Christianity 201

August 22, 2019

Jesus Gives Them a Problem to Solve | Jesus Slips Through the Crowd

Canadian Pastor Kevin Rogers is one of the most frequently cited devotional writers/bloggers here at C201. Today we have two devotionals for you. Click the titles below to read this at his site.

When Jesus Creates Your Problem

So let’s explore some ideas about problem solving in prayer.

If prayer is a relational dialogue with God, we can learn plenty by observing how Jesus related and dialogued with individuals and with crowds. I am interested in both the conversations and the Presence of Jesus to teach us about prayer. We are going to explore the dynamics around the miracle of loaves and fish to see something about how people relate to Jesus and how he relates to them.

John 6:

As Jesus sat down, he looked out and saw the massive crowd of people scrambling up the hill, for they wanted to be near him. So he turned to Philip and said, “Where will we buy enough food to feed all these people?” Now Jesus already knew what he was about to do, but he said this to stretch Philip’s faith. Philip answered, “Well, I suppose if we were to give everyone only a snack, it would cost thousands of dollars to buy enough food!”

But just then, Andrew, Peter’s brother, spoke up and said, “Look! Here’s a young person with five barley loaves and two small fish . . . but how far would that go with this huge crowd?”

So what is the problem here? Thousands of people are in the wilderness and need to eat.

Many of them were on a journey to Passover at Jerusalem and had detoured to go hear Jesus teach. Instead of arriving at that day’s destination where they would have found food and lodging, they were miles away with no ready resources. The disciples came to Jesus and said that he should send them away so they could go find food in the closest villages.

It would be easy to say, “Well, that’s their problem. They should have planned better or they should have brought food with them.” The opportunity to see Jesus and hear his teaching was so life giving and refreshing that thousands gave up their day to hear his voice. No one wanted to leave his presence.

When it comes to problem solving in prayer, there’s an important thing to notice here. Jesus creates the problem and turns to the disciples for their solution. Sometimes Jesus does that to us. What a strange question he asks—where will we buy enough food to feed all these people?

Jesus assumes a massive, disproportionate act of hospitality and asks his team how to do it. It could be easily argued that everyone was responsible for his or her own food but Jesus has a profound thing to do here.

Jesus already knew what he was going to do, but asks questions to stretch the faith of his disciples.

There are times that Jesus wants to speak to you and give you a massive problem to solve. The easy solution is to ignore Jesus and lay the responsibility at someone else’s feet. But he asks you what you can do about the problem that he has created.

Stop looking at your problems as massive inconveniences and do some problem solving in a conversation with Jesus. See that Jesus wants to create massive opportunities to grow your faith.

It starts with a realistic assessment of natural conditions. It would cost us eight months wage to do this. We do not have the resources, but there is a little boy with a lunch.

Your answered prayer may begin with the smallest, most insignificant detail. A little boy’s lunch… a cloud the size of a hand… a dove carrying an olive branch in its beak or manna on the ground…

You may miss the answer to prayer because you miss the small detail needed to grow into God’s massive answer.

Thank you Jesus for bringing problems to us. Thank you for asking us to assess and then showing us what you can do with the smallest detail.


When Jesus Exits

It would be easy to look at the miracles that Jesus has done and still does and get side-tracked. A relationship with Jesus could easily become more about his power than his presence.

Do you know what the vast majority of people in this world are looking for when they go to church? More than any comfort, catering or style people go to church to experience the presence of God.

That’s what keeps us coming back. We have enough social programs, recreational opportunities and causes to support without ever darkening the door of a church. But if you can gather with other believers and experience God’s presence in the body of Christ, there is nothing comparable.

In our prayer lives, do we pray to enter God’s presence or are we more focused on using God’s power to shape our world?

John 6:

14 All the people were astounded as they saw with their own eyes the incredible miracle Jesus had performed! They began to say among themselves, “He really is the One—the true prophet we’ve been expecting!”

15 So Jesus, knowing that they were about to take him and make him their king by force, quickly left and went up the mountainside alone.

If you think that you know everything there is to know about Jesus and have an idea of what he should to do to fix things, be careful. Never presume that our ideas are all inspired because we witness God doing something miraculous.

When Jesus was transfigured on the mountaintop with appearances of Elijah and Moses, the disciples beheld the glory and jumped to a conclusion. We need to build a shrine here and perpetuate this experience.

Our first response to miracles, revival and signs might be to presume a plan to perpetuate, that which would most benefit our experience.

The crowd saw Jesus’ power to multiply the food and feed them all. That was enough to convince them that Jesus was sent from God. They knew that eventually the King of Israel would come and it appears to be Jesus.

Jesus can see how people think and that they would quickly organize to go to war against Rome. They would bring Jesus to the throne because he represented good government and social justice for the poor.

So, rather than being co-opted into a political agenda, Jesus withdraws. He leaves them and his disciples and heads to the hills to be alone.

I wonder if sometimes our attention to what God can do for us becomes selfish. Are there times when God withdraws His presence because we are coming up with bad ideas that use God’s branding more than His presence?

God is not persuaded by the power grabs that are borne out of our fleshly ideas.

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