We’d not often put it this way, but I’m afraid that most of us live way too much of our lives afraid.
When you boil down what bothers us—reduce it to its essence—at the bottom is almost aways fear. Analyze it even further, and at the root of most of our fear is this: we’re afraid that we won’t have enough. And then what will become of us?
In John 6, Jesus and his disciples have just sailed across the Sea of Galilee and landed, probably, near Bethsaida. What they’re looking for is, in part, just a little peace.
Life has been a blur. Jesus had sent the disciples out to teach and heal. They’d returned incredibly excited and with great reports. But you know what often follows exhilaration: exhaustion.
In the background is deep grief. John the Baptist has just been beheaded by Herod. Dealing with grief takes time and energy. They have neither.
People, crowds of them, have been pressing Jesus and the disciples so constantly that there has hardly been time for the Lord and his companions even to stop and eat. So, when Jesus says, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest” (Mark 6:31), the disciples are more than willing.
I’d have suggested some time high in the mountains, preferably up where mobile phone service was bad to nonexistent and thus just right for rest. What they do is get into a boat, cross the lake, and land at what St. John calls “a solitary place.” Thank God for such places!
But it wasn’t solitary for long. The needy crowd found them and began to crowd in. Crowd out peace. Crowd out quiet. Crowd out respite and rest.
Jesus had walked up the hillside and sat down with his disciples as, in the distance, he sees a slow-moving tsunami of people, a lava flow of need, moving toward them. Physical healing. Spiritual healing. Soul healing. All sorts of need.
John remembers Jesus looking at Philip and asking, “Where are we going to get bread for these people to eat?” (Did any of the disciples think about the need for porta-potties? That’s not mentioned.)
But I wonder. Did John also remember a twinkle in the Lord’s eye? He (John) writes that Jesus “asked this only to test him [Philip]; he already knew what he was going to do.” Philip, though, didn’t know, and the culinary accounting he was doing in his head had him worried.
“Lord, we don’t have enough money to buy bread for these people to eat. Slice it any way you want, and there still won’t be enough bread. Not even close. Not enough.”
More than you may at first realize, you understand, don’t you? Marriage. Family. Work. Health. Wonderful at times. Terrifying at times. So much being juggled at all times.
And we, more often than we care to admit, afraid. Afraid that there won’t be enough… Time. Wisdom. Money. Mercy. Strength. Health. Grace. Love.
Jesus teaches on the hillside near the sea. Andrew, maybe smiling, says, “Well, here’s a wee lad with five little barley loaves and two small fish. How far can they go among so many?”
And you know what happened. The Lord miraculously multiplies that little gift. All of the people eat, and twelve basketfuls are left over. Much, much more than enough.
Philip would never forget. Tradition has it that he would later preach powerfully in Greece, Phrygia, and Syria. And he would die a martyr’s death. It was not an easy life. But it was filled with purpose and blessing in the midst of joys and sorrows. And he knew, beyond doubt, that he truly had nothing to fear. In Christ, he’d always found enough. More than enough.
Philip remembered the loaves and the fishes. And, maybe, Christ’s smile.
“Perfect love casts out fear,” John writes. And Christ’s love is perfect, complete, all we need.
It may not be a story of loaves and fishes you will one day remember and tell. But everyone who loves and trusts Him will one day have stories to tell about times when in the midst of perplexity and trouble, deeply afraid and in serious need, we eventually found our Lord to be… more than enough.
Copyright 2023 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.