John 6:5-9 – “5 Lifting up his eyes, then, and seeing that a large crowd was coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?” 6 He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he would do. 7 Philip answered him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread would not be enough for each of them to get a little.” 8 One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, 9 “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many?”
In the early 1900s, a woman by the name of Gladys Aylward felt called by God to become a missionary to China. Although she did her best to apply to work with the China Inland Mission, she was rejected and seen as unfit for missionary service due to her test scores, age, and maybe even stature (She was a short woman physically.). Although she was rejected, she was determined to go and saved up money every month from her job to buy a train ticket to China. Eventually, she arrived in China and began her work as a missionary. With little money and little support, she began by telling Bible stories at an Inn being run by a fellow missionary. Over the years, she also became a “foot inspector” for the Chinese government, making sure that the practice of foot binding was no longer continued. During and after this time, she also continued to share the Gospel and began to care for orphans. After twenty years of service, when she returned home, she was well-beloved by both the Chinese people she served as well as the church back home.1 This woman has gained so much respect that her life was even featured in the 1958 movie The Inn of the Sixth Happiness which starred Ingrid Bergman. Gladys Aylward is an inspiring example of a person that was seen by the world as nothing but was used by God to do something incredible. Who knows how many people have been affected by the work that she did? The person everyone thought was useless was used by God to bring His name countless glory.
Our passage today is an excerpt from John 6 that describes the miraculous “Feeding of the Five Thousand.” To summarize, a huge crowd of people that numbered 5000 men not including women and children came out to a secluded place to meet Jesus. After spending the day with Him listening to His teachings and watching Him perform miraculous healings, these people must have been exhausted and hungry. Knowing this, Jesus asked His disciples to feed the people. All His disciples could not believe what they had just heard come out of Jesus’ mouth. How could they find enough bread to feed this many people? According to Philip, even if they had two hundred denarii (two hundred days’ wages) worth of bread that wouldn’t be enough to feed all the people. It was at this time that Andrew, another disciple, would tell Jesus that all they had was five barley loaves and two fish and “…What are they for so many?” All the disciples were seeing was the impossible. They saw what they had and felt inadequate. They saw the small insignificant meal and could not imagine how it could be of any use. Jesus then took the bread and the fish, prayed to God, and began to share the food. In the end, the supply fed 5000 men not counting the women and children. Jesus took what every one of His disciples thought was worthless and used it to bring His name great glory.
When we as disciples of Jesus Christ feel inadequate for God’s task for our lives at hand, when we feel like we are useless or pathetic and incapable of being used by Him, when we feel like we are too stained of sinners to bring God glory, we need to remember that God takes the foolish things of this world to shame the wise, the weak of this world to shame the strong (1 Corinthians 1:27). We need to remember that God can take any one of us no matter how small, no matter how stained with past sins, no matter how unsmart, to bring Him glory. God took 300 men with Gideon to conquer the Midianites. God took David, the youngest of his family, to be one of the greatest kings of Israel. God took Rahab, who used to be a prostitute, to be a descendant in the line of Jesus. God took the things that the world saw as useless, as insignificant, as worthless and brought His name praise through them. Let us never forget that God takes those who are humble and willing to be used by Him for His work; not just those things that the world has labeled worthy of success. God took and used the small woman Gladys Aylward to care for many in China and to inspire missionaries today, and God can use you if you would just be willing to submit your life to Him. I want to close today with a quote by Gladys Aylward: “I wasn’t God’s first choice for what I’ve done for China. There was somebody else. I don’t know who it was — God’s first choice. It must have been a man — a wonderful man, a well-educated man. I don’t know what happened. Perhaps he died. Perhaps he wasn’t willing. And God looked down and saw Gladys Aylward.”1
1 “History of Mission: Gladys Aylward.” The Traveling Team. 2015. http://www.thetravelingteam.org/articles/gladys-aylward.
Luke 8:38-39 – “The man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying, ‘Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.’ And he went away, proclaiming throughout the whole city how much Jesus had done for him.”
Maybe I am speaking for myself, but I think everyone loves to be appreciated. When you do something for someone (although you are not doing it for recognition), it is always nice when that person is so happy that they want to share what you did for them with everyone around them. For example, I am overjoyed, when I do something nice for my girlfriend and she posts it on social media. It’s not because I want a whole bunch of people to know what I am doing, but it makes me feel like she is proud of me and appreciates what I did for her. It makes me feel like she is not ashamed of me.
And I am almost certain we have all been on the other side of the equation, in which we experienced something so amazing we couldn’t wait to share it with everyone around us. Based on what I have seen with friends and family as well as television, some of the guaranteed times this happens is when someone has just accepted a proposal/been proposed to or has a child born. Since I have not experienced either of these things, some examples when I personally felt this feeling was when I got my first training grant, when I bought my new car, and when I was first going out with my girlfriend (Some of my workmates can attest to how I couldn’t stop talking about her). Good news is just hard to keep in!
In our passage in Luke 8 today, we hear of a man who was demon possessed in a region of Israel known as the Gerasenes. This man was possessed by so many demons, that the demons called themselves Legion (likely as a reference to a legion of Roman soldiers). Although he would be restrained by the people in the town, he had a tendency to break out of them and run around naked in the wilderness that surrounded that town. When Jesus came to that place, he exorcised the demons, leaving the man in his right mind. When Jesus was leaving the country, the man wanted to go with Him, but Jesus told him, “No!” instead He wanted the man to go back home and share that all that God had done for him. In other words, Jesus told him to go home and share the good news. (As a side note, take a look at vs. 39 and how it describes that the man shared what Jesus had done for him, after Jesus told him to share what God had done for him. This is a clear indication that the man recognized Jesus as God as we should too.) The man then went home and did just that. He shared what Jesus did for him with everyone in the city. He did this likely because he appreciated all that Christ had done for him. He recognized how much Christ had changed his life.
We as disciples of Jesus Christ have also been given the same command by Jesus Christ, “Declare to everyone you know how much God has done for you.” God has given us life and health and protection. God has given us His Son and salvation. He has given us grace and mercy. He has called us to Himself and made us His children. Yet many of us feel ashamed to share the Gospel. Many of us feel ashamed to tell others about what God has done and is continuing to do in our lives. We often fail to show our appreciation for all that he has done for us. We unlike the man in the Gerasenes take for granted all that God has done for us. Let us change our attitudes and begin to reflect on all that God has done for us. Let us then go out and share with everyone we know what he has done in our lives. Let us share the Gospel of Jesus Christ, praising and worshipping our God, by declaring His wondrous works to the world. For Jesus has done so much for us.
Luke 5:18-20, 25 – “And behold, some men were bringing on a bed a man who was paralyzed, and they were seeking to bring him in and lay him before Jesus, but finding no way to bring him in, because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down with his bed through the tiles into the midst before Jesus. And when he saw their faith, he said, ‘Man, your sins are forgiven you.’…And immediately he rose up before them and picked up what he had been lying on and went home, glorifying God.”
If you have been to church for at least a few times in your life, you certainly have heard of what we as Christians call a testimony. To describe it in its simplest terms, a testimony is a retelling of how a person came to know Jesus Christ as His Lord and Savior. In a testimony, a Christian will usually describe how he was before he came to know Christ, what brought him to Christ and to become a Christian, and how he has changed since he has come to know Christ. When you have heard as many testimonies as I have, you will come to notice that every testimony is unique; almost never do you hear the same story. Each Christian finds Christ in his own way. Some people come to know Christ after struggling with drug addiction. Some people come to know Christ after a loss in the family. Others come to know Christ in a dramatic way in which they almost commit suicide but are somehow prevented by the grace of God. And others come through more common routes like a friend sharing the Gospel with them or at a summer camp where the Holy Spirit tugged at their hearts. Like I said before, each person comes to Christ in his or her own way.
My testimony is unique as well in that my spiritual journey sort of began since birth, because I grew up in a Christian household and went to church every week. I knew all the Bible stories and even read the Bible a few times by the time I was sixteen. But that’s when things took a weird turn in that, one night I felt something telling me that I needed to decide. I think that night I was being told that I needed to decide personally whether I wanted to become a Christian for myself or not, whether I wanted to place my own personal faith in God become a Christian or completely abandon it and become a Satanist. That night I told my dad I wanted to become a Christian and gave my life to Christ. In all reality though, I am not sure if that was the night I became a Christian, because after that point I still had my doubts; but it was definitely that night that my personal spiritual journey began. Over the years, I have come to know Christ deeper and more fully, and I think through this process I became a Christian. There was no one single moment where I prayed the sinner’s prayer, because I did that pretty often throughout my life. There was no single “Aha! Time.” It was just a gradual process that brought me to a point where I could say Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior. That is my testimony. Although other people can name a date, I cannot. All I know is that I trust Jesus as Lord and Savior and that I am a Christian.
Sometimes we as Christians can be judgmental with how someone comes to Christ. We may value one person’s testimony over another’s just because it has a few more bells and whistles and excitement. But in reality, we need to remember that each person’s spiritual journey is different, and people can come to know Christ in many ways. This does not mean that there are other ways of salvation, for salvation is only through one way – accepting Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. But how a person gets to that point and what happens afterwards will always be unique.
In our passage today, we find a paralytic man and his friends trying to meet Jesus to receive healing, but because of the huge crowd they could not, for the path was blocked. Instead of giving up though, they found an alternative way to bring their friend to Jesus by lowering him down the roof. When Jesus saw their faith, He healed the paralytic man and also forgave his sins. These friends did not come to Jesus the traditional way through the door, but an alternative route through the roof. But the end result was the same, by placing their faith in Jesus, they were healed/forgiven.
If you are a Christian already, take pride in your testimony even if it doesn’t have all the dramatic flair, because your way of coming to Christ is still unique. But if you are not a Christian, don’t wait for an “appropriate time” like a chapel service or an altar call, for the location doesn’t matter. You need not pray the sinner’s prayer word for word, verbatim. You need not memorize the whole Bible. All it takes is for you to put your faith and trust in Christ. Express it by praying, “Lord, I know that I am a sinner in need of a Savior. You are the Savior who died on the cross for me. In your Word, I am told that if I place my faith and trust in You, I would be saved. Please come into my heart and do the work necessary for me to live in a way that is honoring and pleasing to you. Amen.” Wouldn’t it be cool to be able to say that you became a Christian because of a blog post? Whatever is holding you back from turning to Christ today, let go of it. There is nothing to be ashamed of, for each of us has come to know Christ personally in our own unique way. Place your faith and trust on Him today. And for those of us who have, share your testimony with someone today. Who knows what role that conversation may have in their own spiritual journies?
Luke 5:2, 4-6 – “…And he saw two boats by the lake, but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets…And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, ‘Put out in the deep and let down your nets for a catch.’ And Simon answered, ‘Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.’ And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking.”
Some people like to go fishing, because of the experience. They don’t care if they catch a fish or not, they just want to go out to the water, throw their line, and enjoy the sport. After they catch a fish, they release it back into the water, knowing that they don’t need the fish to tell a new tale of how they wrestled with a 50lb Salmon (I bet you can tell that I know nothing about fishing from how I am writing right now.). But if a fisherman’s livelihood is made by fishing, one night of a bad catch can be detrimental for his business. He will yield no profits that day and will have to come home with nothing.
In our story today, we meet one of Jesus’ disciples Peter. Before he started to follow Jesus, Peter’s profession was a fisherman. He and his friends were out for fishing one night and caught absolutely nothing. I am certain that when they came ashore and were washing their nets as described in verse 2 that they were completely downtrodden and worried that they would have nothing to eat soon enough. They must have been very disappointed and exhausted after spending the whole night fishing and getting nothing. Yet that morning, Jesus would come into their boats, preach from it like a pulpit, and then tell them to fish right after. Imagine how Peter must have felt to be told by a non-fisherman, a carpenter nonetheless, to go and throw down his net again after he, the professional spent all night fishing his best spots and had already washed his nets. It made no sense for him to listen to Jesus, but likely after hearing Christ speak, he decided to trust this amazing Teacher, Master, and Lord. After obeying Christ’s command, he likely obtained the biggest catch of his life, to the point where the boats were sinking from the load of fish. There was no need to worry about food that night. It was after that personal miracle that Peter decided to follow Christ, leaving everything behind.
Sometimes, we as Christians, try to do things on our own. This can be in the ministry or in our everyday lives. We strive for some goal that we fail to reach every time until we finally give up because we cannot do it from our own strength. It is at that moment when Christ tells us to throw our nets out once more, trusting Him to do the work. By that time, we are at our wit’s end and don’t want to waste our time any longer. But when Christ tells us to do something, we should. Like Peter, we should respond, “At your word I will let down the nets.” We will be surprised at what God will do if we simply obey Him. I don’t know where you are in your life right now and what you might be struggling with or what you might have given up pursuing. But if God is telling you to just throw that net once more. Trust Him. He will not disappoint you, and you may just be surprised at the big catch He has in store for you.
Deuteronomy 17:18-20 – “And when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself in a book a copy of this law, approved by the Levitical priests. And it shall be with him, and he shall read in it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the LORD his God by keeping all the words of this law and these statues, and doing them, that his heart may not be lifted up above his brothers, and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, either to the right hand or to the left, so that he may continue long in his kingdom, he and his children, in Israel.”
One of the problems that many Americans complain about government politicians today is that they do not adhere to the Constitution, the supreme law of the land. The Constitution describes the basic principles of how the American government should run and was the foundation upon which the Founding Fathers wanted to build this great nation. But many politicians have shifted from following the Constitution to pushing their own convoluted agendas instead. So the main question is how can you help these politicians get back to the basics? I suggest that you make them do what the kings of Israel were commanded to do in the book of Deuteronomy – to “write for himself in a book a copy of this law…” If all the politicians had to handwrite a copy of the Constitution before swearing into office, I am certain that more of them would follow this law of the land. Worse comes to worse, at least, they would know it better.
In our passage today, Moses was reviewing God’s law with the people of Israel before he died and they crossed into the Promised Land. He wanted to make sure that they knew God’s law and committed themselves to obey it. One set of laws regarded the appointment of kings, because God knew that in the future, the Israelites, wanting to be like all the nations around them, would desire a king. So some guidelines were set in this chapter. First, the king was supposed to be a fellow Israelite not a foreigner; this was likely given so that the people of Israel would hopefully be led by a person who followed God and not idols. Second, the king was not to acquire many horses, silver, gold, or wives. I think this law was focused on preventing greed and covetousness. But most interestingly, third, the king was supposed to write for himself a copy of the Law of Moses when he took power. This copy of the law would then be his to read all the days of his life, so that he would know and obey God’s law. Without printing, the only way a king would have a copy of the law was to write it down, and God wanted the king to personally write his own copy. Why would this be? I think it is because when a person writes something down, he tends to remember it better. When I was in elementary school, our teachers would make us write out things they wanted us to memorize once a day, whether it was a Bible verse or a speech. By writing it down, we were forced to read the passage, think about it, and commit it to memory. By testing time, I would know that passage very well because I had written it down at least a dozen times. I think it would be similar for the king. By handwriting a copy of the law, the king would have to carefully sit down, read the law, and write. It would not be an easy task but one that would force him to take the time to dig deep into God’s Word for many hours (from what it looks like it would have to be approved by the Levitical priests as well, meaning that it would likely be checked for no mistakes). After hours of writing, he would also have his own personal copy that he had put the work into, making him treasure and love that copy even more. Unfortunately, I don’t think this law was followed, because many Israelite kings were unrighteous, and it was even a surprise for Josiah (one of the good kings) to find and hear about God’s law (2 Kings 22). So it was very likely that nobody did this.
As Christians and disciples of Jesus Christ, we should take the time to read and study God’s Word, for that is the only way by which we can fear the LORD and keep His statutes. But even more than that, I think it would be a good practice for us to take the time to write down a copy of God’s Word for ourselves. Since the Bible is quite long, maybe just take the time to write down a verse that impresses on your heart next time. Instead of just meditating on it, write that verse down in a journal word for word, so that what it says will be remembered not only by your heart and soul but your mind and even your hands (muscle memory). This will help us to treasure what God has told us even more. It will also be a copy for us to look over and read all the days of our lives, reminding us of whatever God wanted to tell us at that moment. Don’t allow the easy access of the Bible through the Internet, be a reason for you to treat it lightly. Instead, take the time to write it down with your own hands, meditating on what God wants you to learn and apply today (maybe it might even be this passage).