A Taste of the Kingdom
Matthew 14: 13-21.
Over the last few weeks we have been talking about the Kingdom of God, the place where God’s values rule.
There has been a lot of teaching, because that is what Jesus has been doing with his disciples. This has been a theory class on what God’s rule looks like. Last week was like a mega-lecture by Jesus of getting into the heads of the disciples just what the Kingdom of God was about. About how the Kingdom often starts small, like a mustard seed or a piece of yeast, but the influence is huge. And about how the kingdom is like a treasure and worth everything that we put towards it.
Jesus would look at discipleship like the old fashioned nursing training. The nurses would get a few lectures on theory, and then they would get flung into the wards to put that theory in practice. Then they would get more lectures, then they would try the new theory out on the wards.
Well Jesus has given the disciples the theory of the kingdom, now they are going out into the world and trying it out to see what that looks like.
So off they go on their boat and a few people see Jesus and the disciples, these people tell their friends and they tell their friends and soon there is a crowd of thousands following where the boat is. More importantly, the ones that live in that area will know the few places that they could dock the boat, and will have worked out the most likely of those places.
So when Jesus and the disciples finally land the boat, everyone is already there...waiting.
And Jesus then starts to tell the folk about the Kingdom, and no doubt with the crowd that large the disciples will be holding their own classes, sharing what Jesus is saying to smaller groups so that everyone who wants to hear, can hear.
Their message would be the same message that Jesus had just spent time telling them; the Kingdom of God may seem small, but it can have huge influence, it is a treasure worth giving everything for.
And everything is going well, until the end of the day.
Then the crowd are getting hungry, the crowd are getting restless, and the disciples are getting worried. So they ask Jesus to send the crowd away.
And Jesus tells them that the disciples can feed them.
‘No way,’ say the disciples, ‘all we have is five loaves and two fish,’
I can imagine Jesus then just shaking his head and saying, ‘Remember when I said the things of the Kingdom may be small, but they can have huge effects? Well doesn’t five loaves and two fish seem like a small amount, so maybe this is a case in point where something small can have an amazing effect?’
And then the disciples look at each other and say, ‘Yes, that’s OK in practice, but this is reality. We didn’t expect you to be taken literally.’
And this is the one point that I want to make today.
I think that is the very thing that Jesus wants us to do.
I think Jesus wants us to take him literally.
Hours before, Jesus is telling the disciples that God will look after their basic needs.
Hours before Jesus is telling the disciples that they can trust God to look after them.
And within hours, of not only listening to this message but also these disciples telling this message to others and asking other people to believe it, they aren’t trusting the message.
They aren’t trusting that God will look after them, they aren’t trusting that God will look after their basic needs.
When they are confronted with the real world they try to make excuses for God, they don't put God to the test, they don't trust God.
So Jesus takes the bread and basically says, ‘When I say that small things can do a lot I mean it...literally.’
And Jesus takes the bread, takes the fish...and five thousand people are fed.
I would love to say that the lesson is learnt and they all live happily ever after.
But the truth is that the rest of the Gospel is just the disciples learning the same lesson again and again.
Here is the basic lesson.
The Kingdom of God means this, when Jesus says that he will never leave us nor forsake us, he means it and he means for us to take him literally.
And if we can live with that truth then our life will be blessed.
All we need to do is trust that.
Simple...only it isn't that simple.
Perfect example was a week past Thursday.
Everyone, and I mean everyone, told Iona that her wedding would be fine, that they would do everything that they could to make sure that the wedding would be fine, so that she could just relax and enjoy the day.
Did she just relax and enjoy the day?
No she fretted and was weepy and mega controlling.
We had folk like Krystina and she got the church looking spectacular with the flowers.
We had the most amazing caterers who all along the way were having meeting with her and saying , ‘Look my own son is getting married and I know how important this is for you, so I guarantee that the catering is going to be amazing.’
We had wedding planners that were saying to her, ‘We have worked in the Alloa Town Hall before, so we know that hall well and we know how to make it look spectacular.’
We had the DJ saying to her, ‘I’m your friend, we used to work together in Slater's (you can work in other retail stores) I am going to make sure that the entertainment is the very best that it can be.’
Everybody was working to make sure that Iona had nothing to worry about.
So did Iona just relax and enjoy the day?
No, she freaked out at every possibility.
In fact they were so stressed out that they didn't eat anything for two days and Duncan, the fiancée, collapsed the day before when he went to get his hair cut.
Did all that fretting do any good?
Did any of the anxiety make the situation better?
Don’t get me wrong, the day itself went spectacularly well.
But it was always going to go spectacularly well.
She would just have enjoyed it a lot more if she had trusted that everything would be well.
But before you all nod wisely, and say ‘Yes she should have trusted,’ ask yourself this...How much are we like Iona?
Jesus is saying, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you. I will look after your basic needs. So just enjoy the life I have given you. Spend time building fellowships that matter. Spend time living a life that people can see is a life of contentment, because your future life is safe in God’s hands.’
And here you are, safe and secure.
Here you are, surrounded by people that would help you.
Here you are, surrounded by people who care.
And do you fret, do you worry?
I think, like Iona if she had trusted, our life would be a lot easier, a lot more enjoyable, a lot more content, if we took God at his word, and just trusted that he was telling the truth.
So that’s my advice...take God, take Jesus, at his word...that he will look after us, so we can relax.
But what if we aren’t relaxed, what if we are concerned, what if we are stressed?
Well here’s the thing.
The disciples have failed the trust test, they don't believe that God will sort this situation out so they ask Jesus to send the people away.
Jesus doesn't get disappointed or angry, he just shows them how it works.
And then hopes that they will learn the lesson.
When they don't learn the lesson he just shows them again and again and again.
Even at the very end.
At the very end Jesus has one last supper with them and tells them that everything will be all right. They are going to see things that are horrific, that he is even going to die, but not to worry because everything will be all right. He has shown them this before, his whole life has been an example of showing them that everything will be fine, so they don't need to worry.
And what do the disciples do?
They run away in fear, they hide, they lock themselves in a room.
And Jesus still gets to them, even in a locked room and says, ‘Do not be afraid.’ Everything will be fine.
So knowing that that is the way Jesus works I suggest that we use the same technique.
Now if I was to ask Iona if she would do something different at her wedding she would say, ‘I would listen to you and trust you more.’
But for her it is too late, we can’t do the wedding over again.
And we might think we are in the same boat, we can't live out yesterday again.
And that’s true.
But today we can live out differently; tomorrow we can live out differently.
So maybe it starts with us thinking of our past, of times that we have been worried and stressed, and found later that everything turned out OK.
That God was with us.
So if we can see that God was with us in our past, helping us out, and we just ignored him.
Then today we can do everything trusting that God will help us.
Today we can decide not to worry about tomorrow, because if God has helped us in the past, if God is helping us today, then why wouldn't he help us tomorrow.
So the worries of tomorrow can stay there, they don't need to hold us back today.
So after the huge lecture last week, this week is very simple.
Take Jesus literally, when he says that he will never leave us nor forsake us, he means it.
So trust it.