God has a simple message for you today: “I am calling you to do something that’s too hard for you to do so that you can remember to trust in Me.”
You should remember that because it’s both challenging and true.
You are not the first that God has so called. In today’s lesson, we have the example of Jesus’ disciples. If ever anyone was called by God to do something that was too hard for him to do so that he could remember to trust in God, it was each of the 12 disciples.
Here in today’s passage, God has called the poor disciples to do something that is clearly too hard for them to do: He’s asked them to feed 5000 people. But the details of just why this is so difficult are important and go beyond not having enough food.
First, you might notice that in Mark’s account, the disciples do not have enough energy. In verse 31, Jesus calls them to a deserted place to rest, because, Mark tells us, there were many coming and going, and they did not even have a chance themselves to eat. At the beginning of the Feeding of the 5000, which Jesus has asked them to perform, His disciples are both tired and hungry.
In verse 33, some of this same multitude that was coming and going so that the disciples couldn’t even eat follow the disciples to their supposed place of rest. Apparently, the disciples (but more especially Jesus Himself) were the rock stars of their day. Only after all this do we learn that Jesus then begins to teach. And He teaches them “much,” meaning He spoke for a long time! In verse 35 we hear that the day is far spent by the time Jesus is finished teaching. Feeling their own hunger and fatigue, the disciples counsel Jesus to send the multitude away so they can go into the city and buy themselves something to eat.
And then comes the most difficult part: Jesus says to them (verse 37): “You give them something to eat.
Given that there are only 12 disciples, and hungry ones at that with no food of their own, and that there are 5000 men, not including women and children, this is clearly something that is not only difficult but impossible for the disciples to do. And Jesus knows this when He tells them to give the hungry crowd something to eat.
The disciples not only don’t have enough energy to feed everyone, they don’t have enough food or money. This is nothing less than a mobile city of at least 10,000 people. 200 denarii (a day’s wage) would not be enough to feed all the people. It’s difficult to compare 1st century denarii to 21st century dollars, but given the average household income of American families in 2008, we’re talking roughly $30,000 worth of food that Jesus expects the disciples to cough up somehow. In verse 38, He challenges them to show Him what they do have, saying, “How many loaves do you have? Go and see.”Knowing all things, Jesus calls His disciples to do something to hard for them to do so that they can remember to trust in Him. “I know you’re dog tired,” He says. “I know you don’t have enough money, and I know that you don’t have enough food. But give me everything that you do have (God wants us to look at what we do have and not at what we don’t have), and I will give you enough to do what I’ve asked you to do. Give me what little food you have, and I’ll help you feed everyone I’ve asked you to feed. Give me whatever energy you do have, and it will be enough to feed the hungry. Come and feed off me, and I will always give you enough to do what I’ve asked you to do.”
Several years ago, God said to a couple named Vernon and Francis Wilson, “I want you to do something that’s too hard for you to do, so you can remember to trust in me.” 3 or 4 years ago, God told Vernon and Francis that He wanted them to build a school in the poorest part of San Pedro, Belize, a neighborhood called San Mateo. (How appropriate that 2 of the 12 disciples’ names figure into the story here.) And Vernon and Francis said to God, “Lord, we don’t have enough time or energy or knowledge to build a school for these poor children.”
And the Lord said, “How much time and energy and money do you have for me? Go and see. Bring it to me, and no matter how little it is, I will make it enough.”
If you ever get a chance to go visit Holy Cross Anglican School in San Pedro, on Ambergris Caye island in Belize, you will now see a Christian school and beacon of hope and light, where once there was swampland and despair and ignorance.
And what about you? You didn’t think that God was only calling people like the disciples or Vernon and Francis to do what they couldn’t do – did you? I want you to say something aloud for me (actually, for you):
“God is calling me to do something
that’s too hard for me to do
so I can remember to trust in Him.”
I don’t know what that something is. Some of you may know, and some of you may not have a clue. Some of you are young, and you may be thinking: “I don’t think God is calling me. I don’t hear His voice. And why would He call me?”
But listen: God is calling you!
For some, He may be calling you to the impossible work of forgiving someone else.
For some of you, He may be calling you to the difficult job of reaching out beyond your friends and comfort level to someone else who needs you. For others, He may be calling you to the hardest thing of all: to confess your sins and give you life, no how matter how small it seems, to Him.
God is calling you to do something that’s too hard for you to do, so you can remember to trust in Him.
When He calls you: answer! For if you do, He will bless you, and the people around you.
© 2012 Fr. Charles Erlandson