Today’s reading was about the feeding of the 5,000 blokes (the rest of their families were there, but no one remembered to count them…). You can find it in Matthew’s Gospel, somewhere around the early part of chapter 14. My wife and I sat and read this together, and were mulling over the whole issue of showing initiative that is contained in this passage. The people have followed Jesus and listened to his teaching… all good.
At the end of the day, the disciples start looking around, and realise that there’re no burger vans at the edge of the crowd, so they suggest to Jesus that maybe it would be a good idea to disperse the crowd so they can go and find some food.
And the loving, compassionate Jesus turns to his friends and says ‘you feed them’
On occasions like this, I’m really glad I wasn’t one of the 12. Don’t get me wrong- the idea of spending 3yrs hanging out with Jesus in person is something I’d love, but there are moments like these where you can feel the dread oozing out of the text- ok, he’s given us the responsibility for this… and we’ve no idea what to do…
The question we were thinking about was whether the disciples did the right thing in having some initiative, or whether they should have just sat and waited for Jesus to raise the subject of food. Sometimes we look ahead at things and worry and fret, and sometimes we stick our heads in the sand and ignore what is happening… generally in ‘the world’ taking the initiative is seen as a good thing almost all of the time, but is it clear one way or another when we’re trying to follow Jesus?
Sometimes we dress up our indecision in holiness (I don’t know what job to do or where to have dinner or what to where… I’ll wait for God to tell me), and at other times we could do with a bit of holy hesitation…
In my life at the moment it seems as though rushing isn’t helpful, but that decisiveness is needed when the time is right… the challenge for me is that of discerning the timing, and discerning the decision to make. In situations like those faced by the disciples, how ready am I to turn to Jesus with empty hands and say ‘I can’t do this’ rather than try to scrabble together something all by myself?