One can prepare for a trip…
That’s what all of us here did. The 2CC Israel pilgrims packed our bags and imagined going on an adventure that would take us to the place where Jesus walked. For me, my imagination filled with all of the things that I had learned about in school along with all of the stories I had read in the Bible.
However, within the first day, the reality of what I was getting myself into quickly began taking shape as a world I never saw became real.
Here is an account of one of those instances.
Our guide and seminary professor Dr. Widbin, brought us to a hillside where the popular prophetic hillbilly/rabbi and his disciples had drawn a crowd of people. On that hot hillside many of us huddled for some of the shade under the single tree there. Dr. Widbin began telling us a story all of us had heard before but he prefaced with this caveat, "this may challenge you a bit." He knew we had read this as a story of magic, awe, and wonder...a divine intervention that while powerful, presents Jesus as one who did things that today, we as believers, could only fathom in our wildest of imaginations...
Crowds drawn, families would have covered the hillside, rushing to find a good spot like all of us had, parents would have surely brought along at least some snacks for their kids so that they could enjoy what the popular prophet Jesus would bring.
Maybe a healing...
Maybe a transfiguration...
Maybe a resurrection...
Maybe a mind-blowing sermon...
Maybe even...feeding all of these people that had come to see him.
And so Jesus looked out and began to tell the people about how the kingdom of Heaven operated. The kingdom of heaven is like...
It is like a person who had brought food to a picnic for themselves. They arrived to the picnic and found that some people didn't have any food. It is a place where people might dare to offer a small portion of their food with those around them.
The crowds likely thought, as all would, this a kind gesture, "ah Jesus, what a wonderful teaching."
He wasn't done...
The prophet continued... The kingdom of heaven is like a person who brought a picnic for themselves and then gave it all away to those who didn't have any food.
And now, the crowds, maybe they began to think Jesus had only become so popular because he was a tad bit crazy.
"All of it? What about me?, My children, my family first..." the crowd would have thought...as I would have too.
One parent may have thought, "maybe we should leave. It's getting late and we only have a little food for our kids, this man is silly."
But then it happened. One of the kids in the crowd, unwrapping the bread and small fish their parents had packed for them to eat walks up to the prophet and says, "like this Rabbi?" and hands Jesus the bread and fish.
A child sharing all their food with a stranger.
Then it happened.
The child had set off a chain reaction of generosity.
Looking in their baskets, led by the likes of a child, the people began to see what Jesus was teaching. Sharing, exchanging, feeding one another, looking out for one another, making sure no one had any need...
Thousands were fed that day because Jesus had brought the people the way of this kingdom he had been talking about.
This was the miracle he brought. A new paradigm, a new way of living, communal living , it was a kingdom that even a child could understand.
Jesus' miracle became more than just a text I once read...it became something I could imagine to see happening in my own community. If only I would stand up as he and challenge us to live lives of selflesslessness. Jesus taught his hearers that God was in this exchange, God would be found in the giving, and that it was this heart that he hoped all his disciples would adopt.
May we read the story today and ask, "how might I be the catalyst for a movement of Christ-like selflessness in my home, work, friendships, and the like?"
If a child could do it, I'm sure we could find a way as well.
What is it you and I are holding onto that is keeping the Kingdom of Heaven from finding its home in our genuine love for one another as the people of God?
You can begin at home, work, school, our churches, or anywhere but today we ask, "God lead me in your ways and help me to serve those you would have me serve just like you do 2000 years ago."