Obedience… When it Doesn’t Make Sense

It is our belief that God is calling us to multiply disciples and churches. But how can we participate in God’s multiplication activity in the world today? This is part three in a series on Jesus’ multiplication teaching from the most remarkable multiplication story in human history: the feeding of the five thousand in Matthew 14.
In the first two articles, we established that multiplication starts with you and me, followers of Jesus, being motivated with a burden for others and then responding to Jesus’ call to do something about it by bringing Jesus what we have, no matter how meager or inadequate our resources may seem. According to Matthew, when the disciples saw the hungry crowds, Jesus commanded them, “You give them something to eat.” “But we only have five loaves and two fish,” the disciples responded. And Jesus replied, “Bring them here to me.”
Jesus then instructed the crowds to have a seat while he took the food, looked towards heaven, blessed and broke it and gave it to the disciples. As a kid I always imagined that when Jesus prayed, suddenly a whole bunch more food miraculously appeared. But as I read the text now, I don’t think that is the case. I think that if the multiplication happened spontaneously upon Jesus’ blessing, then that detail would have been recorded in the account in a similar fashion to all of the detail around the miraculous catch of fish that broke nets and nearly sank the boat. No details of the sort were recorded.
Why is this absence of detail so important? Because Jesus gave the still very meager food resources to the disciples to distribute to the crowd… and they did! Even though it made no sense to them and seemed like a fool’s errand since it was still the same amount of food, they started handing it out as Jesus instructed them. In their obedience to their Lord’s seemingly foolish command, the two small fish and five loaves began to multiply. As they distributed the food, bit by bit, piece by piece, God gave them more.
How often do we fail to see the multiplication God desires because of our lack of faith and obedience? We are called to go and make disciples yet most often we simply do not. Do we not have a burden for the lost? Do we not believe we have what it takes to accomplish it? Do we think it is a fool’s errand? Paul refers to us as co-laborers with Christ, meaning that God is inviting us into what he is up to here on earth. Obviously he doesn’t need our help with salvation which Jesus accomplished on the cross. As Luther put it, “God doesn’t need your good works, but your neighbor does.” And that takes faith and obedience, even when it doesn’t make sense.