When reading familiar stories of Jesus’ earthly exploits, I have found it necessary to slow w-a-y down to fully understand the intricacies of the events. The feeding of the 5000 in John 6 is a case in point. Our attention is usually drawn to how five barley loaves and two fish could be miraculously multiplied to feed not only 5000 men, but women and children as well. I visualize everyone with full stomachs, relaxing and talking among themselves while the disciples are busy collecting 12 baskets of leftovers. I identify with eating more than I should because I was so hungry to begin with and the food was plentiful. I’m probably not paying attention to the waitstaff, what they do with the dishes, or when/where they disappear. That is exactly what happened when the disciples got into their boat and Jesus went to the mountain top to pray. No one noticed.
When Jesus finished praying, it was well beyond dark. He and His disciples had preplanned to meet in Capernaum, so He set out on foot, walking across the Sea of Galilee, the shortest distance. He walked three and a half miles through rough waters before catching up to them in the stalled boat, tossing about in high waves. Jesus was going to walk past them until they cried out in fear. This is another familiar story we usually read in isolation rather than in context about Jesus climbing into the boat, commanding the wind and waves to be still, and immediately being translated to their destination. What a day and night!
It was not until the next day when the crowd roused themselves from their sleep and food stupor that they realized Jesus and the disciples were gone. So, they set off over land and by boat to try to find them. Upon discovering Jesus in Capernaum, their first question was “Rabbi, when did you get here?” (John 6:25b) Jesus ignored the question. Wrong question. They were focused on the handout that satisfied growling stomachs, rather than the fact that Jesus was the spiritual food of life.
Do we not err similarly when we want God to change our circumstances rather than change us through them? We want God to restore peace, stop senseless killing, expose corruption, right the moral ship, fix our families. When we are pelting Jesus with questions in crises and get no answers, we assume He doesn’t hear or doesn’t care. Could His silence mean we are asking the wrong questions or asking with wrong motives?
All too often our question to Him is “Why did You allow this to happen??” Most of the time that goes unanswered as it is the wrong question. A better question is, “What do You want me to learn through this?” Our dependence on Jesus should not be for handouts, eliminating the consequences of our bad choices, or extricating us from unbearable circumstances. Instead, we need His light shining to expose the darkness of our own hearts and wounds from our pasts that dictate our perspectives, words and actions. By individually asking the tough personal questions required to grow in His likeness, we should see victories in our lives, and collectively see a more vital, effective church in our communities. Who of us claiming to be Christ-followers will come to Him in trust, follow Him in obedience, and learn more of Him through our growing pains? That’s a good question!