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What Jesus’s Miracles Reveal

January 11, 2021 • Life for Leaders

Scripture – Luke 9:16-17 (NRSV)

And taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke them, and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd. And all ate and were filled. What was left over was gathered up, twelve baskets of broken pieces.

Focus

The miracles of Jesus reveal him to be a person who cares about the well-being of people. He seeks to make people whole in heart, soul, mind, and strength. His miracles also reveal his extraordinary power as one who is able to exercise the very power of God. But when Jesus does that which God alone can do, this tells us something more . . . much more about Jesus.

Today’s devotion is part of the series Following Jesus Today.

Devotion

Jesus often did extraordinary things, things beyond the ability of ordinary mortals. Even those who did not acknowledge his messianic identity knew that Jesus was something special. Ancient Jewish rabbis, for example, accused Jewish of doing “magic” or practicing “sorcery.” His amazing works revealed that he was either a trickster or someone who wielded demonic power.

Those of us who acknowledge Jesus as the Messiah see his actions from a different perspective. Consider, for example, the story in Luke 9:12-17. Jesus had been teaching a crowd of over 5,000 people. As evening approached, his disciples told Jesus to send the people away so they could get something to eat. But Jesus told the disciples to give the people something to eat. Unfortunately, they were short on rations. “We have no more than five loaves and two fish – unless we are to go and buy food for all these people” (Luke 9:13).

I wonder if the disciples expected Jesus to say, “Oh, that won’t work. That’s way too much food. Let’s send them away.” Instead, he did a puzzling thing, instructing his disciples to organize the people into groups of about fifty. Then, blessing the five loaves and two fish, he broke them and gave them to the disciples to pass out to the crowd. Yet Jesus didn’t run out in a minute or so. As he broke the food, it kept multiplying. After everyone had eaten, they gathered up twelve baskets of leftovers. Amazing!

Don’t you wish you could have seen all of that with your own eyes?! I know I do. If nothing else, it revealed that Jesus had awesome superpowers. Yet there is something else. At least two “somethings” actually.

First, we see here Jesus’s concern for the physical well-being of people. This is consistent, of course, with his regularly healing people. Jesus wanted them to be physically well and, as we see in this story, well-fed. Surely Jesus cared about the souls of people. But he wasn’t concerned only for the immaterial. As the Incarnation of the God who created the physical world good, Jesus valued the world and especially its people.

Second, let me encourage you to put yourself in the place of the Jewish people who had gathered to listen to Jesus. There you were, out in a “deserted place” (Luke 9:12). The Greek word translated as “deserted place” is often rendered as “wilderness.” So, you’re out in the wilderness and very hungry. All of a sudden, Jesus produces food for you to eat in a most exceptional way. What might this remind you of? It’s likely that you would have remembered a time when your Jewish ancestors were in the wilderness and God fed them miraculously, in that case, with manna (see Exodus 16). If you were to reflect on this, you would surely have wondered what it said about Jesus. You considered him an inspired teacher, a prophet, a miracle worker, perhaps even the Messiah. But if Jesus miraculously fed you and the rest of the crowd in the wilderness, could it be that he was more than all of these?

The miracles of Jesus reveal him to be a person who cares about the well-being of people. He seeks to make people whole in heart, soul, mind, and strength. His miracles also reveal his extraordinary power as one who is able to exercise the very power of God. But when Jesus does that which God alone can do, this tells us something more . . . much more about Jesus.

Reflect

When you read this story of Jesus feeding the multitude, how do you respond? Are you curious? Perplexed? Impressed? Or????

Have you ever experienced something you would classify as a miracle? (I mean a supernatural act, not something like the “miracle” of childbirth, though this is surely a miracle of another kind.) What happened? Why do you think it was an unusual and miraculous work of God?

Why does it matter that Jesus was more than a human messiah, prophet, and healer? Why does it matter that he was God in human flesh?

Act

As you go about your work this week, pay attention to the full humanity of your colleagues. See if there is something you can do to care for those with whom you work in a tangible way.

Pray

Lord Jesus, sometimes when I read a story like this one in Luke 9, I am underwhelmed. I’m sorry to admit it. But this story is so familiar to me. How I wish I could experience it as if for the first time . . . as if I were actually there! Restore my wonder, Lord!

Thank you for caring for whole people, for our bodies as well as our souls, for our minds as well as our hearts, for our relationships as well as what’s inside of us. Thank you, Lord, for caring for all that I am, for wanting me to be whole. Help me, I pray, to care for others in a similar way.

Today, Lord, I am reminded that you are more than an amazing man. You are God in the flesh, God with us, Immanuel. Thank you for revealing yourself to us in actions that are both miraculous and compassionate. Thank you for showing us that God is not only powerful, but also loving. Amen.


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Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. Commentary on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: God’s Provision (Luke 9:10-17; 12:4-7; 12:22-31)


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2 thoughts on “What Jesus’s Miracles Reveal

  1. Jonathan Russell says:

    Mark, First, thanks for you devotionals on “keeping Christmas well.” I found your thoughts to be a fresh perspective.

    As to today’s devotional, I’ve wondered over the years whether it would take anything away from the miracle to believe that perhaps the 12 baskets left over, were actually collected from people who “joined-in” the miracle once they saw the provisions that Jesus had made. (After all God’s blessing always seem to be “enough” for the moment, not necessarily extra to store up) Also, it’s hard to imagine that only one Jewish mother gave her son some fish and bread for the day. I think there had to be other folks holding back — wanting to make sure that there was enough for themselves, before contributing to the collection for the benefit of others. I think there is perhaps a deeper lesson here, if it could be explored without compromising the miracle.

  2. Mark Roberts says:

    Jonathan, fascinating comment. Thanks. In the past, “liberal” Bible commentators explained this “miracle” by saying that Jesus inspired everyone to share what they had brought. There was no physical miracle. The miracle was changed hearts. You are not saying this, though. Rather, you see that Jesus’s miracle inspired folks to share what they had, which is a fascinating possibility. I don’t think we can know this for sure, but it makes lots of sense. Thanks for sharing.

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