Dear GCI Family and Friends,
As we find ourselves in the season where we rehearse the earthly life and ministry of Jesus, it turns my mind toward the way Jesus equipped and developed the disciples. He used a dynamic combination of teaching and modeling to pour into their lives, and all the while wrapped into a relationship of interaction and friendship.
Jesus did not allow ministry to be a spectator sport. He used everyday opportunities to train his disciples to see and serve (“see” because people have value and worth). The feeding of the 5,000 is a marvelous narrative of how Jesus equipped his followers.
In John chapter 5, Jesus spent a lengthy session of teaching about his authority and how he is doing the work of the Father. These works testify to who he is, the Messiah. Then we read in chapter 6:
Sometime after this, Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee (that is, the Sea of Tiberias), and a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the signs he had performed by healing the sick. Then Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down with his disciples. The Jewish Passover Festival was near.
When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.
Philip answered him, “It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!”
Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?”
Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, and they sat down (about five thousand men were there). Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish.
When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.
After the people saw the sign Jesus performed, they began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.” Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself. John 6:1-15 NIVRead More
Notice all the times Jesus involves his disciples in serving and interacting with the people during this event. It began months earlier with his original invitation to come and be with him, and in a sense, be his traveling entourage. Inviting others to participate is the first step.
Second, he asks questions of the disciples. I’m guessing he had the challenge of feeding the people already figured out, but he intentionally asks the disciples for their perceptions. Philip recognized they did have sufficient funds in their ministry budget, but then Peter saw the young boy with the fish sandwich “Happy Meal” and thought this could be a partial solution. [A “Happy Meal” is a child’s meal from the fast-food restaurant, McDonald’s.]
Jesus knew that he could work with the fish and loaves. But now he pointed the disciples back to the people: organize them, have them sit in an orderly fashion. Once Jesus had given thanks for the food, the disciples began distributing the food to the people. Have you ever considered that the “all-you-can-eat” supply of bread and fish continued to be multiplied in the hands of the disciples? This went on for a great while, because serving 5,000 people with only 12 waiters is a long lunch hour. Then when the remains of the food were gathered, there were 12 “doggie bags” for 12 disciples—how thoughtful of Jesus. [In the US, a doggie bag is what a restaurant guest uses to take home leftover food.] This was the third step: let the followers be hands-on and learn by doing.
During this miracle, the disciples were learning about the heart and power of Jesus. This story demonstrates how Jesus continued to reveal who he really is. Aren’t we on this continuum as well?
Jesus modeled intentional, practical actions in his relationships with people. He could’ve had the crowd line up and receive the blessing of food from his hands only. Instead, he gave the disciples a hands-on experience in learning to care for others, and get this, how to participate with Jesus. It’s a tangible intuition we need as we operate under his authority and presence as we serve others. This is a much-needed step that demands our attention. And I believe it to be the most important aspect of getting out of the way and providing the clear view to Jesus, the true Prophet and King. You noticed in our story that the crowd did not confuse the disciples for the Lord.
So, what are places and ways we can give our proteges the opportunity to join us, and ultimately join with Jesus as we seek to serve the purposes of the kingdom of heaven? This can be a great conversation among our ministry leaders and ministry teams. It can be as simple as recognizing a need, then seeing a child with simple provisions that can turn into a solution for a crowd of needy people.
The bottom line is that we want to disciple others like Jesus, all the while realizing that we cannot do this without his presence and power. Lord, help us follow in your tracks so that others follow as well, amen!
Following the true disciple maker,