather than take a moment to consider what the Lord might be asking? Could it be that we are hoping that others do the work that Jesus is calling us to do?
Jesus, using this situation as a teachable moment, asked the disciples to take an inventory of their resources. The disciples were uncertain, but Jesus was not. How much do you have? Five loaves and two fish—kind of like having only one casserole for a potluck of hundreds of hungry Lutherans. This is often the case with issues of life in the kingdom of God and trusting Jesus when our resources seem insignificant or less than adequate. But that just means we are in good company…
- At the burning bush God asked Moses what Moses had in his hand—just a staff and yet God used it to deliver His people.
- When David faced Goliath, he had a mere five stones. As it turned out, he only needed one.
- When Elijah asked the widow at Zarephath for some food, she only had enough to make bread for her and her son. They were going to eat it and wait to die. However, through her generosity with her meager resources God worked a miracle.
Jesus’ response to the disciples’ limited resources was, “Bring them here to me” (v. 18). This verse is key and worthy of pausing to reflect. The little that we have or our seemingly insignificant abilities; the failures in our life or the traumatic experiences that seem to block us from moving forward—each of these, when brought to Jesus, are the stuff of which miracles are made! Jesus demonstrated the pattern for ministry. He prepared the people to receive; looking to heaven He gave thanks for these meager resources and broke them.
Jesus’ approach to ministry is to engage His followers directly in ministry. Do we expect to be involved in ministry even when we have no idea how things will work out? Jesus’ distribution strategy was to give the food to the disciples, who in turn gave it to others. We are to be like conduits—passing on to others what Jesus has given to us. As we read through these 77 days of the Moravian texts, do we take the insight that the Lord gives us through His Word and say, “Lord, give me an opportunity to share this with someone today”? Or do we think, “This must be for someone else”?
Whether it is our sin and failure that we bring to the cross of Jesus or the situations in life that seem absolutely overwhelming to us, Jesus’ words are the same. He says to us, “Bring them to me.” Personally, I am sensing Him speaking these words to me during this present time of challenge. When the moments become overwhelming (and they do) I imagine myself giving that moment to the Lord and saying, “Lord, You are here in this moment. Help me to be truly present in this time. Help me to love and serve You and others in the midst of the chaos.”
If you and I slow down long enough, we would sense these moments in our life. Where is the Lord inviting us today to “Bring them to me”? Will we respond by holding on to the fear or anxiety, the bitterness or brokenness; or will we surrender it to Him and be His follower in the moment? I pray it is the latter.