On the Brink of a Miracle – Luke 9
When I was little—much too little to know the rules of the road, let alone reach the gas pedals—my dad would sneak me onto his lap when he was driving so I could “help.” As soon as we reached the dead-end road leading to our house, he’d put my chubby fingers on the wheel and cover them with his own big hands. I’d squeal in delight as we made our way past the old barn, past the palomino horse’s pen, past the neighbors’ house on the hill, and finally into our driveway.
At some level I knew that Dad was the one operating the vehicle, not me, but I thrilled to think he would want my help. And I loved being in such close proximity to him as we embarked on this daring (and unsanctioned-by-mom) adventure.
When I think about the miracles of Jesus recorded in the Gospels, I am struck not only by the power behind them but also by the level of human participation Jesus invited when he performed them. If you think about it, Jesus could have made wine appear out of nothing—ex nihilo—at the wedding at Cana. Instead, he asked the servants to fill up six jars with water and bring them to him for transformation (John 2). When Jesus encountered the lame man, he could have spoken a simple word and healed him, but he chose instead to invite the man into a conversation, asking him what he wanted before healing him (John 5). For some reason, Jesus seems to delight in letting us be part of his miraculous interventions.
In today’s reading, Jesus extends one of his most remarkable invitations for mere mortals to participate in a miracle: the feeding of the 5,000.
First there’s Jesus’ rather mystifying statement to the disciples at the cusp of the miracle. They come to him with a problem: “The people are hungry,” they say. “And there’s nothing for them to eat.” (And not a single McDonald’s in sight.)
And Jesus’ response? He doesn’t say, “I will give them something to eat” or “My Father will take care of them,” as we might expect. Instead, he says:
“You give them something to eat” (Luke 9:13, emphasis added).
Jesus knew all along that he would perform a miracle. But he wanted to invite the disciples to join him so they could be part of the adventure too. They balk at the invitation, though, shaking their heads at the sheer impossibility of it all: “We have no more than five loaves and two fish—unless we are to go and buy food for all these people.” Translation: Jesus, that’s impossible. We don’t have enough.
Then there’s the little boy in the story—the one behind the scenes, the one we never meet by name. But his story lives on, because he, too, was part of the miracle. He brought his lunch—the five meager loaves and the two fish—to Jesus, and in so doing, he got to participate in some divine multiplication.
And I wonder: when Jesus invites me to participate in a miracle with him, what do I say? When he whispers, “You feed them” (or “You comfort them” or “You pray for them” or “You love them”), do I respond like the disciples, with excuse upon excuse? I’m a realist, after all—I know that what I have isn’t sufficient; it will never come close to providing for the needs of the masses.
Or will I respond like the boy with his lunch box, bringing what I have with open hands? I’m still all too aware of the gap between what I have and what the situation requires, but I want to come anyway, trusting that Jesus will make up the difference.
What about you? Are you standing at the precipice of a miracle? Is Jesus inviting, beckoning, welcoming you to join him? I beg you—don’t be shy about bringing him the little you have. The Father already knows your little feet will never reach the pedals. He will bridge the gap; he will make up the difference.
He didn’t invite you because he needed your help. He invited you for the sheer joy of having you along for the ride.
Stephanie Rische is a senior editor of nonfiction books at Tyndale House Publishers, as well as a freelance writer for publications such as Her.meneutics, Today’s Christian Woman, Christian Marriage Today, and Significant Living magazine. She and her husband, Daniel, live in the Chicago area, where they enjoy riding their bikes, making homemade ice cream, and swapping bad puns. You can follow Stephanie’s blog, “Stubbing My Toe on Grace,” at StephanieRische.com.