If you’ve been following along with me, you’ll know I’ve been digging deeply into the miracle of Jesus feeding the five thousand, ever since heeding the call to get up past midnight to go read the story with fresh eyes. Today, I want to look at this passage from the account in Mark:
“Then he gave them to his disciples to set before the people” (Mark 6: 41, NIV).
Here, I noticed for the very first time that Jesus commands His disciples to “set” the food before the people, just as they themselves were called to bring what they had (and not) forward to Jesus.
When I was new to my faith, as a returned prodigal, I was shepherded by a friend, who chose to “set” Jesus before me. She saw me hold onto mistaken beliefs and make wrong decisions, but also saw Jesus was working within me. She chose to bring me to Jesus in prayer and to “set” Jesus (her living testimony of Jesus in past and present experiences of His transformative grace, and her Gospel-driven actions and words) before me, but NOT to determine or steer my path, recognizing this was and is Jesus’ task.
When I look back I see how this allowed me to grow in my faith, to begin slowing to hear the voice of Jesus, to learn from my errors and NOT to rely on others, as I had done as a child, which was what caused me to serve an idol, rather than the living God. By choosing NOT to overprotect me and entrusting me instead to Jesus, she gifted me the opportunity to get to know Christ for myself in her example, testimonies and Words of encouragement.
Her most powerful impact on me has been the Scriptures she has shared and me seeing how Christ is reflected in her genuine friendship, gentleness, kindness, truth-telling in love and grace-driven motherhood.
I also see relevance for myself here as a parent and how I am called to “set” Jesus before my children (in my actions, my words, the Word of God and prayer) and to release them into His safe care. This is not to say that I cannot ask questions and prompt them to think, reflect and seek after the Living God themselves by asking their own daring questions of God. However, I see so clearly that it is not my job to steer, to tell them what they should or should not believe.
Here it is interesting to note that the Hebrew word translated as “train up” from the Scripture “to train up a child in the way they should go” actually literally means to “dedicate”. As the following study shows through an extremely detailed study of the language and the context of Scripture, it is more about releasing our adolescent children (the Hebrew word used translated in our modern Bibles to child actually denotes an adolescent) into the world and celebrating their step into adulthood and Christ-led calling (see Proverbs 22:6, Hildebrandt).
This all makes such perfect sense, when we dig deeper into God’s Word. Jesus clearly tells us (John 6:44, NIV):
No-one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up on the last day.
And just to make sure we didn’t miss this, Jesus repeats this again in John 6:65, NIV:
“This is why I told you that no-one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him.”
And what’s equally fascinating is what Jesus says in response to those steeped in Scripture who vehemently oppose His healing of people on the Sabbath (John 7: 24, NIV):
Stop judging by mere appearances, but instead judge correctly.”
Appearances say Jesus is breaking God’s commandment to rest on the Sabbath. Appearances are based on Scripture alone. Truth says Jesus is healing on the Sabbath to reveal the ultimate purpose of God’s law: a relationship of love with His people. Truth IS the revelation of the Scriptures by God the Father through Jesus Christ, and to us through the Holy Spirit (Jesus in us). Jesus, our Savior, IS the way, the truth and the life. The Truth is not a book alone, but a living, breathing person, who we are called into relationship with.
We set people before Jesus, by living in relationship with our Savior:
- by daily sitting at His feet just as we are, like Mary, who lovingly bathed her Savior’s feet in salty tears and sweet perfume, or Hannah mistaken as a drunk in her anguished prayers in the temple: by being men and women of undivided hearts, pouring all of ourselves out, admitting our desperate lack, our anguish and a deep yearning for Him, our only true Home;
- in surrendering to His will, a daily yielding to His calling of us away from our plans, away from our desire for the safe option, away from our desire to hide, letting Him bend our will to His and keep feeding our souls on the Bread of His Living Spirit-breathed Word;
- by singing His praises in all we do and say, glorifying His Name by sharing what God is doing in our lives and worshiping Him in our daily life in the big and the small;
- by pouring out His love on everyone around us, being the servant He calls us to be in actions of love, entering the world with a longing to bless in His Name;
- by going and looking for Him, so that we might join Him in the beautiful Kingdom work He has prepared for us in advance to walk in!!
I watched my parents set Jesus before me in this exact way as a little Kiwi girl in Germany and it’s what had me yearning with all that was within me to become a missionary, just as them. I saw the incredible power of God transforming broken lives and I yearned for more of this God. Now more than twenty years later I am finally stepping into my Christ-led calling, not at all as I had envisioned it. It has been the most tear-stained, grueling, near-death, desperate two years of holding His beautiful hand…but oh my heart poureth over. I’m seeing such beauty in the breaking, as I’ve been continually pressed to my knees, in tears, not knowing if I could take anymore…but OH how I look back in wonder and how my eyes even now are opening more and more to His Master Plan being woven into place right before my eyes and all I can do is stand in utter, breathtaking awe and weep some more. Lives are being impacted, powerfully.
Do you know how much He loves you, how much He yearns for you to sit at His feet, to draw you up on His lap and embrace you into His strong safe arms? And to whisper in your ear: “I have chosen you, yes: YOU. Now go bring my Light into the darkness, I’m waiting for you, come join me! Let’s make some fireworks!!”