Feeding the 5000 – Let’s Get Organized

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

Okay, now we have something to work with to feed 5000+ people—five barley loaves of bread and two fish. (See Feeding the 5000 – Time to Eat) Not a lot to go on, but then it wouldn’t be a miracle if the food was already plentiful, now would it?

Being an organized person, I love the next scene in this power-packed day. Jesus saw the need for getting things organized and he asked the disciples to help Him. We have hind sight. We know what’s going to take place, but they didn’t.

Jesus gives two instructions. Pretty simple.

Jesus replied, “Tell them to sit down in groups of about fifty each.” Luke 9:15

Sit on the grass (the” grassy slopes” John says)—in groups of 50. Easy breezy, you say? But look at the crowd! We discover they are 5000 strong.

I’m going to give you a little sneak preview of how I plan to construct this scene in my next book about Matthew.

Peter stood straight up, hands on hips. “He wants us to do what?”

Matthew turned to Peter, “He wants the people to sit in groups of 50 or so.”

Gesturing to the crowd of thousands, Peter complains, “You mean we have to count off to 50 that many times?” 

“Peter, can you usually get about ten men in a boat?”

“A big boat.”

“Just think five boatloads in each group.”

“Oh, I see.” So Peter shouts over to some of the other fishermen disciples and repeats the plan.

Matthew smiles and quickly sums up a group of ten men. “The master wants you to sit on the grass,” he tells them. As they sit, he motions another group of ten to join them. Then another ten, “Will you join this group, please?” And so forth for five tens—fifty!

Then he turns to another group of ten. “Please form a new group by sitting here.” To another ten, “Please join this new group.” And on and on.

Keep in mind that they’re going to need 100 groups of 50. That means each disciple must organize about eight groups of 50. As you can see, it’s a mammoth task, but with each disciple helping, it is do-able. It will take time, however. 

No doubt some in the back begin sitting when they see others sit. Then you have the problem of asking some to get up and move to form separate groups. Nothing is easy when you’re dealing with massive groups of people.

I imagine the disciples have been so busy with the “project” that they haven’t considered what’s coming next. They will eventually realize that all this preparation will serve them well. They will be able to move around the people and know who has been served and who hasn’t. Much more orderly! A great lesson for us in the value of planning ahead.

Next week is the big climax. How amazed the disciples and the people will be when Jesus feeds them all with just five loads of bread and two fish.

~ Joyce ~

 

 

Point of View – Ear Cut Off

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Seeking His Heart

Perhaps you remember the incident in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus had taken the disciples with him at a late hour to pray and to prepare for what He knew would be his most difficult task yet, his crucifixion.

He asks his followers to pray and watch and takes Peter, James, and John further into the garden. Then, He goes even further for his own private time.

Eventually, the temple guards, along with the religious leaders, and the high priest’s servants come with their clubs and swords to arrest Jesus.

Matthew would have been there but farther back from Jesus. He reports it this way:

Then the men stepped forward, seized Jesus and arrested him. With that, one of Jesus’ companions reached for his sword, drew it out and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear. Matthew 26:50-51

Mark basically reports the same information as Matthew.

Dr. Luke, however, has an interest in what happened to this servant’s ear. As he investigates the details, he discovers two new things.

…one of them struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear. But Jesus answered, “No more of this!” And he touched the man’s ear and healed him. Luke 22:50-51

So, we learn from Luke that it is the right ear (whatever that matters) and, more importantly, that Jesus heals the man. Even in the midst of the turmoil and danger, Jesus cares for this enemy who has been injured.

And now, we go to John’s description.

Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.) John 18:10

Ah, two more pieces of the puzzle. Peter was the one swinging the sword and Malchus was the name of the poor recipient of the sword. Thank you, John, for once again giving us names.

John was closer in proximity to Jesus, thus observing Peter and Malchus. In addition, it seems that John had a relationship to Caiaphas, the high priest, and others in the court.

Simon Peter and another disciple [John] were following Jesus. Because this disciple [John] was known to the high priest, he went with Jesus to the high priest’s courtyard, but Peter had to wait outside the door. [John] came back, spoke to the girl on duty there and brought Peter in. John 18:15-16

Apparently, John knew Malchus and also one of Malchus’ relatives. John mentions this relative as one of Peter’s accusers in the courtyard scene. (John 18:26)

Once again, we see different points of view. Matthew and Mark mention the incident in passing. Luke investigates his interest as a doctor. But John has personal information. Our views are valued more when we personally know those involved and have done reliable investigation. Something good to remember as we give our points of view.

~ Joyce ~  

Cock Crowing Experiences

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

Ever remember a time when you’ve had a moment of truth?

 

I took my grandchildren to a skating rink recently and it dawned on me, I’ll never skate again. Arthritis has made it impossible, definitely not a smart thing to even consider.

Sometimes we have more serious moments of truth, “cock crowing” experiences I will call them.

Several years ago, I lived next door to a lady who I doubted was a Christian. I made a few attempts to be neighborly to get to know her. She was friendly enough, but we didn’t have many interactions. I kept thinking I would be able to develop enough relationship to witness directly to her, but before I knew it, our new house was built and we moved away. I realized our paths would likely never cross again. I lost my opportunity. The cock crowed. 

On a far deeper level, Simon Peter had his moment of truth. He had boldly followed Jesus. At the last supper, Jesus tried to warn the disciples that they would fall away, but Peter pledged his allegiance. Jesus told Peter,

“I tell you the truth, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.”

But Peter declared,

“Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” Matthew 26:34-35

Peter and the others went with Jesus to the garden. When the the temple guard and religious leaders came for the arrest, Peter drew his sword to protect Jesus and ended up cutting off Malchus’ ear. Jesus rebuked Peter and restored the ear.

In spite of this rebuke, Peter (and John) continued to follow in the shadows when the leaders arrested Jesus and took Him away. All the other disciples fled. Peter even went into the courtyard outside the place where the leaders were questioning Jesus. That should count for something!

But then one of the servant girls questioned Peter. “You are one of his followers, aren’t you?” “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said. Denial one.

Later, another questioned him. “I don’t know the man,” he said. Denial two.

Still warming themselves around the fire, another said, “Surely you are one of them. Your Galilean accent gives you away.” Peter called down curses. “I don’t know the man!”

The cock crowed.

Peter’s moment of truth came. Instantly, he remembered Jesus’ warning. Peter went outside and wept bitterly.

We’ve all probably had words we wish we could draw back in. Moments of devastating self-awareness—cock crowing experiences.

Thankfully, Resurrection Day would come. What will Peter do with that? 

~ Joyce ~    

 

Peter – Mercy

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As morning breaks, we find Peter still weeping in anguish over failing his master. Not only does he deny that he even knows Jesus, but he does it three times!

And on the third time, as Jesus is led through the courtyard, Jesus looks over at Peter. Then the cock crows.

Peter flees, weeping bitterly.

Have you ever blurted out words that you wish you could pull back in? You realize that once those words are out there, there is no retrieving them. You stew on how to fix it. You wonder how to make amends, how to calm troubled waters, waters that you have stirred up with careless or hurtful words.

No doubt, Peter cries out for mercy and forgiveness.

We find snippets of encouragement in three of the Gospels that lets us know that Peter has not been “written off.” In Mark, the women are at the tomb with their spices when the angel tells them that Jesus is not there but has risen! Then the angel tells them,

“But go, tell the disciples and Peter…” Mark 16:7

Luke tells about Jesus’ appearance to the two on the way to Emmaus and how “their hearts burned within them.” When they go back to Jerusalem to share this news with the disciples, they say,

“It is true! The Lord is risen and has appeared to Simon.” Luke 24:34 

They go on to tell their story. This little phrase, “has appeared to Simon” can be found no other place. My Bible notes say nothing about this verse. My big, thick commentary, which typically covers every verse, skips right over this one. But there it is, specifically mentioning Simon Peter. 

In John, we have the narrative of Mary Magdalene’s first visit to the tomb. She runs to Peter and John to tell them that it is empty and she doesn’t know where they have taken him.

Peter’s old zest returns, and he and John go running to the tomb. John, the younger one, arrives first and peers in.  Peter catches up and, in typical Peter-style, steps right into the tomb. 

He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus’ head. The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen. John 20:6-7

The cloths were too neatly left for this to have been a grave robbery. John says, “He saw and believed.” Jesus’ appearance in the upper room that Sunday night seals the deal. Interestingly enough, we hear no words from Peter during the resurrection appearance. I imagine he is glad simply to be included.

Mercy. God’s mercy allows for forgiveness and restitution. He provided it for Peter in these subtle ways and he offers it to us as well.

The next time your tongue starts to throw unwise, hurtful words out of your mouth, rein them in! But know that He offers mercy and grace.

~ Joyce ~   

 

 

Peter – Defense to Denial

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Again, we will see the ups and downs of Peter’s personality.

Jesus is in the Garden of Gethsemane, a favorite place to get away for prayer, but this will be His most agonizing prayer of all as He submits to the will of God. He asks Peter, James, and John to keep watch and pray. The late night and weariness of fear overtake them and they fall asleep even after Jesus pleads with them to keep watch.

Soon they are wide awake when they hear a mob of temple guards, scribes, and Pharisees approaching. Their lit torches cast frightening shadows through the trees while swords clang at their sides.

Jesus questions the intruders. “Who is it you want?” Though at first startled, the guards pick themselves up and push forward. Peter jumps in to defend Jesus. He asks,

“Lord, should we strike with our swords?” Luke 22:49

But in typical Peter-style, he is already swinging his sword and ends up cutting off the ear of Malchus, the servant of the high priest.

Then Jesus answered, No more of this!” And he touched the man’s ear and healed him. Luke 22:51

Jesus is arrested and taken away. Before we condemn Peter for his rash behavior, remember two things—his good intention was to defend Jesus. Secondly, other than John, Peter determines to follow the crowd all the way to the high priest’s house. The other disciples flee for their lives.

Jesus is taken first to the previous high priest, Annas, then bound and led to Caiaphas. While Jesus is with Annas, Peter warms himself by a fire with some of the servants. A woman recognizes him and accuses him of being one of the disciples which he flatly denies.

A man recognizes his Galilean accent and repeats the accusation. Again, Peter denies with great emphasis that he doesn’t even know him. About the time Jesus is led through the court yard to Caiaphas, a third person makes the same charge. Peter protests, “I don’t know what you’re talking about!” 

Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed. The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.” Luke 22:60-61

Within the course of late night to early morning, Peter has shifted from defending Jesus with a sword to denying him. Now, in despair, he “went out and wept bitterly.” This is an all-time low for our friend.

We reach those low points in our lives—defeats, crushing blows, humiliation, harsh words, bitter attitudes, heart-breaking news. Sometimes we must go through humiliating experiences to become what God intends for us, so take heart, Peter will eventually become that powerful rock like his name. Remember, God named him not for what he was, but for what he could be. Same for you and me.

~ Joyce ~

 

Peter – One Step Back

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In last week’s blog Peter rose to the top of the list with his comment. (See “Peter – Time to Shine”) This week we see that he’s felt emboldened to overstep his authority and will end up taking a step back.

Jesus begins a new emphasis in His ministry—preparing the disciples for His coming suffering and death. It isn’t what they want to hear and they have a time dealing with it much less accepting it. They don’t want to travel down this road.

                   

Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priest, and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed (yes, KILLED) and on the third day be raised to life. Matthew 16:21

Peter didn’t want anything to upset the glorious earthly plans he had for Jesus. So Peter, the one who made the great declaration of faith earlier, takes it upon himself to pull Jesus aside and rebuke Him. Yes, Peter rebukes Jesus!

“Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!”

Jesus has infinite patience, but Peter has overstepped his boundaries and this defiance must be quenched. Jesus turns to Peter and says,

“Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” Matthew 16:23

Then Jesus turns to the other disciples and says those hard words.

“If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” Matthew 16:24

What does this mean for us? We want to be mighty men and women in the kingdom work; we want to be bold like Peter, but like Peter we become weak. We overstep or we take a step backward.

                  

I think about those times when I’m in the sauna after water aerobics at the Y. Sometimes there’s a believer among the group who initiates a comment about the Bible or morality or life in general. Often I join right in or sometimes I feel compelled to say something profound, but by the time I have the boldness to say it, the conversation has turned another way. An opportunity lost.

I want to be a brave warrior for you, Lord, but I am weak. Help me to deny myself, my fears, and inabilities and take up the strength that you modeled for us on the cross and follow you.

~ Joyce ~

 

Peter – Time to Shine!

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I love this fall season—the colors so vibrant in the sunshine. Throughout the summer, trees blend together in shades of green. But this time of year, one by one, trees and bushes shout out, “Look at me!” Some leaves turn bright yellow, others vivid orange.

We have burning bushes in our yard and several yards around us. Right now they are all set aflame with fiery red. It’s their turn to shine!

And so it was with Peter. It was his time to shine.

Jesus and the disciples had traveled far north to Caesarea Philippi, named for Caesar and Herod’s son Philip, a dark place. The people had heard only minimal teachings of Jesus and seen hardly any miracles. Perhaps the disciples had mingled among the people which led Jesus to ask two questions. (Matthew 16:13-20)

“Who do people say the Son of Man is?

One disciple reports,

“Some say, John the Baptist.”

Another reports,

“Others say Elijah.”

A third disciple speaks up,

“And still others say Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

Perhaps Jesus pokes the campfire where they are warming themselves, lays his stick down, and looks at those on his left intently.

“But what about you?” (Then to those on his right side) Who do you say I am?

Was there a moment of silence? If so, I don’t think it was long before Peter spoke with gentle sincerity.

“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

The fire crackles. All eyes turn to Jesus. Everyone holds their breath.

“Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven.”

Pure victory for Peter. His time had come. His time to shine!

Jesus goes on to talk about two words for “rock.” In the Greek, “Peter” is petros which means detached stone and “rock” is petra which means bedrock. Jesus says,

“I tell you that you are Peter (detached stone) and on this rock (bedrock) I will build my church, and the gates of Hades (hell) will not overcome it.”

Christ will build the church on this declaration of faith. Peter will come to be a part, a detached piece, of that bedrock of faith. Let us rejoice in his declaration and learn to declare it ourselves, that Jesus is the Christ, the Promised One, the Son of the living God! 

~ Joyce ~ 

 

 

 

Peter – Walking on Water

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                       Seeking His Heart

As we come to that familiar passage where Peter walks on the water, we must remember that he has come a long way in his experiences with Jesus.

Peter has watched Jesus heal many—the demon possessed, a leper, the deaf, the blind, a centurion’s servant, even his own mother-in-law. 

When Jesus sent the disciples out two by two to preach, He empowered them to heal. Excitedly, they came back to report in, but their report took a back seat as Jesus dealt all day teaching a large crowd. 

At the end of the day, this crowd of 5,000 was fed by two fish and five loaves of bread. 

After this miraculous feeding, Jesus sent the disciples out in a boat while He dismissed the crowd and stayed on shore to spend quiet time in prayer.

After meditating for a while, Jesus looked up to see a storm brewing. The disciples’ boat rocked back and forth in the wind and waves. In His humanity, Jesus walked to the shore, but the divinity of Jesus took over and He walked on the water toward the boat. 

When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear. But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” 

At this point, spontaneous Peter sprang into action.

“Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water.” 

“Come,” Jesus said.

That was all he needed. Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. Yeah, Peter, you did it!

Uh-oh, here comes the “but.”

But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

Happens to us all, right? When he saw the wind, he took his eyes off Jesus. How often have we done that? We get all hyped up about doing something important, even something spiritual, and walk toward Jesus, but then get distracted. We begin to doubt. We lose faith. The very things Jesus told Peter.

“You of little faith, why did you doubt?” Matthew 14:26-31

Jesus caught sinking Peter and they climbed in the boat. In spite of Peter’s actions, two things happened;

… the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” 

We can feel for Peter and say, “At least he tried.” That’s true, but my take-away from Peter’s experience is remembering how I can get so entangled by distractions, that I take my eyes off the main source of my strength.

When we take His outreached hand, two things happen, the winds of doubt die down, and we worship Him in awe.

~ Joyce ~

 

 

Peter – Born Again

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Back to Peter. Last time, we found Peter out in the boat with Jesus. He doesn’t catch fish all night, but at Jesus’ command, the boat overflows with the fish he hauls in.

This personal miracle seems to speak to Peter in a unique way. He is convicted of his sin, for he kneels at Jesus’ feet and cries out,

“Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!” Luke 5:8

Peter will have much to learn, but yielding to Christ is a beginning step of trusting.

The night Nicodemus comes to visit Jesus provides another understanding of who Jesus is. Possibly Peter could have been nearby as Nicodemus comes to ask his questions. Nicodemus says,

“Rabbi, we know that you have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” John 3:2

Jesus cuts right to the chaste of what Nicodemus needs to hear.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, He cannot see the kingdom of God.” John 3:3

Perhaps Peter thinks the same thing as Nicodemus. How can a man enter his mother’s womb and be born a second time? They soon learn that Jesus is speaking figuratively. We are born of flesh—born physically, but we must also be born of the spirit—born spiritually.

How to do that? Another part of the conversation includes John 3:16…

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have life eternal.”

Believe. Believe and not perish. Have eternal life. Jesus goes on…

“For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through him.”John 3:17

Saved through him.

Little by little, Peter must internalize these words. He has the next three years to do so as he learns to trust what Jesus says and does. Jesus will correct Peter, lead him, empower him, teach him, rebuke him… forgive him.

But the first step for Peter—and for us all—is to be assured of spiritual rebirth.

How do we share the joy of believing and looking forward to life eternal with the Father?

I have a friend at the Y with whom I chit-chat at times when we end up on the recumbent bikes side by side. Last week, she was wringing her hands, so to speak, about all the weather disasters and the mass killings, etc. I said, “Oh I know, it’s awful. It makes us realize how much we need to depend on our faith.” She was getting off her bike, but at least I planted the thought.

We must share our faith, even in simple ways, because there’s a world out there that hasn’t come to spiritual rebirth. Help us, O Lord, to be bold.

~ Joyce ~

Peter – Going Fishing

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Peter has spent many hours with Jesus. He heard Him teach and watched Him heal—even his mother-in-law.

Now, Jesus will touch Peter at his most vulnerable point, his profession. Peter has been a fisherman of fish for a long time, but on this day, Jesus will teach him how to become a fisher of men. Notice the seven steps.

  1. Look for opportunities

Jesus is standing by the Sea of Galilee trying to speak to the people, but the crowd is having trouble seeing and hearing Him. So… he saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen who were mending their nets.

2. Seize available resources

Jesus gets into one of Peter’s boats and asks him to push away from the shore just a bit, then he sat down and taught the people from the boat.

3. Move from reluctance to obedience

When Jesus finishes speaking to the people, he tells Peter, ” Pull out into the deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” Peter responds, “We’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” 

4. Recognize when God’s power is at work

They catch so many fish the nets begin to break. They signaled their partners to come and help, and they came and filled their boats so full they began to sink.

5. Allow God to stir a deep confession

Even with all the experience Peter has already had with Jesus, nothing touches him like this. Jesus has entered Peter’s domain. He falls to his knees and, like Isaiah, he says, “Go away from me Lord; I am a sinful man!” 

6. Encourage people to catch others

James and John are also a part of this miracle. They’re sitting there with a boatload of fish as well.  Jesus tells Peter, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will catch men.”

7. Surrender completely

Likely, Andrew was also in the boat with Peter. So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him(Story found in Luke 5:1-11)

How do we apply these steps? Allow me to share my pilgrimage with my friends at the “Y”. I work out on 10 machines and do water aerobics for my rheumatoid arthritis. Since this is one of the few places I meet with people outside the church, I rather see it as my mission field. I try to observe #1—”Look for Opportunities.” That means, I try to be friendly and have Christlike attitudes. 

(#2) The “available resource” I have is the book the Lord led me to write about Nicodemus. Some of the men and women I see each week are devoted Christians, many are in Catholic churches where they do little Bible study, if any, some have only nominal backgrounds in Christianity, and one 80 year-old says she has never been to a church.

(#3 at work.) 21 of these wonderful people bought my book over the past two years and say it was a blessing to them.  The 80 year-old asked for my first book as well. (step #4)

I’m still trying to be a fisher of people. What joy it will be to reach #7! How is your fishing coming along?

~ Joyce ~