Wednesday Wisdom 🙂
Inspiration for this week comes from the Gospel of Luke 9: 10-17
Jesus Feeds 5,000
For a large chunk of my life, I read the story of Jesus feeding 5,000 as a representation of Jesus’ power manifested in the form of a miracle. Somehow, 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish multiplied to satisfy an enormous crowd of people in need. A couple of years ago, the discipleship pastor at our church challenged me to read it from another angle. This weekend, he reminded me of it again…
What if the story is also a look into how “Coach Jesus” molds and shapes the disciples as he prepares them to be leaders?
The story begins with the disciples returning from one of their early mission trips without Jesus (Luke 9:1-6). They are feeling pretty successful and eager to share of their experiences healing others, so Jesus takes them off to a quiet area “to debrief”. We aren’t told what Jesus imparts during that private time with them, but the coach in me suspects that it might include a gentle refocus and reminder of the long-term team goal. That private time of coaching runs short as crowds follow them and assemble to hear more teaching. As the afternoon wears on, the disciples become concerned that food is scarce and they are far from town. They ask Jesus to send the crowds away to find food and lodging for the night.
But instead of sending the crowds away, Coach Jesus issues a challenge by replying – “You feed them.”
I can imagine the looks of disbelief on the disciples faces. I think I’ve seen something similar from time to time when I’ve put together a really challenging workout for my swimmers. “Coach Anne, you must be crazy, how are we going to do that?!” My reply is consistent, “One lap at a time” 😉 In the story, we see Jesus break the task of feeding 5,000 down into “teaching pieces”, offering tools and support, but steadfastly expecting that the disciples will get it done. It was a coaching moment when Jesus asked his team to do something that seemed impossible to them. Jesus knew they could do it, and prepared to coach them through the experience.
Regardless of whether or not you have ever been a coach or a teacher, I bet that you can remember a time when you were pushed by someone past your comfort level. The ask was big and (in the moment) your doubts were bigger! Hopefully, you had a great support group that helped you move to that next level, that next stage – to go perhaps where you never thought you could go.
The road to excellence isn’t meant to be comfortable.
All throughout the Gospels, Jesus is clear about this. But, He also clearly shares the message that we are not meant to travel it alone. By trusting God, we get to be on “Team Jesus”. Then, if we are willing to put in work and effort, all things are possible. For many of us, settling is a huge and comfortable trap that grips at us. It talks us out of moving deeper and keeps us from finding the joy that exists in being all-in on our spiritual journey. Settling temps us into believing that easier is better.
I used to look at my swim coach the same way that my swimmers sometimes look at me – with disbelief and incredulity. I know that I also look at Jesus that way when the Holy Spirit puts something difficult on my heart. Over time, I am learning that the next stage is always worth the initial discomfort. I always end up somewhere better that makes it well worth the effort 🙂
In our minds, there may only be 5 loaves of bread and two fish, but Coach Jesus sees a different picture. A picture where reaching our potential enables an unlimited number of people to be nourished with 12 baskets of leftovers remaining.