Redemptive imagination: the intersection of humanity and God…future faith

This is one of my favorite stories is the gospels ( John 6:1-15 ), every time I read it, it is like a sun rise that slowly and mysteriously illuminates the landscape of reality to endless possibilities.



It continuously breaks the illusion that God is restricted to borders…that he gravitates to those he likes. As Jesus reminds us in Matthew 5:45, ” In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike.” Suddenly there is a profound redemptive spark that ignites the imagination…like the sun, and the rain, God orbits humanity and permeates everything.


It’s interesting that Tiberius is a Jewish community but it is permeated and surrounded by a heterogeneous population. In the days of Jesus many more religious Jews refused to settle there because the presence of a cemetery rendered the place unclean. Herod settled many non-Jews from rural Galilee and other parts of his domains to populate his new capital, and built a palace on the acropolis, ” city on the extremity.” Here Jesus finds himself in a collage, a landscape of diversity…of faiths, of cultures, of race and language. His presence embraces every inch of this human landscape.


Also the teller of this story reminds us that it is nearly time for the Feast of the Passover. Again, my mind, my memory and imagination rewind to that incredible journey into freedom. It again was centered around a meal that would sustain God’s people across a threshold, through a doorway into a journey where the horizon was filled with the hope of new possibilities. The God-man must have been acutely aware of this reality as waded through and was surrounded in this sea of humanity.


This diverse mass of people has seen, and heard the word ” miracle “…that more than anything it has been the magnet that pulls, and gravitates them toward Jesus. They want to see Jesus perform some God-tricks…and the crowd gets bigger, and bigger. The day is coming to a close, the shadows are getting longer as the creator pulls the curtain, and light dims.


Jesus is profoundly aware of the moment and in it he sees the fullness of humanity…he sees the intersection of humanity and God. He more than anyone knows of the mysterious profound redemptive possibilities that can be found when the two interact and become one…he more than anything is proof of that reality.

Jesus lights a match, trying spark some human imagination asking Philip, ” Where can he buy bread to feed these people?” Immediately Philip is doing some calculations in his mind, counting on his fingers and finally coming to the conclusion, ” we don’t have enough money.” Not the best answer, but at least he’s absolved himself, and the disciples of any responsibility.

There is a young boy in the crowd with his bag lunch of five small loaves and two fish that he sees as a possibility. But, like a flickering candle about to go out, Simon readily admits it doesn’t offer much hope.

Jesus seats everyone on the ground and takes the bread, giving thanks passes it into the midst of the people. He does the same with the fish, and everyone ate as much as they wanted. When the people had eaten their fill, he said to his disciples, “Gather the leftovers so nothing is wasted.” They went to work and filled twelve large baskets with leftovers from the five barley loaves.

To often in this story we want to fast forward, and hit stop…satisfied with the obvious conclusion it’s ” all ” Jesus performing some kind of God-magic in a miracle. Now, I’m not saying Jesus can’t, and didn’t do miracles. I’m saying maybe in the profound redemptive imagination of Jesus he doesn’t want us to stop there. Maybe there is another kind of miracle going on…a kind of God-man collaborated miracle. Maybe it’s that profound intersection when God and humanity merge as one, and in the fusion something heaven-on-earth shattering happens.

The young boy in this story ignites the redemptive imagination in my mind to a new generation that is not just on the fringe. But that they ” get ” Jesus and are close to him. They understand that Jesus was deeply and fully human more than he was religious. It’s profound that the disciples didn’t really grasp what was going on. But here is this young boy hovering close to Jesus saying here is my bag lunch…its not much, but I’m willing to share it.

Can you imagine the look on the disciples faces, ” Are you serious kid…there is 5,000 or more people out there.” That would be like sharing a ” Happy Meal ” with a small town. But more than that the young boy doesn’t just want to share it with his family, his friends, his tribe or even his faith. He wants to share it with everyone…” you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike.”

It is that profound mysterious intersection…if God is like that, humanity should be like that. It is when we live like that miracles are possible…heaven comes to earth, they become one.

So could it be possible someone saw this young boy pass his meager bag lunch to Jesus, and whisper started through the crowd, and the whisper became a wind, like spirit touch everyone. Slowly people searched their packs, and there pockets, and everyone regardless of race, and religion started to share with one another. 

It is that profound mysterious intersection…if God is like that, humanity should be like that. It is when we live like that miracles are possible…heaven comes to earth, they become one.

I bumped into a friend a couple of months ago down town, a church-less follower of Jesus. He shared that he had went to Gurdwara at a Sikh temple in town. A part of the worship involved a meal in this large kitchen room. It is a meal where all are welcome regardless of faiths…it is here everyone sits together and shares a common meal. This profound act of worship is said to enable people to serve one another, and to banish all distinctions between people…its the profound mysterious realization in the midst of God’s presence there is no circumference…everyone is in.

More than every we must re-kindle redemptive imagination…and come to the profound truth there are many paths to God. But real faith is found in the intersection of humanity and God. Jesus the God-man came to reveal this to us…this is what is is to be fully human. And I believe it’s in this intersection in our unique and diverse religions, and beyond our religions that miracles can happen today to change the course of humanity.

I dream there is a generation of young people that are like the young boy in this gospel story that will lead us into a new journey of faith beyond mere religion but into the fullness of humanity that Jesus lived and spoke about.


This hour in history needs a dedicated circle of transformed non-conformists. The saving of our world from pending doom will come not from the actions of the conforming majority, but through the creative maladjustment of a dedicated minority. (Martin Luther King )

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  • I absolutely believe that incarnating the truth of “freely you have received freely give” is, as your challenge wonderfully points out, a more powerful reality than most miracles. And, becoming more like God is, as you point out, surely one of the most salient and powerful claims in the New Testament writings and one of the key meanings of Jesus’ life then and now.

    Having said that, I think the tendency that many of us have, and that you seem to reflect, of shying away from pretty blatant biblical claims that miracles were a part of Jesus’ ministry is also an enslavement to our western mindset. I am not any more free of our “closed system” view of reality that we are taught from the cradle than anyone else, but I do think we should not impose it on the biblical narratives. Those writers just plain think we (and those like us in their times) are as wrong about that as we are about not sharing like God shares.