Sunday, April 22, 2018

ONE LAD’S LUNCH + JESUS

In some overseas countries where I have lived and worked, I have seen some extremely difficult living challenges that many people must face on a daily basis. However, none of them are more difficult than for the people that the Lord has now most recently put into my life—the people of the Log Church of Kenya and the surrounding community.
 
The effort to find something to eat is an almost daily struggle for most of the people in the small community where the church is located. It is a rural area, and it is even an agricultural area, but despite these facts, there is not nearly enough food.
 
One of the principle reasons for this is that, despite it being in the countryside, there is quite a large population. For many generations, the family land holdings have been repeatedly divided up among the children of the family, giving each adult child with his new family only a very tiny plot of ground on which to grow food.
 
Most people have a garden, but these small food plots cannot produce sufficient amounts of food for the entire year. It is especially difficult for the people in the times leading up to the harvest season, since by this time, any food reserves that they may have has been depleted. It is this time that the people refer to as the “hunger season.”
 
The situation for the church is even more extreme than for a typical family, since they are trying to provide food for not only for the 32+ orphans, but also for the people who help out with the orphans. Indeed, they try to provide for all who come to the church looking for food. The piece of land that they have at their disposal for growing food is a plot of about 60 X 100 feet.
 
As I have shared before, and for reasons that I do not completely understand, these are the people whom God has given to me. He has said to me, “Feed them.”
 
Quite honestly, when God said this to me, I did not want to feed them. After living away from my home most of my life and serving others, in my retirement years I was frankly ready for some ME time. I had plans for my retirement. I was glad to be back on my farm and not keen to begin a new work overseas.
 
A Grocery Store Shopping Trip for 5000 People
In some ways, my thinking was like the disciples when faced with a crowd of 5000+ hungry people. Instead of taking it upon themselves to help the people, they said to Jesus, “Send them away into the surrounding countryside and into the villages so that they can buy something to eat.”

 
In response to that, Jesus said to the disciples, “You give them something to eat!”
 
He has said that also to me.


The question that the disciples then put to Jesus was typical of how we would usually think of meeting a need of this type. They asked Jesus, “Shall we go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread and give it to them to eat?”
 
They wanted to know in dollars and in cents how much money would be needed to fulfill that need.
 
I don’t know why they came up with that figure of two hundred denarii. A denarius was usually considered a day’s wages, so that figure would be about the wages for eight months of work. Jesus and his disciples, along with others who traveled with Jesus, held a collective purse, so whether this was the amount of money in their treasury at the moment, I do not know. But for some reason, this was the figure that they threw out at Jesus—two hundred denarii worth of bread.
 
However, even this amount, substantial as it was, would not buy enough bread even for “each of them to get even a little.” That was how the disciple Philip put it (John 6:7).
 
But the disciples had missed the point. And when Jesus spoke to me, I also missed the point. I hope I am beginning to learn.
 
A Meagre Lunch that was Given
Another of the disciples, Andrew, now spoke up. Somewhat apologetically he informed Jesus, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many?”
 
I would like to know how Andrew knew about this boy’s lunch, but he did.
 
Jesus said, “Bring the lunch here to me.”
 
I also wonder what Andrew thought Jesus would do with such a meager meal, and I wonder what the disciple said to the boy when he went back to him to ask him for his small lunch. I do not know, but I doubt if Andrew told the boy that Jesus was going to use the food to feed the five thousand people sitting on the grounds around him. That would have sounded preposterous.
 
I think that Andrew probably told him something similar to what the two disciples said on another occasion when Jesus sent them into the city of Jerusalem for a donkey. This was at the triumphal entry when Jesus planned to ride into the city a week before his crucifixion.
 
When some men asked the disciples why they were taking the donkey, the disciples simply said, “The Lord has need of it.”
 
I think that Andrew told the boy something similar to this: “The Lord has need of your lunch.”
 
I hesitate to speculate too much, but I also think that when the boy was giving his lunch to Andrew, he probably thought that it may have been because Jesus was hungry after having taught this large crowd of people for so long, and had need for something to eat.
 
But even if the boy did not think this, he apparently willingly gave his lunch as an offering to Jesus. He did not give it to feed the five thousand people, since that would have been a ridiculous thought. If eight months of wages would not buy enough bread to give each even a little taste, what would a small lunch of five small loaves of bread and a couple of fish do?
 
The boy did not give his lunch to the 5000 people. Rather than this, he gave his lunch to Jesus—this is the important point.
 
The Great Feast that was Received
Of course you remember what happened next. As documented by all of the gospel writers, Jesus said to the disciples, “Have the people sit down in groups of about fifty each.”
 
When the people were sitting down on the green grass, Jesus took the five loaves and the two fish that had been the lunch of one lad, looked up to heaven and said a blessing over this small offering. Jesus then broke the loaves and gave the portions of the loaves to the disciples to distribute to the crowd.
 
The people all ate, all 5000+. Each ate not merely a little bit, as Philip had said two hundred denarii would not even give, but all the people ate until their hunger had been satisfied. When everyone had finished, the disciples went around and collected all of the food that remained. The remaining food filled twelve baskets.
 
How could this be?
 
It was a miracle of course, enough so that the people who witnessed this said, “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!” (John 6:14).
 
Did the Boy Feed All of These People?
But how did it become possible for the small lunch of one lad to be multiplied to the point where it fed 5000+ people? Was it because Andrew went to this boy and appealed to him to feed all of these people?
Did Andrew show the boy all of the hungry people around him, and “would the boy not give his food to feed these needy ones?”
Did Andrew appeal to the emotions of this lad by showing him photos of the hungry people who needed something to eat?
 
This is the manner in which most relief organizations function: A photo of a child with wide eyes who is in need, and an emotional appeal for donations to help the child. Video footage of a desperate situation and another appeal to our emotions.
 
“Give to this need!”
 
“X amount of dollars will accomplish this amount of work or feed this many people!”
 
All of us have mailboxes (and now email inboxes) full of these sorts of appeals. The needs are real and the money to meet those needs is an actual dollar and cents amount.
 
“Will you not commit $25.00 or $100.00 a month to feed this child?”
 
“Can’t you give up your daily cup of coffee so that this child can eat?”
 
It is that perspective that is presented to us. It is put upon us to meet these needs. If we do not meet them, who will?
 
The Lesson of the Lad’s Lunch
But by trying to meet the needs in this way, I think that we are missing the lesson of the lad’s lunch. If we think that it is by our salesmanship and by appealing to the emotions of potential donors that we can raise the amounts of money that is required to meet the need, it would have been good for us to be sitting next to the boy on that day.
 
Andrew did not ask the boy to feed the people. The lad gave the lunch to be brought to Jesus. The lad gave his lunch to Jesus!
 
God is not really expecting us to fill the needs of those around us. Quite simply, we cannot do it. This is the way that I feel about my involvement with the orphans and the other people of the Log Church of Kenya.
 
I cannot fill those needs. I have only a meagre lunch. But what do I have, I can give to Jesus. It is Jesus who will take the little that I give and it is Jesus who will fill the needs.
 
Since I began my involvement with these people of Kenya, and in addition to my own small lunch, there have been other lads, and lassies as well, who have also given what they had. These brothers and sisters of mine have also donated their lunches of barley loaves and of fish. These gifts all have been sent to Kenya in the name of Jesus.
 
Jesus is using these gifts to feed the people.
 
The Balance Sheet
From our perspective, we focus on the dollars and the cents that it will take to do a certain amount of work. For instance, at the present moment we are trying to get enough money so that we can build a sleeping room for the girl orphans at the church. We want to build them a nice building of bricks instead of a mud building. It will be much better for many years to come.
 
To build this, we have gotten cost estimates. These estimates come in actual, real numbers. They are rational numbers, integers that can be placed on a number line that expresses their value. They are not some imaginary polynomial whose value is unknown. To purchase the materials requires an actual number of Kenya Shillings.
 
When faced with such a need, we tend to be like the disciple Philip.
 
“We have only two hundred denarii. What is that when faced with such a need? It could purchase no more than a few bricks.”
 
Philip missed the point. He was looking at what he could do instead of believing what the Lord could do.
 
But the Lord said, “Bring me the boy’s lunch.” 
 
Two Small Pennies
It reminds me of another story in the Bible when Jesus and the disciples were observing people putting money into the treasury of the temple. As they watched, some wealthy people came to put in large amounts of money. From the context of what is written, it seems that they were making a great display of how greatly they were contributing to the temple.
 
But then a poor widow came. Very quietly and not wishing to be noticed, she dropped in two small copper coins, two mites—a very insignificant amount.
 
It is what Jesus said about all of this that interests me. “This poor widow has put in more than all the others.”
 
Jesus used the word “more.” This is a quantitative word. It means of greater value. It is used to determine the value of real numbers on a number line. Ten is more than one. Ten is of greater value than one. On a number line, ten is placed to the right of one, because it is of greater value.
 
Jesus did not say of the widow in a patronizing way, “Bless her heart, she gave what she could.”
That is what we might say about a child putting in two pennies in the church offering plate, while at the same time trying to see how many 20’s might be in there and perhaps even a 50 or two.
 
No, Jesus said that she gave “more” than all of the extravagant gifts of the wealthy people.
 
God’s Number Line
On God’s number line, the two mites that the widow dropped in the treasury would be placed to the right of the sum of all of the entire amounts that all the others had dropped in. That is because what the widow put in was of greater value. It was more than all the others.
 
On God’s number line, the lad’s lunch of two fish and five small barley loaves would be placed to the right of and eight-month pay check. This was because the lad’s lunch was of greater value.
 
The reason that it was of greater value was because Philip was looking at what the money could do. But with the boy’s lunch, he saw what Jesus could do.
 
Not Emotion, but Devotion
It is for this reason, that when I tell of the work and the needs of the orphans and the church people in Kisii, Kenya, I am trying very hard not to play around with your emotions. I could show many photos of poor children and tell you what will happen to them if they do not receive some help. I could try to make you feel guilty if you do not do something.
 
It is not a simple thing to avoid, since I actually do want you to get to know the people and it is true that the stories are heartbreaking. I will show photos and I will tell stories, but I will try to do it only in an informative way, not an emotional way.
 
The subtle fact is, it is not my intention that people give gifts to help the orphans. Rather than this, we are to give our gifts to Jesus. It will be Jesus who will help the orphans. The needs are so great, it is only in this way that they will be met.
 
Two hundred denarii will not do it. An eight month pay check will not do it. The need is so great that it will take as much as the value of a boy’s lunch. It may take even as much as two copper coins.
 
The lesson of the lad’s lunch is that Jesus is simply asking us for an offering to be given to him. The quantity is irrelevant. What is important is the purpose. It is an offering to Jesus. After that, it is Jesus who will do the work and who will fill the need.
 
It is not emotion that will fill the needs of the orphans, but devotion.
Devotion to Christ.
 
**************
Numbers 11:21-22:
But Moses said, “Here I am among six hundred thousand men on foot, and you say, ‘I will give them meat to eat for a whole month!’ Would they have enough if flocks and herds were slaughtered for them? Would they have enough if all the fish in the sea were caught for them?”
 
The Lord answered Moses, “Is the Lord’s arm too short? Now you will see whether or not what I say will come true for you.”
 

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