Sometimes I wonder if we think God is like me on skis. The last time I went skiing, my husband took me up on a double black diamond ski run. For those of you who don’t know, that is for experienced, skilled skiers, not once-a-decade posers, like myself. I was scared out of my gourd and looked down that steep slope. I had no idea how I was going to get down to my car so I could get off that mountain as fast as possible. But I knew I couldn’t live up on that slope. So, I went for it and started screaming at the top of my lungs to protect myself and everyone I might run into,“Gettt out of mYYYYY waaaaaaay!!!! I have noooooo idea what I aaaaaam doing! I aaaaam outttttt of controlllllll!”
God is not looking down the same slope we are, screaming at everyone He passes by saying “I have no idea what I am doing! I am out of control!” While we might feel out of control and we might not know what we are doing, God knows what He is doing. He is in control.
In John 6, Jesus collides with thousands of people, and for a hot second you would think He has no idea what He is doing. This story, which is apparently the only miracle recorded in all four gospels, starts out with a huge crowd of people following Jesus because He was healing the sick. You know, sometimes I think we read the Bible like we read CNN News. Like “thousands of people were displaced from their homes”, like “6 people were shot at a mall,” like another middle schooler “committed suicide”. When the Bible says “a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the signs he had performed by healing the sick”… These were people’s mothers with cancer. These were people’s brothers with mental illness. These were people’s children with epilepsy. And Jesus was healing them. I would follow Him too. I would get a fanny pack on and throw some sunscreen and some trail mix in that puppy, and I would trek with Jesus to Timbuktoo because He healed someone I loved.
This particular day, on a mountainside, Jesus saw a great crowd coming toward him. Can you imagine the pressures He felt? Can you imagine the demands that pressed in on Jesus, the despair that begged of Him and the sad stories thrown at Him? And here they came, thousands of them. I think Jesus’ response is funny. He could have supernaturally vanished, like abracadabra, “poof”, Jesus is at an Irish pub listening to bagpipers. He could have had his disciples put on a show- you know, some kind of cheesy Christian theatrical play with live sheep and goats. He could have asked the people to break up in groups and share their happys and crappys. But He doesn’t. Instead, He says to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?”
When I read this passage I am thinking, why does Jesus insist on feeding them? Can’t they go home and have nachos later? The Bible says Jesus asked Philip this to test him. Jesus’ question was to help Philip realize what Jesus already knew.
The Bible says: for He already had in mind what He was going to do.
How often are we in a scenario where we freak out thinking, “There is no way!” meanwhile, God is sitting there confident in His plan. Maybe this can be our new mantra…
Maybe, when our kids come home from middle school lost and hurting and we have no control over making it better, maybe we can say “God already has in mind what He is going to do.” Maybe when the love of our life decides we aren’t good enough to stick around for and we go to bed every night alone in our grief, we can remind ourselves “God already has in mind what He is going to do.” Maybe when something feels really out of our control, we can put on repeat, “God already has in mind what He is going to do.” Maybe when we are faced with an opportunity to do something amazing and we see absolutely no way it’s possible, we can say to ourselves: “Self, you have a God who already has in mind what He is going to do.”
I wonder, how would it change our mindset if we stood confidently on this belief in all the circumstances we find ourselves?
While Philip might have felt like me coming down the side of a mountain, certain there is about to be a pileup, Jesus was inviting Philip to realize, God’s got this. But Philip answered Jesus the way I think we would: “It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!” Philip is is looking at Jesus thinking we will feed these people when pigs fly, when hell freezes over, when Satan ice skates to work. Feeding five thousand people on the side of a mountain, on the fly, with no plan, no caterer, and no money? “Oh Jesus and his pipe dreams”, Philip is probably uttering under his breath.
Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?” Imagine this lil’ boy is following the crowd. Who knows, maybe he was intrigued by Jesus. Maybe he was drug along by his mama who needed a miracle. Maybe he was wondering what all the hullabaloo was about. Regardless of why this boy happened to find himself on the same slope as Jesus, I am almost 100% sure he didn’t think he would be called out nor did he most likely want to be.
There he was with his little lunch, an inferior lunch, no less. Barley bread was cheap. It was the bread of the poor. One commentator said barley was called the “food of beasts” and “an offering for a woman who has committed adultery.” Here this poor kid was packing “ho” bread and a few sardines in his lunch.
Getting called out would highlight just how inferior this boy felt and most likely he didn’t want to give up his lunch- it was after all, what he had to eat. And Andrew says “Here is a boy…” Out of 5,000 people, Andrew calls out the potential in this one boy and his loser lunch. Oh how we need Andrews in our life and oh how we need to be Andrews.
Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, and they sat down (about five thousand men were there). He broke bread, gave thanks and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish. This is crazy! It’s off the hook. Jesus took one kid’s sack lunch and fed thousands! Jesus used what this boy had. That’s what God does.
All along, Jesus had in mind what He was going to do. We have a God who is not shredding mountains screaming at people on His way down warning them that He is out of control. No, we have a God who sits on mountains with people who need help and healing, and not only does He heal them, but He puts on a pretty great picnic and feeds them. He is a God who has in mind what He is going to do. Even if it seems impossible, unlikely, or unrealistic. Even if we can’t picture it working out. Our God can pull it off. So no matter what mountain you happen to be on, you my friend, have a God who already has in mind how He is going to pull off the unlikely and amazing in your midst. So may this be your mantra in your dreams, in your grief, in your confusion, and in the places you feel out of control: God already has in mind what He is going to do.