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Now Serving Number 5,000
by Cris Cramer
8/22/2011 / Devotionals
John 6:26 (NIV):
"Jesus answered, 'I tell you the truth, you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill.'"
This verse follows the story of Jesus feeding the five thousand, or possibly the many more thousands, since the text only mentions the number of men present. Jesus accepted a little bit of bread and fish from a boy and distributed it to the people who came to see him, and it mysteriously increased so that everyone had enough to eat, as much as they wanted.
This verse comes a while later, after Jesus and his disciples cross the Sea of Galilee and fetch up in a town called Capernaum. Some of those who had been miraculously fed come to Jesus there and ask when he arrived, because he left the crowd on the other shore without their knowing. Jesus doesn't answer their question, instead commenting that the reason they came looking for him wasn't because they saw a miracle, but because they had their bellies filled.
Ouch. Jesus shows us that he's aware not all of the people seeking him out were really interested in God; what they wanted was for their needs to be met. They wanted to be fed. They wanted to be healthy and strong. They wanted, in short, for God to serve them, rather than the other way around. Whether or not they realized it themselves or could ever admit it if they did.
The same thing appears earlier in the story; the reason Jesus withdrew from the crowd and left that place without their knowledge is because he knew they wanted to make him king. They wanted to force a change in government, and force him to be the head. And Jesus wasn't having it. It wasn't time for him to be king, and it wasn't his job to be king in the way they intended. So he sideslips them and goes his way, and then greets them with blunt words when they catch up to him. "You don't really want me," he tells them, "you don't really want God. You want what we can do for you. You want to be served."
How easy it would be to tsk-tsk them, those Galileans who wanted Jesus as king on their terms, not his. How foolish it would be if I did. Am I so sure of my own motivations? What do I want God for? When I tell him "I love you and I want to live for you and be part of your family," is it because I really love God and love his family, or am I just looking for a cushy spot to curl up in and mind my own business? Am I genuinely trying to serve, or is my "service" intended to manipulate him into serving me back?
Sometimes I really don't know. However much I want to serve, or think I want to serve, I don't know where my will and intention breaks, and where serving crosses into selfishness. I don't always know what I really believe, underneath. Life gets muddled. I get muddled too.
So I'm thinking today about loaves and fishes, about miracles and sacrificial service. I wonder who is really the royal personage around here, myself or Jesus. I'm asking him to help me understand myself, and to let him be king, on his own terms; to feed me, on his own terms; to help me trust and serve him rather than myself.
Cris Cramer is a freelance writer of devotional articles that explore the human side of the Biblical stories and the personal nature of God. She writes other essays about life, faith, and the struggle to reinvent herself at stitchesandwords.wordpress.com. 2011 by Cris Cramer. All rights reserved
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