Ask for the Nations
Exodus 22-23; Matthew 14; Psalm 110
Everything about the New Testament example we have in Jesus is impossible to emulate in the flesh. God leads us into areas of obedience where we will become immediately acquainted with our own lack. Every part of being discipled by Jesus, in fact, leads us to that very conclusion: Only God can do this thing. Only God!
Maybe you’ve heard the phrase, “It takes God to love God.” And I’m convinced that’s true. Every time we step into the light, we see our darkness. Every time we approach the God who has no shadow, we see our own shadedness.
To keep coming after God, to keep pursuing, to keep longing for more, is a grace in and of itself. May we abound in that grace more and more.
I saw something in our reading for today that I had never quite seen. Of course, I’ve read the story many times over the years, but I had never considered it in its context.
John the Baptist had just been murdered by Herod. After John’s disciples buried his body, they came to tell Jesus, John’s cousin, the news. (Matthew 14:12)
It’s just a few lines in our text, but try and imagine the scene. John’s dearest friends, the ones who lived with him, believed in His message most, the most committed of his followers had just buried their decapitated friend. (Apologies for being graphic, but this is our text.) Can you imagine?
Their leader is dead. As followers of John, there is no doubt they knew what John knew, that Jesus was indeed the Messiah. And so, in their grief, and as faithful witnesses to the unfolding storyline heralded by the prophets before them, they come to Jesus.
Matthew 14:13 Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by himself.
Jesus withdrew. He got alone.
His cousin was dead. His lifelong friend has paid the highest price by giving his very life… faithful to the end. This is the context of all that happens next.
Matthew 14:13-14 …But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick.
Jesus was alone, and yet the crowds pursued. Jesus was grieving, and yet the needs and demands of those He came to serve did not relent. It’s in this context of grief that the next part of the story unfolds.
Matthew 14:15-16 Now when it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a desolate place, and the day is now over; send the crowds away to go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” But Jesus said, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.”
What is Jesus teaching? This story is about more than provision.
In the middle of his own grief, surrounded by very real need, Jesus lays hold of heaven. He’s revealing a great truth.
Jesus, Son of God, fully man, never operated from His humanity as the source. He is the ladder! He is a conduit, always revealing that the source of all power, peace, knowledge is union with His Father.
His humanity is not the source.
Right in the middle of his tremendous human grief, He exemplifies this connection. He doesn’t operate from His grief. He has hold of the Source. Or maybe the Source has hold of Him.
John 5:19 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.”
Jesus is training His disciples to never minister out of their humanity, out of their lack. In His grief, He is demonstrating how to lay hold of God, and to be a conduit of the Father’s reality: Heaven on Earth.
Matthew 14:17-19 They said to him, “We have only five loaves here and two fish.” And he said, “Bring them here to me.” Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass, and taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing. Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds.
Following Jesus will bring us to the end of ourselves, our strength, our resources, every time. He will lead us
into places that require far more than what we have to give. He will guide us into ministries where our own resources fall short every time.
This is by design.
Look up. Lay hold. You are not the source, but you have access to the One who is everything. And He’s willing.
Our Father is ready to use your hands, your prayers, your small acts of obedience. He’s prepared to partner with your lack, magnifying His goodness and grace through your life. And all who witness, who know your weakness, will declare, “Surely, the Lord has done wonderful things!”
All glory to God!
Deepening Faith: Reflective Journal Prompts
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