Thursday 8 August

The #NH2019 Media Team is delighted to bring you summaries of all the main sessions this week so you don’t miss a thing!  On Thursday evening, Tim Chester brought new insights from the familiar story of the feeding of the 5,000 from Luke 9.

Luke 9: 1 – 20

Where should you go if you want to see the kingdom of God?  After all it is not a kingdom with a territory.  You cannot get a visa, jump on a plane and travel to the kingdom of God.

Where should you go if you want to see the power of God, if you want to see God at work?

Some people think it is in the natural world. A plaque in my grandmother’s church said, “You are nearer to God in the garden.”  Is that true?

Some people point to a worship concert – the lights, the volume, the dry ice.  Is that where you experience God?

Some want to lay hands on you and pray for healing or a spine tingling experience.  Is that how you know God’s power?

A desire to see the kingdom or the power of God is not new.  Herod wanted to see Jesus. He wanted to check Him out.  He wanted a piece of the action.  But he couldn’t. Jesus did not hang around in the corridors of power.  Only at the end of Jesus’ life does Herod get the chance to see Him. Pilot sends Jesus to Herod (Luke 23). Herod wanted to see Jesus perform a miracle.  He plied Jesus with questions but Jesus gave him no answers. Herod does not get to see or hear anything.

Meanwhile in Luke 9, Jesus welcomes the crowds and the disciples really see Jesus – they recognise that He is the Messiah. The Messiah is the anointed one (Christ in the Greek).  The expectation in Israel was that God’s ultimate king would come – the Messiah, the anointed one.

That is what the disciples see in Jesus.  Why do they get it?  How is it that they can see that Jesus is the Messiah?

In v 7 – 9, Luke gives three possible answers to who Jesus is:

  • John the Baptist (raised from the dead)
  • Elijah (who doesn’t die but gets taken up heaven in a chariot)
  • One of the prophets – Moses had said that another like Moses would come

Sandwiched between these two discussions of who Jesus is, Luke gives us the story of the feeding of the 5,000 and it provides a vital clue to Jesus’ identity.

What makes the difference between Herod’s unanswered question and the disciples’ answered questions?  Here in Luke’s gospel, Jesus is recognised through a meal! This is a banquet with Jesus as the host.

Jesus is known through His catering!

This story has three important echoes in the Old Testament.

God’s provision of manna
Here is Jesus in a wilderness.  Jesus looks up to heaven and bread comes down.  Here is a “new Moses” about to rescue His people from sin and death (a new Exodus).

God’s provision of bread
There is a story from Elisha’s life (the new Elijah) – the prophet Elisha told his servant to feed 100 men with 20 loaves.  Elisha tells his servant to feed a crowd. The servant protests but not only is there enough but there are leftovers.  Maybe Jesus is the new Elisha (which means “God saves” in the same way that the name Jesus means “God saves”).

But there is more.  The feeding of the 5,000 has another important Old Testament echo.

Jesus provides for our Future

Isaiah 25: 6 – 8

When my friend Peter turned 80, his son took him out for a birthday meal at a posh 5-star restaurant.  When they opened up the menu there were no prices.  Only his son’s menu had prices on it.  I’ve never been to a restaurant like that (it would scare me to death!).

God promises to provide a lavish feast for His people to far surpass any 5 star menu and there are no prices on the menu because the price of that meal already has been paid through the death of His son.

He issues an invitation to all of us – Isaiah 55:1 -2 

Death itself is on the menu.  God is going to swallow up death so that the feast goes on forever.  That is pictured in the story of the feeding of the 5,000.  The disciples want to send the people away but Jesus makes it possible for them to stay. No one needs to leave.  And there was enough food.

Whenever we have a church meal, at some point one of the women will express the worry that we will not have enough food, so I laugh at them (this never happens because there is always enough and usually there are leftovers).

But at this feast, there is more food at the end than there was at the beginning. They start with five loaves and two fish but at the end there are 12 baskets full of leftovers!  This is a picture of the feast that will last forever.  The Messianic banquet. God’s Messiah will defeat death, put the world right and we will enjoy a meal in the presence of God.  It is a lovely picture (a foretaste) of the coming age: of its provision, its plenty and its satisfaction.

This is all very well for the disciples but does it make any sense today? This sort of thing doesn’t happen in our world.  And that is the point!

This sort of thing doesn’t happen in our world of hunger, pain and want.  Even in our western neighbourhoods we still live in want – people are not satisfied because they long for meaning, for joy, for community…  What Jesus does here doesn’t fit into the patterns or expectations of our world because it doesn’t belong in our world.  It is   a glimpse of another world; of a world made new, of God’s coming world.

This present world is created by us and it demonstrates what happens when we are in charge –  famine, pain and need.

But here in the feeding of the 5,000, we were given a glimpse of God’s coming world. 5,000 hungry people ate and were satisfied. The leftovers demonstrate that God’s kingdom will go on into eternity.

In your local church, when you gather together as a group of needy people and you share food with Jesus at the centre and with Jesus as the provider, you see a glimpse of the coming world in the midst of our broken world.

As the people of God come together as family around the meal table, that is God at work. Your local church is not ideal but don’t let that blind you to the miracle that takes place every time you meet. The Christian community is the beginning and the sign of God’s coming world.  Our meals are a foretaste of the future. They reveal Jesus’ identity. Our meals demonstrate and proclaim God’s grace. This is where you can see the kingdom of God.

Jesus provides through the cross

What Jesus does here echoes the Last Supper: Taking, Thanking, Breaking, Giving.

Luke ties these stories together for us.  Jesus is the Messiah who provides for His people, who hosts God’s great banquet and ultimately He does that by dying for us!

As soon as Peter proclaims that Jesus is the Messiah, Jesus immediately tells them that He must die.  He is the Messiah who provides for His people by dying in their place. There is judgement but it will fall on Jesus in our place so that we can be welcomed to God’s feast.  If we want to see the provision of God, we need to look to the cross (not to some repeat performance of the miracle).

Jesus can do great miracles today but those things are not the norm.  If you want to see the kingdom of God and the power of God – look to the cross.  In day to day life, we see this at the Lord’s supper. This is the act that Jesus Himself gave us to help us remember the cross.  And it is a meal!

Yesterday we saw how Jesus eats with His enemies and that’s what happens at the communion table.  God is inviting us to come and eat with Him, to share a meal with Him. He is the host and we are the guests.

We are invited to slide our knees under God’s table!

Every communion meal is an embodiment of God’s grace to us. We see, touch and taste God’s grace in the bread and wine.  I want you to marvel at that. To have a sense every time you take communion that Christ Himself is speaking to you afresh of His grace, His welcome and His provision.

Knowing how frail we are, He uses bread and wine. Jesus welcomes us, as He did the crowds of Galilee.  He nourishes our souls, just as He nourished the bodies of the crowds.

That is radical hospitality.  At every communion meal, we come with nothing and we receive Christ Himself.  And we get to do it week after week!

Sometimes in our communion meals it is appropriate that there are solemn moments as we lament our sin and ponder the price of our salvation but in the tradition in which I grew up, that was the only way.

Sometimes there should be joy and celebration as we consider the promise of the Messianic banquet – looking forward to the feast that Isaiah promised and Jesus pictures.

We get a foretaste of heaven around the communion table.

Jesus provides for our Mission

Have you ever been asked to cater for a large group of people – worrying about having enough food, special diets, having it ready at the right time?

Imagine being asked to do all of that with no food. It is the mother of all headaches.  Jesus asks the disciples to do an impossible task. They feel totally unresourced.  And yet Jesus takes what they have and feeds 5,000.

Luke not only sets this story in the context of the question about who Jesus is.  It is also in the context of the disciples’ mission (v 1 -3).

Clock what is going on here. Jesus sends the disciples out on mission and tells them not to take any bread. Then they come back and Jesus says, “Provide bread for 5,000 people.”

Somehow they have to rustle up bread from no-where.  In the other gospels. the reference to how many people are in the crowd comes at the end of the story to emphasise the ability of Jesus.

In Luke’s gospel, this comes in the middle of the story to emphasise the inability of the disciples.  They cannot do the task that they have been set.

Jesus is preparing them for His absence.  The day is coming when He is going to give the disciples another impossible task (and it is the task He has also given to us). It is the task of proclaiming repentance and forgiveness to all nations. What can we do when faced with such a task? The point of the story is Jesus asks us to give Him the resources we have and then trust Him.  The impossible task resulted in leftovers!

Remember the story of manna in the desert and how they were not allowed to keep the manna overnight? If you took two days’ worth, it stank you out.  You could only consume manna by trusting that God would keep on providing.

The disciples thought that five loaves was a finite resource that could not be shared.  5,000 satisfied people later, they had 12 baskets’ full of leftovers.  Are you going to hold on to the resources that God has given you as if they are a finite resource?  If you do that, they will stink you out.

Can you start a church in your city?  Can you reach your neighbourhood? Can you feed 5,000 people?  Jesus says, “Give me what you have and trust me to provide.  Serve me in the present and trust me for the future.”

You will find that there is manna from heaven for today and then again tomorrow.  Do not worry about what you will eat or drink.  Your Father knows that you need Him. Seek His kingdom and these things will be given to you as well.

When God’s kingdom is your priorty, then God will provide.

Are you going to live as if God is a generous Father?  Are you going to give as if Jesus gives more in return?  Are you going to follow the Christ who takes our little, makes it a lot and sends us home satisfied?  Are you going to seek first the kingdom of God trusting that all these things will be added to you?