Have you ever wondered why Jesus lived on this earth as long as he did? Luke states that he “was about thirty years old when he began his ministry.” His ministry lasted only about three years. So why spend the other thirty years on earth? Why not just step into our world long enough to accomplish the mission God had for him? Why did Jesus choose to endure thirst, and hunger, and all the other things we have to put up with—for three long decades?
I think it’s because he wanted us to know that we could trust him. He knew that at times we would be weary, disturbed, and angry. He knew we’d be sleepy, grief-stricken, and hungry. He knew we’d face thirst. He knew we would confront pain and encounter crises. So he chose to experience those things as well. He chose to show us that God cares about our needs.
Just think about some of the situations Jesus faced. One time, he had spent the entire day teaching crowds of people by the Sea of Galilee. By the time night began to fall, he was weary. Bone-tired weary. So he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side of the lake.” Someone rustled him up a pillow, and he went to the boat’s driest point and sacked out.
Jesus’ sleep was so deep that the peals of thunder that erupted in the sky did not wake him. Nor did the increased tossing of the little boat. Nor the salty spray of the storm-blown waves. Only the screams of his frantic disciples could penetrate his slumber. “Teacher,” they cried out, “don’t you care if we drown?” For them, it was a life-and-death situation. For Jesus, it was an interruption to his nap. He stood up and simply said to the wind and the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” No mantra was uttered. No angels called. No additional help was needed. He just issued a command: be still. In an instant, the sea went from churning torrent to peaceful pond.
The reaction of the disciples? “They were in absolute awe, staggered. ‘Who is this, anyway?’ they asked. ‘Wind and sea at his beck and call!’” They had never met a man like this.
It’s a story that shows there is no problem too large for God to solve. After all, if God can calm the stormy seas, he can certainly calm any tempest that threatens our lives. But it’s a different kind of crisis on another day that reveals God also cares about the little calamities of life. It happens when Jesus, his mother, and the disciples are invited to a wedding. And because Jesus always goes where he is invited, they take a journey down to Cana to attend the celebration.
It’s a time of fun and enjoyment. But a problem is brewing. Someone has underestimated the size of the crowd or the depth of the wine vats. As a result, the bride and groom have run out of wine. This is a problem because wine was to a wedding back then what cake is to a wedding today. To offer wine was to show respect to your guests. Not to offer it was an insult.
It’s a real foul-up. A snafu. A calamity on the common scale. No need to call 911, but no way to sweep the embarrassment under the rug. Much like the bulk of the problems we face. Seldom do our crises rock the boat like they did for the disciples on that stormy day in Galilee. Usually, the waves we ride are made by pebbles, not boulders.
Given this, we should take note of how Jesus’ mother, Mary, reacts. For her solution poses a practical plan for untangling life’s knots. “They have no more wine,” she tells Jesus. That’s it. That’s all she says. She simply assesses the problem and takes it to Jesus.
How does Jesus respond to her request? In my imagination, I see him smile. I hear him chuckle. I see him look up into the heavens for a moment and then look at a cluster of water pots in the corner. “Jesus said to the servants, ‘Fill the jars with water.’ So they filled the jars to the top. Then he said to them, ‘Now take some out and give it to the master of the feast.’ So they took the water to the master. When he tasted it, the water had become wine.”
Think about this scene for a moment. Why did Jesus change the water to wine? Was it to impress the crowd? No, they didn’t even know he did it. Was it to get the wedding master’s attention? No, he thought the groom was being generous. Jesus performed the miracle simply because his friends were embarrassed. What bothered them bothered him.
But there’s something else to notice about the scene. Look in particular at the sequence of events in the story. First the jars are filled with water. Then Jesus instructs the servants to take the water—not the wine—to the master. The water becomes wine after the servants obey. God provides when they do what Jesus instructs. Obedience leads to abundance.
You’d think such displays would have a lasting impact on the disciples. You’d think they’d go away saying, “If Jesus can calm the stormy sea, and if he cares about the little problems like running out of wine, there is nothing we can’t take to him that he won’t handle.” You would think that would be the takeaway. The lesson learned. Sadly, that’s not the case.
A short time later, we read how Jesus wants to take them away on a retreat. He says, “Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.” But the crowds follow them. A multitude of misery who bring nothing but needs. Jesus treats the masses with kindness. The disciples don’t share his same compassion. Rather, as night began to fall, “His followers came to him and said, ‘No one lives in this place, and it is already very late.’”
“His followers came to him.” Those five words imply an adjourned meeting. A committee had been formed, convened, and dismissed, all in the absence of Jesus. The disciples didn’t consult their leader. They just came to him and described all the problems. Their frustration soon culminates in downright irreverence. Rather than ask Jesus what to do, they tell Jesus what to do. “Send the crowds away so they can go to the villages and buy food for themselves.”
The disciples typically preface their comments with the respectful “Lord.” Not this time. This time they issue a command. They tell Jesus to tell the people to get lost. Instead of going to Jesus to solve the problem, as they had seen Mary do at the wedding, they determine what Jesus needs to do to make the problem go away.
How does Jesus respond? Well, he isn’t perturbed by their disrespect. He just issues an assignment. “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.” I’m imagining a few shoulder shrugs and rolled eyes at this point. Philip immediately states the obvious: “Eight months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!” Meanwhile, Andrew conducts a quick audit of the available resources. “There’s a little boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish,” he reports. “But that’s a drop in the bucket for a crowd like this.”
Ah . . . enter the boy with the lunch. We actually don’t know if his mom had packed it for him that morning. We don’t know if he was taking a journey with his dad on that day. In fact, we don’t know anything at all about him or how he happened to be in the crowd that afternoon. What we do know is that the lunch he offered up wasn’t much. It certainly wasn’t anything compared to what was needed for more than five thousand people.
He probably wrestled with the silliness of it all. He probably asked himself if it was worth the effort. I think that’s why he didn’t give the lunch to the crowd. Instead, he gave it to Jesus. Something told him that if he planted the seed, God would grant the crop. So he summoned his courage, got off the grass, and walked into the circle of grown-ups.
Someone probably snickered at him. If they didn’t snicker, they shook their heads. “The little fellow doesn’t know any better.” If they didn’t shake their heads, they rolled their eyes. “Here we have a hunger crisis, and this little boy thinks that a sack lunch will solve it.” But it wasn’t the men’s heads or eyes that the boy saw. He saw only Jesus. And how did Christ respond?
“Jesus took the loaves of bread, thanked God for them, and gave them to the people who were sitting there. He did the same with the fish, giving as much as the people wanted.” The disciples had only consulted themselves about the problem. Jesus sought God. The disciples couldn’t see a way the situation could be resolved. Jesus had faith that God would provide.
Look what Christ does next. “Jesus divided the bread and gave it to his followers, who gave it to the people.” Rather than punish the disciples, he employs them. There they go, passing out the bread they didn’t request, enjoying the answer to the prayer they didn’t even pray. When the people have eaten their fill, Jesus instructs them to “gather the leftovers, so that nothing is wasted.” So they get to work and fill twelve baskets with leftovers from the five barley loaves.
Such is the overflowing abundance of God. And it comes about as a result of Jesus’ prayer to his heavenly Father and a boy’s simple offering in faith. Had Jesus acted according to the disciples’ faith, the multitudes would have gone unfed. But he didn’t then . . . and he doesn’t today. He is true to us even when we forget him.
The boy surfaces as the hero of the story. All he does is give his lunch to Jesus. He leaves the problem in the hands of the one with the oversight to do something about it. And we, like the disciples, are left with the understanding that God is able to do what we cannot. He is able to provide for our problems—both large and small—when we don’t see a way forward.
Today, don’t make the mistake the disciples made when they analyzed, organized, evaluated, and calculated all without Jesus. Don’t give up but look up to the one who calmed the sea, turned the water to wine, and fed the five thousand with five loaves and two fish. For he has proven time and again that he is more than able—and willing—to provide for your needs.
— Max Lucado, adapted from Miracle Worker, Session 4 of Jesus
How to Use This Study
Worry comes with life. But it doesn’t have to take your life. During his time on earth, Jesus sought to assure us that we don’t need to be consumed by anxiety, because God will provide for us when we come to him. In his six-session video Bible study on the person of Jesus, Lucado inspires us to spend time at the foot of the cross and search the heart of the one who would rather die for us than live without us. Learn more at ChurchSource.com