Help us Walk with Jesus
Beginning next week on the Seniors website page, author/member Don Zoller will be sharing some of his writings. In a series presented over the next number of weeks, Don will share some of what he terms divine imagination stories which give a human dimension of what biblical characters’ walk with Jesus might have been. Don has a unique and entertaining style and perspective. I pray that you will be moved by this work as I have been. To read the Walking with Jesus stories visit the Senior Ministry page. Many thanks to Don for sharing his gifts. His introduction to the series is below.
Before We Start
I wonder what it was like to have been one of the Twelve who for three years walked the dusty roads of ancient Israel with Jesus. Compelled by Him to follow, each was different in personality and temperament. A harmonious “band of brothers” they were not—at least not in the beginning. Each had his reason for following Jesus. Each seemed to have struggled trying to figure out the One they were called to follow. Twelve men walking with Jesus . . . and with each other.
Walking With Jesus is a collection of stories about these men—snapshots of their experiences as they might have been. As stories, these short devotionals use the biblical narrative to frame the event. As stories, you will not find them in the Bible. Rather, in keeping with how Jesus taught, they are parables that are placed within the narrative to give a distinct human dimension to their unique experiences.
The events within each devotional are dressed in divine imagination, and salted with life-teaching and personal applications to benefit the reader. They are in no particular order except in the sequence that God gave me the inspiration to write them. Walking With Jesus is for us today—we who, like the Twelve, often struggle in our walk with Him.
Come! Join me as we together better understand what it is to walk with Jesus. On this journey, ours is to follow the One who knows where we are going. The path often appears uncertain, difficult and, at times, perilous. But He knows each step we take and what is required to bring us to where we need to be. Let’s start Walking With Jesus.
These parables will appear in the Trinity eNews every other week. I hope they are a blessing to you.
Look for the first parable on July 31.
As an active member of the family at Trinity, Don is a regular contributor to Trinity’s weekly eNews letter. He enjoys writing and has authored several books, including “This Ugly Disease—A Caregiver’s Journey into Pain, Anguish and Hope.” With biblical insights, his writings provide spiritual encouragement for many. His son and daughter-in-law, Graham and Susan, are also members at Trinity.
Devotional Stories to Help us Walk with Jesus:
Good Morning, Jesus
Yesterday was a rough day. It was hot! We did a lot of walking and met a lot of people—mostly disagreeable people. I think most of us really didn’t see much purpose in what we were doing. Going here, and going there! Why? We ended the day perplexed and very exhausted.
For some reason, I woke up early this morning—don’t know if it was the pleasant aroma of wood burning—maybe it was breakfast cooking over the open fire. I looked around, but the other guys were still sleeping. Getting up and wiping the residue of last night’s sleep from my eyes, I saw a familiar figure silhouetted against the early morning light fixing breakfast. I drew near, “Good morning, Jesus! “
“Well, good morning, John. Did you sleep well?”
“Yes, Rabbi,” answering with a bit of timidity in my voice, while still feeling the aches and uncertainties of yesterday’s ordeal.
I came closer. It was nice to be with Jesus—you know, just Jesus and me. Didn’t have to compete for his attention—the guys were still sleeping.
“John, I’m glad you got up earlier than the rest. I appreciate having this special time, just you and me. You know John, and you may already know this, but I want to tell you again how much I love you and how very special you are to me. I want to tell you what’s in store for you today—things you can’t even imagine. Yes, things that will challenge your understanding, but don’t worry, I am here with you. You’ll be okay.”
Thinking back to yesterday’s events, I thought the day was challenging enough. Seems to me that Jesus may have forgotten what we endured—how our bodies were still hurting and how our minds ache with so many thoughts that crashed landed into our lives. I was still trying to figure out Jesus as we engaged so many different and often difficult people; as we tried to understand Jesus as he walked with purpose through such a terrible day. But no, he hadn’t forgotten. For him those were yesterday’s experiences. As breakfast was cooking, I realized that today is a new day with Jesus. Today was a new lesson to be learned, and Jesus is going to be the teacher.
Offering me something to eat, we sat down together to enjoy what he had prepared. Then looking intently at me he said, “John, stay close. Learn from me, but more importantly, learn of me. Today, I want to show you my glory—I’m going to feed 5,000 people with just a few loaves of bread and some fish. I am going to raise my dear friend Lazarus from the dead—and so much more. Just stay alert so you can enjoy my glory and not be overwhelmed by the events of the day.
“One day, John, when you think your time on earth is over, when I place you on an island as my prisoner . . . that is just the beginning. I will show you the glories that will come at the end of time, and beyond.”
The others are beginning to stir. But, to think what I would have missed had I not gotten up early and drawn near to that familiar silhouette—had I not begun the day with, “Good morning, Jesus,” I would have started the day so much poorer, walking through another day without understanding his love and his purpose for me. Seems to me, now that I make a habit of saying, “Good morning, Jesus,” I can better handle the heat of the sun and the disagreeable people. I can better see his purpose for my journey. And, yes, I can be thankful for another exhausting and “aimless” day, knowing that He has everything under His control.
Gotta go. The others have arrived for breakfast.
Devotional Stories to Help us Walk with Jesus:
Good Night, Peter
I couldn’t sleep! I tried every trick to quiet my mind. Even counted the sheep I remembered seeing in the pasture next to our camp. Nothing worked. Just kept tossing and turning for I don’t know how long with reoccurring disturbing thoughts that seemed to go nowhere . . .
I love kids, but these seemed to be getting in the Master’s way and keeping Him from doing what I thought He needed to be doing. Kids just making a nuisance of themselves—I thought! Then, I remembered how Jesus looked at me and said, “Don’t keep these children from me! These are those that make up my kingdom—surely you know that!”
And then there was the time we went up on that mountain. A glorious time! I wanted to savor the moment and provide Jesus, Moses, and Elijah a place to stay for a while. Then, in the cloud, I got the message, “Stop trying to orchestrate what you see. Be quiet and pay attention to what He tells you.”
Then, when he said He was going to be killed and taken from us—that seemed to me to be a bit too much. “Never happen Lord!” I said. He looked sternly at me and said, “Peter, you and I are not on the same page. You are looking at my life in a way that makes you a partner with the Devil.” You are a stumbling block!” Wow! I was only trying to protect Him and keep Him from danger. Just trying to keep Him focused on His mission . . . as I saw it.
On another occasion He said I would deny Him. What kind of talk is this? I would never do a thing like that!
Well, maybe I am not cut out to be His follower. Obviously, I don’t understand what He is doing, and the longer I follow Him the less I feel I really understand what He expects of me.
With the others fast asleep, under a moonlit night, I decided to get up and go look at those sheep—you know, just to be sure I counted them correctly. Within a few minutes of counting, I felt Jesus’ comforting hand on my shoulder.
“Can’t sleep, Peter? Good you got up so we could talk a bit. I saw you twisting and turning—Peter your thoughts are keeping you awake. I know every word you are playing and replaying over and over in your sleepless mind. I never intended you to take today’s troubles to bed with you. Do what I do. Every night before I close my eyes, I give the thoughts and troubles of this day to my Father in heaven. You should do the same.
“Peter, here’s something you need to know. You are a work in progress. Your spirit has yet to be broken—but I am going to fix that. You still have a pride-attitude that thinks you can plan, orchestrate, and protect my ultimate mission for your life. You can’t do that! You need to learn that I’m in control of every event, every detail that touches your life. Keep your hands off!
“One day, Peter, you will no longer count these sheep, but you will feed my sheep. When you learn the lesson I am going to teach you, you will say to my sheep . . .
Brothers and sisters, I want you to know from personal experience, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, so that He may lift you up at the appropriate time. Cast all your worries on Him, for He cares for you.” (I Peter 5:5b-7, TLV)
“Peter, let’s get back to sleep—the morning comes soon enough and with it its own troubles. O yes, before you close your eyes, give me your worries and troubled thoughts. (And, in a whispered voice) . . . I can handle them! Good Night, Peter. “
For He provides for His beloved ones even in their sleep. (Psalm 127:2b, TLV)
P.S. A note to the reader: Try substituting Peter’s name with yours. See if that fits!
Devotional Stories to Help us Walk with Jesus:
The Day We Lost Four Good Men
The rays of early morning light shimmered on the cascading ripples of the Sea of Galilee. Yet, even at this early hour, men were busy working: off-loading fish caught during the previous night, inspecting and repairing their nets, and cleaning the decks of their boats. No effort was spared to make sure everything was ready by evening to go out again on the open sea. Exhausted, but more than satisfied with the day’s abundant catch.
Fishing this season has been good and very profitable. The fishermen’s families and the people in the village all benefited. Peter, Andrew, James and John were particularly recognized as good fishermen—a cut above the others. They worked hard and, with years of skill and mastery, fished well. Their experience regularly paid off with an extremely good return for their efforts. Thought of highly by the other men, they were looked upon as role models of what excellent fishermen should be.
Then Jesus showed up—and seemed to upset everything! As was His custom, He walked the beach each morning carefully observing the men while they worked on their boats. One day, Jesus stopped at Peter and Andrew’s boat. Being busy with their nets, they paid little attention to the stranger who was watching them.
Jesus called them directly by name, “Peter; Andrew—follow Me! I am going to make you fishers of men.” After that, Jesus went up the beach a bit further and stopped at the boat of James and John, and similarly, called to them, each by name, to follow Him to be fishers of men.
“Fishers of men”—what’s that all about? That’s not the only strange thing that happened. These four strong, rugged, hard-working fishermen just dropped what they were doing and, in that very moment, got out of their boats, left their crews behind—including Zebedee, the father of James and John—and began following this Rabbi. That was really weird!
Peter, Andrew, James and John—what were their families and friends to think? What’s to become of their profitable business? How were they going to support their families and continue to help their village? These four great fishermen, in a moment of time, just lost it! And, we just lost four good men!
I hear that this Jesus has gathered others to follow Him—a tax collector, a political activist and a few other unworthies—and, of course, our four good men. And, for what purpose? They follow Him all over the countryside. I’m not sure what they do or where they are going. I hear they stir up a heap of trouble wherever they go. This whole venture seems like a disaster in the making. We just want our four fishermen—our four good men—back home again! Frankly, I just don’t understand!
That was then, but this is now. Now I get it! Though Jesus did not call me to be one of His Twelve followers, He did cross my path one day and changed my life—my direction, my priorities and my passions—everything! It was all pretty amazing! I became a new person!
I suppose most folks in my village will never understand the way Jesus changes the heart of a person. For some, like our four good men, it was immediate and direct. Others, it is a process. But what comes out at the other end is the same—a new creation in Christ! (I Corinthians 5:17) Somehow, fish can’t compare!
Peter, in his own words, says it well—
You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the praises of the One who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. (1 Peter 2:9 TLV)
How well I remember the day we lost four good men, but . . .
What is a loss to this world is a gain to Christ and His Kingdom!
Devotional Stories to Help us Walk with Jesus:
Family, Friends—and a Problem
It was a three-day walk in the heat of a blistering sun—the walk from Bethsaida on the shores of the Sea of Galilee into the Galilean hill country—all up hill!
Hi, my name is Philip. I was among the last who were called by Jesus to follow Him. But now, all Twelve of us were ready to go! . . . Somewhere?
During those first few days on the road, we all began to learn how to walk with Jesus. Strung out along the dust-covered road, I often fell behind. I really struggled to keep up with the others. Guys, like Peter and John, had no problem keeping up. In fact, they often out-paced Jesus. Soon they realized that this was not going to work. As Jesus’ followers, they were not really following Him—a lesson we all had to learn more than once. Carefully, they slowed their pace to make sure they were always just behind Him. Along the way, Jesus talked a lot about His family and friends. Obviously, they were important to Him.
Finally, we arrived at the village of Cana. We were tired, hot and weary of our travel and not even sure of why we were here. Jesus then told us about the wedding invitation he received from a close friend of His family. Excitedly, He shared that we were all invited to the celebration.
Wow! I thought that if following Jesus meant getting invites to celebrations and feasts, then I am all-in. (I soon came to realize, however, that following Jesus was more than just having a good time. I think He was just breaking us in, kind of easy.)
The celebration, a seven-day event, was already in progress when we got to the wedding. It was a large group of people, many of whom traveled a distance. Jesus freely mingled among His friends and family, thoroughly enjoying the opportunity to talk with as many people as He could. He never missed a chance to introduce us individually to his family and friends. “Philip is my follower,” He would say proudly. Quickly, we were made to feel welcomed and part of the celebration. We were really having a great time!
Of course, we met Mary, Jesus’ mother, and His brothers and sisters. It was apparent that Mary had some kind of role in the celebration. I think she supervised the servants.
Then it happened! Mary quietly got Jesus off to the side and began in a whisper to tell Him about a problem—apparently a very serious problem the servants just told her about. I was standing next Him when all this happened.
Here’s the problem as I heard it. The groom’s family didn’t plan well for the amount of wine that was needed to meet the needs of all the guests. More guests than wine and still more days for the celebration! The wine had run out! Bad news for the groom who would be viewed at incapable of caring for the needs of his guests, and more importantly, the future needs of his wife-to-be.
As tensions mounted among the servants, what followed was apparently a small domestic tiff between Jesus and His mother. I heard Jesus say in a low voice, “It’s not my problem; and it’s not my time.” Whatever all that meant? I think He didn’t want to be the center of attention at an event that was not about him and, by doing so, embarrass His friend. I don’t know.
Anyway, Jesus saved the groom and his family from a big social embarrassment by doing something really strange to the water that was stored in six large stone jars—water that was to be used by the guests to wash their hands. Somehow, Jesus turned ordinary water into the best wine a person would ever want to drink. The celebration continued for the next few days without a hitch, with everyone overwhelmed with the quality of the wine, and most were none-the-wiser as to what happened out back in those stone jars.
After the wedding celebration and before we traveled back to the Sea of Galilee, I sat down to reflect on what I had learned as a follower of Jesus. First, I saw how much He loved His family and friends—how people truly mattered to Jesus! He thoroughly enjoyed being with them. Maybe that’s why later He called us His friends. Just maybe, that’s how it’s going to be in His Kingdom at His Wedding Celebration. Before the heavenly host, He will say with great excitement and pride, “I want you to meet my friends, my family, my followers.”
I also learned that Jesus doesn’t embarrass those He loves—his family and friends. Whatever Jesus does in my life, like He did when He provided the best wine possible, is often done quietly, yet to perfection. More importantly, I discovered He is no ordinary rabbi. As I found out during the next three years, Jesus is the Son of the Living God. There’s nothing He can’t do! (Matthew 19:26)
Devotional Stories to Help us Walk with Jesus:
A Tragic Disappointment—A Glorious Ending
I was sitting on a rock overlooking the Jordan River at the place where John began baptizing a short time ago. Today, in this very same place, many people were trusting in Jesus—amazing!
“Peter, come over here with the rest of us.” That’s Jesus. I’d better go see what He wants. “Mary and Martha, our friends in Bethany, just sent me a message that Lazarus, their brother, is sick.“
Knowing how much Jesus loved this family, I fully expected Him to do something, immediately. But, no! He seemed to ignore the message. A strange way to show your love, I thought! All He said was that Lazarus would get over whatever was ailing him, and it would be for God’s glory. Seems to me getting well is always for God’s glory, but I could be wrong.
Then, after two days, without a word about Lazarus, Jesus said, “Okay men, it’s time to go to Judea to wake-up Lazarus from his sleep.” “Wait a minute, Lord.” I reminded Him, “We were just in Judea and the leaders there had stones in their hands ready to kill you. Are you sure that’s such a good idea?”
Jesus, with His eyes penetrating deeply inside me, said, “Peter, you need to understand something. You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do while you still have time to do it. If you wait for the right set of circumstances, it will be too late. Now, let’s go!”
At first, we didn’t understand what Jesus was saying. Then, Jesus told us plainly, “Lazarus is dead, but I am going to wake Him up!” Wow! This is going to be some strange kind of funeral!
Oh yes, then there was Thomas, who always seemed to the rest of us to be a bit over the top, “Let’s all go with the Rabbi to Judea so that we can all die with Him.” Strangely, no one seemed to object to this idea of a mass execution! It took us two days to walk to Bethany.
“Jesus, you’re too late!” both Martha and Mary said in tearful anguish and disappointment. “Lazarus is already dead and buried!” “If only you had come sooner, our brother would still be alive! Oh! why didn’t you come sooner?”
From my vantage point, and I think the others saw it the same way, Jesus waited too long before traveling to Bethany. It seemed to be a major derailment in His otherwise very successful ministry of healing the sick, giving sight to the blind, and feeding 5,000 with only a couple of loaves of bread . . . So sad!
I overheard a strange conversation He was having with Martha about how He was the resurrection and the life—people dying and yet living. He said that Martha only needed to believe this and trust Him. Having this theological discussion when Martha was dealing with the sorrow of a dead brother seemed to me a bit weird.
We all gathered around Jesus as he faced the place where Lazarus was entombed. He had been crying, perhaps in sharing His sorrow with others for the one He loved, but maybe there was more . . . (As we later understood, this was a spiritual battlefield that looked toward His cross. Sorrow compounded by sorrow as families throughout history experience the agony of separation and death of a loved one.) As He groaned, we could see the anger in His face—anger at Death which would one day soon be defeated with the words, “It is finished.”
Death is swallowed up in Victory.
Where, O Death, is your victory? Where, O Death, is your sting?
1 Corinthians 15:54-55
“Roll the stone away!” This appeared to me to be a failed attempt to honor His friend . . . after all Lazarus has been dead four days and now his body stinks! This is becoming the worse funeral I have ever attended!
Jesus stepped to the front and spoke, “Didn’t I tell you that if you believed and trust Me, you will see the glory of God.” With His eyes looking upward, He gave thanks to the Father in Heaven. Then, He cried with a loud voice—loud enough to wake the dead (excuse the pun), “Lazarus, come out!” It was truly a sight to be behold—bound head and foot with grave clothes, Lazarus hobbled out of the rock tomb. It was left to the rest of us to unravel him and let him go. No doubt the poor man was hungry—he hadn’t eaten in four days. Looks like we’re going to have some great dinner-time conversation.
After dinner together, Jesus motioned to me, “Peter, come over here. We need to talk. I know you and the others struggled with what I was doing and why it appeared I was too slow in doing it. You may remember that I said I was glad that I didn’t respond immediately to Martha and Mary to go to Bethany. I waited so you might believe, again, in who I Am and for you to see the glory of God displayed. You see, when it appears that I don’t care or that I am too slow in responding to peoples’ immediate needs, even those I love the most, remember my timing is perfect—right on time—to give the greatest joy, to allow God’s glory to be fully displayed and to cause peoples’ faith to go deep in Me. What appears to be a tragic disappointment for the moment, will always have a glorious ending when I am orchestrating the event!”
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
Devotional Stories to Help us Walk with Jesus:
I Want to See Jesus
My height has always been a problem. Do you know what it’s like to grow up and always be the short straw? Kids at school called me, “runt”—undersized and weak! I just didn’t fit into any of their games. As an adult, I was tolerated, but rarely included. I was always odd-man out!
Hi, my name is Zacchaeus.
One day, I was offered a job working for the government—the Roman government—as a tax collector. Probably the worse job a Jew could possibly have. Immediately, I was labeled a “sinner” by my community. They saw me as a traitor. But, you know, I didn’t care.
Working as a tax collector for several years I did pretty well. The Romans got their tax revenue and I was free to get whatever extra I could get. I always had one of those “tall” Roman soldiers nearby, just in case I needed him. It told people that I meant business.
Some said it was fraud—dishonest! Others said I was a cheat—a low-life. I say it was just good business. Besides, for me it was pay-back time for the way I had been treated all my life. As chief tax-collector, I lived very comfortably—a very large gated home, and financially having all I need . . . but, all that was about to change. Most of all, me.
Getting ready for work, I heard a lot of commotion out in the street in front of the house. I went outside to see what was going on.
“Hey, Rebecca, what’s going on? Why are all the people gathering.”
“The rabbi is coming through Jericho this morning with his disciples. And everybody wants to see him!”
“Rabbi?” Which rabbi?”
“Rabbi Jesus! From Nazareth.”
“I’ve heard of him.”
My curiosity captured me. I want to see Jesus, too. But my odds were pretty slim with all those “tall” people in front of me filling all the empty spaces.
“Excuse me, excuse me please. Pardon me, I want to see Jesus. Excuse me!”
All that the people could see was something rustling around their feet, with a voice saying, “excuse me!” I carved a pathway to a nearby tree. One of its branches hung over the street, and, most importantly, over all the people below. It was the perfect place to see Jesus. What a view!
Then I saw Him. The crowd went wild with excitement. Praising God! As Jesus came close to the tree where I was perched, He stopped. He looked up and said, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, I must stay at your house today.”
I guess I didn’t even think about how Jesus knew my name. I almost jumped from the branch with joy. I quickly came down and ran back to the house to meet Him. Now when the word got around that Jesus was going to my house to spend the day, it really didn’t sit well with the people of Jericho. How could a rabbi—a holy man—not know who Zacchaeus was. A tax collector—the chief tax collector—a “sinner,” a cheat, a defrauder, a low-life?
What they thought didn’t bother me one bit. Jesus was coming to my house as my guest to spend the day. That’s all that was important to me. My servants duly served Him and His disciples—washing their feet and giving them food and drink.
It’s hard to explain, but at that point, Jesus seemed to become the host and I was His guest. He began to speak to my heart in a way that completely transformed my thinking. I felt as though I had just been given a new life. With the greatest sincerity I told Him and the others who were there, “Half of my goods I give to the poor. If I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” (Did I just say that?)
Jesus looked deep within my soul and said, “Today salvation has come to this house, and to you, Zacchaeus.” He reminded me who I am—a son of Abraham, a child of promise. Then He told us all why He did what He did—“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” I guess I am included!
Today, I am one of His followers. Oh, I don’t follow Him like His other disciples, you know, walking through the countryside, but I do follow Him by the way I live. I regularly share my wealth with the poor, and my home is open for the community to enjoy. I still have my government job—a tax collector for Rome. But boy, what a difference!
The government still gets their tax revenue, but I now have the joy of helping people pay as little as possible, honestly. In fact, the word has gotten around that I am the most honest tax collector in area. Folks have to pay taxes, but they say there is no one they would rather pay their taxes to than me.
I am so thankful that I wanted to see Jesus the day I climbed that tree, but even more, I am so thankful it was the day that He wanted to see me, to change me and make me one of His followers.
Devotional Stories to Help us Walk with Jesus:
You Feed Them!
We were tired—exhausted really! We just finished a whirlwind preaching and healing trip that Jesus sent us on—two by two. Added to that, Jesus’ cousin, John the Baptist, had just been executed by King Herod a few day ago. We were all pretty stressed by that event. Frankly, we barely had time to eat.
It was quite obvious to Jesus that we needed a rest. His words inviting us to rest-up a while was like a refreshing shower on a very hot day. It was just what we all needed. We all climbed into the boat and headed for a desolate place . . . or so we thought.
When we arrived at the desolate place, it was not. Someone saw us get into the boat and told the whole world that Jesus and His disciple were heading somewhere and to run after them on the shore and follow the boat. When we arrived, we were greeted by thousands of people. Jesus, having compassion on them as sheep without a shepherd, as He put it, began to teach them . . . and to teach them some more.
We looked at each other and wondered whatever happened to our rest-a-while time. Honestly, we felt a little annoyed. What happened to “our time?” Something seemed to be terribly wrong with this picture. We thought about the leisure and rest we were not getting in this desolate place. That day we learned that with Jesus there really isn’t a desolate place—a place where people in need aren’t!
Teachers seem to go on and on without being aware of the time of day. It was getting late and Jesus was still teaching. The other disciples looked at me and said, “Jude, please remind Jesus what time it is. It’s late and He should send the people away. After all, they (and we) are getting hungry and need to go into town to get something to eat.” (And, maybe, just maybe, we can then get the rest we need.)
That sounded like a reasonable request—a gentle reminder to the teacher. But, that gentle reminder really didn’t go too far. Jesus looked at me as the rest of the disciples gathered around. Without hesitating, He said, “You feed them!”
“You feed them!” We looked at one another in horror! How are we to do that. It would be like feeding an army with no food! Impossible! There were over five thousand men, plus women and children people waiting to be fed. We don’t even have the money to go into town to buy that amount of food. What does He expect us to do?
Cleverly, we thought, we’ll make a point to Jesus that it is humanly impossible to feed this many people. We found this boy who said he would like to help by giving his lunch—five small bread loaves and two dried fish. Nice boy!
“Thank you, son. Your mother gave that lunch for you to eat. Best you keep it.” We were convinced that this little boy’s offering would make our case. But, Jesus looked thoughtfully at the little boy’s lunch and said,
“Bring the five loaves and two fish to Me. That should be just about right.”
With those words Jesus directed us to have the crowd set down on the grass in groups of hundreds and fifties. We still didn’t have the foggiest idea what Jesus was going to do.
I am still not sure exactly what happened next. Jesus blessed the five loaves of bread and the two fish and . . . and, suddenly, out of nowhere, there was enough to feed everyone—over five thousand, plus us twelve. Jesus gave each of us several groups of people to serve. That’s a lot of bread and fish to carry to hungry people.
After the meal was over and people began to leave, we thought, “At last, some time to kick back and rest!”
But Jesus said, “One more thing. The people had their fill, but have left some food behind. Go and collect the leftovers.”
What was left filled twelve very large baskets—waste not, want not! We loaded the baskets on board the boat and called it a day! Almost!
We wanted to rest. Jesus wanted to feed hungry people spiritually and physically. We were so focused on how we felt. Clearly, we wanted to get these people fed and on their way. But, being so centered on ourselves we obviously missed something—something very big and significant.
As we discovered later that night, we were standing right before the Glory of God. And, we missed it! We should have seen that, but we didn’t. Oh, yes, we knew Jesus as one who could turn water into wine and heal the sick, but on this day, we failed to see Him as the Bread of Life, God in the flesh. He was the same One who fed millions of His people every day for forty years in the wilderness with manna, the Bread of Heaven.
We still had something to learn as His followers—who He really is! I wonder how many more times it will take us before we see and appreciate that Jesus is God!
We did learn one thing. Walking with Jesus means being the unqualified who are often called to do the impossible. You feed them!
”Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think,
according the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in
Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. Ephesians 3:20–21
Devotional Stories to Help us Walk with Jesus:
Our Worst Nightmare!
The sun was sinking below the hill tops. Our restful day it was not. We just finished feeding several thousand people after a very long teaching session that seem to consume Jesus for most of the day. With the last basketful of leftovers of bread and fish loaded on the boat, Jesus tells us to set sail for Bethsaida on the other side of the sea—without Him!
He was still saying His goodbyes to the people. But, we also knew that sometimes Jesus liked to spend time praying alone after a busy day. He said He would catch up with us—somehow?
The evening was cool and winds gentle. It seemed to us that this overnight trip to the other side was going to be our “rest-a-while” time that we were all beyond needing. With no Jesus in the boat meant no challenges or surprises. We would be alone restfully sailing the then quiet nighttime waters. The bow pushing gently the sea waters aside with a slight splashing against the hull of the boat made perfect music for a restful night.
It didn’t stay that way. As is common on the Sea of Galilee, there are times when the wind surprises even the best of fishermen. When we got out into deeper waters the wind began to pick up. Quickly, the gentle breeze became a roaring gale with winds pouring down on us from the distant mountain canyons to our west.
So strong were the winds that the quiet sea quickly became a cauldron of unhappy water seeking to overwhelm us with mounting and surging waves. The capricious winds were blowing our boat off course—sometimes in the direction we had just traveled. We were not making any headway and it appeared to us we could all be drowned by the size of the ever-increasing waves.
Making every effort to keep us afloat, we were all doing what we could to keep the boat in one piece. So much for our restful evening at sea.
It must have been about three in the morning, we were still struggling by life and limb to keep the boat on top of the water. That’s when Peter came unglued. He saw a ghost walking on the water. Then we all saw it. With all that we were dealing with—and now a ghost! This has to be our worst nightmare! We were terrified!
Through the howling winds and roaring waves, we heard a familiar voice.
“Hi! It’s just me. You know, Jesus! The one you left on shore a few hours ago. Take heart. Don’t be afraid! I told you I would catch up with you. Well, here I am.”
Soaked to our skin by the storm, our boat bobbing like cork in mixing pot, and now being frighten out of our wits, we really didn’t know what to say.
“Aren’t you going to invite me on board?”
“Sure, Lord,” Peter finally yelled, stumbling all over his words. “Please, please come aboard.”
As soon as Jesus put one foot in the boat, the winds ceased and the waters quieted—all was at peace. We were utterly astounded! We were speechless! We didn’t even say. “Thank you, Lord!”
Jesus was on board, but we said nothing. Utterly amazed, our minds were still trying to put it all together.
Jesus broke the awkward silence. “Gather around, guys. I need with talk to you.” We all gathered around Jesus. “Men, you missed something pretty significant yesterday when I fed all those people.”
I thought we had picked up all the leftovers. What is He talking about? What could we have missed? We even thank the little boy who offered us his lunch.
“You failed to apprehend the importance about loaves. What did you see? People getting fed, or did you see Me who alone can feed the people. Because you failed to see the Glory of God, your dull and unresponsive hearts failed to see Me walking in the storm of your experience. You saw a ghost. Is that your view of God—a ghost? Just a vapor that soon disappears from view.
Whether I am the Bread of Life feeding thousands of people or the Master of Storms, I Am He! Your fear blocked your view of Me. How many times have I told you not to fear—not people or troubles that fill each day? Don’t be afraid! Believe and have faith in who I Am on your behalf.”
From this time forward, I think we all saw a little more of who Jesus truly is. We are learning that walking with Jesus is not about us or how we feel, but rather it is about Him, our Immanuel (God with us)!
Open my eyes that may see
Glimpses of truth Thou hast for me;
Place in my hands the wonderful key
That shall unclasp and set me free.
Silently now I wait for Thee,
Ready, my God, Thy will to see;
Open my eyes, illumine me,
Clara H. Scott (1895)