(This is the second of a many part Blog and part of the message I am giving Dec. 30th at Pleasant Valley Church in Winona, MN and thoughts for a book I would love to write. If you want to check this blog often, click on the RSS feed link on the very bottom of this page, then this site will be put in your “feeds” drop down in your explorer bar or favorites. Hope you can figure it out.)
This past November I was studying through the book of John and teaching at the H2O Café about Jesus’ feeding of the five thousand just outside of Bethsaida. John chapter six is a fascinating chapter in its entirety, but something jumped out at me that I wanted to make sure I came back to some day. Well this is that “some day.” John 6 :1-14 tells a story of Jesus on a small hill where he sat down to teach his twelve guys, but like so often happened a large crowd of people found him and swarmed up the hill towards him. Jesus asked the guys how they could go about feeding the crowd to which they came up with five small barley loaves and two small fish. Jesus took that small peasant’s lunch and divided it so many times that it ended up feeding, to satisfaction, the entire mob, which some say may have numbered over 20,000. This part of the story in itself is quite amazing but Jesus tacks on just a little bit more, I believe to make a point that is seen throughout the scriptures. John 6:12,13 goes something like this out of the NASB, “When they were filled, He said to His disciples, ‘Gather up the leftover fragments so that nothing will be lost.’ So they gathered them up, and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves which were left over by those who had eaten.”
Yes there it is, Leftovers. I started asking myself, “Is this a reoccurring theme in the Bible?” A theme that shows God providing leftovers, more than enough, more than they could eat in one sitting? It’s worth a look.
I am going to call it the Theology of Leftovers.
There are in fact over five hundred verses that speak about God’s providence, his care for us. There are many verses that tell of his over abundant protection of his people, his superabundance. He provides leftovers in Nourishment, Belongings, Finances, and in Spiritual matters. Just a couple chapters earlier Jesus turned water into wine, not just good wine but great wine in fact better wine than the best wine. Look at John 2:1-11.
Joel 2:24 “The threshing floors shall be full of wheat, and the vats shall overflow with new wine and oil.”
Job 42:10 “Indeed the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before.”
Psalm 23:4,5 “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; Your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; my cup overflows.” An overflowing cup is a sure sign of leftovers.
Deuteronomy 28:12 “The Lord will open for you his good storehouse, the heavens, to give rain to your land in its season and to bless all the work of your hand; and you shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow.” It is only in lending, not borrowing, that there are leftovers.
Check out Mark 6:30-44 and Mark 8 Where the feeding of the five thousand is presented by Mark along with another great miraculous feeding of four thousand. Mark tells us the disciples to picked up twelve baskets from the first and seven baskets from the latter. Interestingly the first miracle was with a crowd of Jews and the second a crowd of Gentiles. (Read both accounts and notice how the disciples respond to the different crowds.) The truth that was immediately evident was that God wanted to bless both gentiles and Jews. It is also true that God pours out his blessings on people even though they have no faith in him. The crowds didn’t even know that the miracles happened until after the fact. The miracle was not dependant on their faith. And if those miracles weren’t enough eye popping sha-zing for one day, Jesus tops it off with leftovers for his boys. Here’s were Mark 8:14-21 grabs my attention. (Please read it, before you go on.) Jesus and the twelve jump on a boat and headed for the other side of the lake, a journey that, depending on the weather conditions, may take all day without a strong wind to push them to the other side. They may have had to row. Can you see it? Twelve guys and their rabbi on a hot day in a boat on the sea of Galilee with only one loaf of bread. If they all had oars and were really putting their backs into it they could row about 3 mph. I gaurentee they were starving! So when their Rabbi started down a path to teach them about who to be aware of; all they could think about was the lack of food, to which even Jesus was amazed that they missed a major point when he fed the crowds. Jesus asks, “Do you not see or understand?”
“How many baskets did you have left over from the five thousand? How many baskets did you have left over from the four thousand?”
They remembered. The twelve baskets were probably something like picnic baskets, whereas the seven baskets were probably more like a large sack of some sort. The word used by Mark is the same word used to refer to the basket that lowered Paul over the wall in Acts 9:25. It may be a form of a sleeping bag or something like that. Jesus said, “Don’t you understand?” Jesus was stating in brilliant colors that he is the Master of abundance, the Master of Leftovers. It seems that it would have been obvious to the disciples that Jesus could provide more food that they could even imagine and right there in the boat. How many times does Jesus fill the nets of the fishermen, his guys, to the point of breaking, even to the point of swamping the boats.
Jesus lovingly asks them if they’re blind. “Don’t you have eyes?” It just so happens that next in Mark’s account of Jesus’ ministry, Jesus heals a blind man. Hmmm. Mark 8:22-25. It isn’t just an ordinary healing either, like he usually does. This healing had two parts to it. First Jesus put mud on his eyes and he could see partially, then he touched his eyes again and the man could see fully. It seems fitting to surmise that Jesus did this for the disciple’s benefit. Just as 1 Corinthians 13:12 says, “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know in part, but then I will know fully, just as I have been fully known.” The literal meaning of “dimly” is to see things in a riddle, where we have to figure it all out and it really doesn’t make since all the time. But there is a day coming that it will. The riddle the disciples were learning was simply that God will provide more than enough, in fact he will supply more than we can imagine. Ephesians 3:20, “to him who is able to do far more abundantly than we can ask or dream…”
I would like to say that God always provides enough, i.e he doesn’t allow us to starve, or to go without. And I would like to say that he doesn’t provide an over abundance of blessings, to the point that we are throwing stuff away because we just have too much . But both of those statements wouldn’t be true. Or would they?