Characters in the Shadows: The Nameless Crowd

When Jesus was crucified, where were all the people He healed, delivered and fed? The answer lies not in where they were, but who they were.

Who

They were, you see, people that did not count. There were the quintessential characters in the shadows — a small army of them. It was the leadership of the Jewish nation who were hell-bent on getting rid of this character who challenged their teaching and exposed their hypocrisy. It was the leadership who had power and authority to judge and dispense punishment. A leper from Jericho or a blind person who spent his life by the pool of Bethesda had no say; they simply didn’t count.

Now, if you were all-wise like Jesus, and you knew you were going to be condemned, who would you lavish your miracles on? Those who can help you, or those who can’t? Jesus’ answer is found in Luke 14: when you give (or help) do that for the people who cannot repay you. He walked that talk. He still does, in fact.

You may think your country is the first one to have a political leadership that’s corrupt, evil and incompetent. You would be wrong, of course: the Jewish leadership that put Jesus on the cross set the tone for the governments we all endure today. And, just like today, the corrupt and inept government made sure any dissenting voices, the crowd in the shadows, could not be heard.

God’s Way

The Bible doesn’t say anything about this, but I’m convinced that the disregarded and voiceless masses, the blind, leprous, possessed and otherwise debilitated would have stormed Calvary if they could, and freed Jesus from the intense pain and humiliation. (Can you imagine hanging naked next to your city’s busiest freeway?) And they would have felt victorious.

God’s way, though, is different from that of the flesh. He not only endures evil, he counts on it to accomplish His plans. God doesn’t need us to storm the enemy in the physical realm. His weapons are invisible to newspapers, television and even the internet. When you or I encounter evil or malice, even just misunderstanding or lack of appreciation, our first inclination is react with the flesh, to defend God (or ourselves), storm Calvary and take Jesus down from the cross. But… what is God’s plan? If something happens outside of His will, is His arm too short to step in and take care of it? Of course not. 

More often than not God’s plan is counterintuitive to the flesh — love instead of letters to the editor, help instead of rebuttal. My challenge, and yours, is to know God’s mind in every situation. That, of course, requires us making time to commune with Him, to know His mind in everything. And often He takes His time sharing those thoughts with us, doesn’t he? Just like He took His time revealing the wonderful plan that changed the world and crippled the evil empire forever.

How much time have you spent lately to simply commune?

commune

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Characters In The Shadows: A Nameless Boy

They don’t see me. They don’t even know my name. They don’t remember me. They’ll surely never miss me. How often have thoughts like those drifted through your mind?

Today’s story is about someone the gospel writers didn’t know. But being unknown and insignificant didn’t stop the Lord Jesus from using that person to be part of one of his most famous miracles.

I’m talking about the boy whose bread and fish Jesus Christ used to feed the crowd.

The Only One?

Jesus  multiplied bread twice, once feeding 5,000 and the other time 4,000. It’s interesting to note in passing that the only miracle all four gospels mention is the first one, where our Lord fed 5,000 people. For the mystics among us who look at numbers, the Bible tells us seven times how Jesus multiplied bread to feed a crowd. But only the seventh description (John 6) includes the detail of where the original food came from: that nameless lad.

We don’t know his name, but his willingness to part with his much needed lunch is recorded forever.

When we read about it, we hardly even pay the lad any attention. What better time, then, to do it than now?

Have you ever gone to a picnic and thought, “Hmmm… the weather could get chilly, let me throw a jacket in the car, just in case?” And, sure enough, some clouds and a breeze indeed decided to crash the party. You felt vindicated by your foresight.

But… someone else didn’t have your foresight and forgot to bring a jacket. The upshot? You give them your jacket… and now your suffering just doubled: it’s one thing to get caught unprepared, but that just shifts to another level when you were careful to prepare, but you end up suffering anyway. I can’t count how many times I brought chairs to a picnic because I don’t like sitting on the ground. You guessed it: I usually end up having to sit on the ground anyway, even if I bring four extra chairs… because there’s always someone with puppy dog eyes who didn’t bring a chair and wants to sit in our circle (if only for the chairs).

Back to the lad. Having a good Jewish mama, he was prepared. Those around him may have just hurried along the lakeshore to hear the fast-becoming-famous young preacher, not giving a thought to lunch or dinner.

But not our lad. He had lunch. He was prepared.

Prepared for what?

There’s no way his mother woke up that morning saying, “I’ve got to fix my boy a good lunch, because that’ll get him a nice mention in that new book they’ll be writing in a decade or two.” Perhaps the lad was sent to help his dad or a neighbor work a field. We know kids, they never come prepared for anything; they have to be told. And even then, there’s usually some reluctance to follow instructions. But mothers are mothers, always taking care of business, even when those who benefit fuss and moan about it. So she packed him a lunch and made sure he took it.

We’ve all experienced it: you walk along the sidewalk when suddenly you see three people gathered together, looking intently at something across the street. What do you do? You stop, of course, join the group, and look in the same direction to see what they’re looking at. It’s just what we humans do.

So, here was the lad, on his way somewhere, when suddenly there was this mad rush along the shore of Lake Galilee. What does he do? Join the rush, of course. Would his mother have approved? Probably not.

We know the diversion was worth it, because this young preacher had wisdom nobody had heard before. Everyone was so captivated by the teachings of the carpenter’s son from a few villages up the road nobody noticed time flying.

Until the good Master said, “That’s all, folks.” Then, to his close followers: “Okay, let’s eat. Hey, guys, go feed ’em!”

We know the story. The disciples were aghast. (Interesting aside: you would think if the Master multiplied bread once to feed 5,000 people they’d know He can do it again without breaking a sweat. So, why then were they aghast again the second time this happened? That’s something I’ve not heard anybody preach on, but I’ve always wondered: what does that say about the disciples?)

Anyway, the disciples looked to the crowd to answer the Lord’s question:

What do you have?

Have you ever thought about it: are we to believe that in a crowd of 5,000 people only one single person brought food? Impossible. Too many Jewish mamas in the neighborhood for that to happen. I think the more likely explanation would be nobody else wanted to part with their lunch. “Sorry, buddy, I’m not giving my lunch to someone who can’t think farther than their nose!” The Jews of the time all wore robes of some sort, so it would have been easy to hide their lunch.

Jesus no doubt knew that.

He easily could have used the situation as a good opportunity for a fast and perhaps a good, home hitting message related to fasting or loving thy neighbor, but He knew when to stop preaching, and opted to bless instead.

Using the humble lunch of an anonymous boy.

It’s not your name or fame that’s important. It’s the courage of your obedience that really matters in God’s kingdom.

He knows your name.

He remembers you and He uses each one of us in ways we cannot foresee.

If you will offer up what little preparation you made, there’s no telling how many people He can feed with it.

Lunch