Some time after this, Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee (that is, the Sea of Tiberias), and a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the signs he had performed by healing the sick. Then Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down with his disciples. The Jewish Passover Festival was near.
When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.
Philip answered him, “It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!”
Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?”
– John 6:1-9
“There are some things that you and I will never learn when others are present. I believe in church and I love the fellowship of the assembly. There is much we can learn when we come together on Sundays and sit among the saints. But there are certain things that you and I will never learn in the presence of other people.”
– Rev. A. W. Tozer, Faith Beyond Reason
“Jesus doesn’t take us aside and explain things to us all the time; He explains things to us as we are able to understand them. The lives of others are examples for us, but God requires us to examine our own souls. It is slow work – so slow that it takes God all of time and eternity to make a man or woman conform to His purpose.”
– Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest
Notice in the Scripture that in John 6:3, Jesus went with His disciples up on a mountainside to get away from the crowds. Often in the Gospels, you see Jesus finding time to be alone with His Father. Immediately after this story where Jesus feeds the five thousand (not counting women and children), Jesus again goes off to be alone. This time away from His disciples, but before the miracle, to have the energy to face this miracle, He needs the anointing from His Father. Jesus needed to be with just His disciples to call upon the power of His Heavenly Father. As A. W. Tozer says, “He was ready for them.” But as you read the passage above, Jesus goes through a pantomime with His disciples. Jesus knew what was coming. He knew how many people were hungry. He knew what little provisions were available. He knew. That’s why He needed to be alone. He needed to prepare, but He asks Philip to feed them. He ‘learns’ from Andrew how little food is available.
Jesus asked the questions as a learning tool to prepare the disciples for what would come. Having a play on words here, but His disciples were literally followers. Jesus was preparing them to be leaders. The disciples, once Apostles, would be drawing huge crowds in the near future. Logistics is part of the process. But Jesus also showed them the formula. Step aside in meditation and prayer before tackling a monster task.
What is our reaction? We don’t have time for prayer! There’s too much to do and so few hours until the deadline. When that was your response to an upcoming event, how well did the event do? Even if it was “all right,” it could have been better with some alone time with Jesus before you ever started.
Why do we say the blessing before a meal? We give thanks to God. Also, that our food will digest properly, and we can become fortified to do God’s work. Does the cook say a short prayer before preparing the food to ensure that the food won’t make anyone sick? Something to think about.
Oswald Chambers says that no one understands us like God, and the last bit of pride to go from ourselves is that bit of pride keeping us from knowing ourselves as God does. He wrote, “Many things are shown to us, often without effect. But when God gets us alone over them, they will be clear.”
Later, Oswald Chambers writes, “When God gets us alone through suffering, heartbreak, temptation, disappointment, sickness, or by thwarted desires, a broken friendship, or a new friendship – when He gets us alone, and we are totally speechless, unable to ask even one question, then He begins to teach us.”
With that in mind, is there no wonder we have lackluster sermons (or a perception of hearing one), lukewarm churches, and entire denominations that stray from the Truth in Jesus Christ. We have not prepared ourselves by being alone with Jesus. In a different book, A. W. Tozer talks about the noise of the day preventing any true quiet time so that we can be alone with God. He passed away 50 years ago, before cell phones, the internet, heavy metal, and the cable television networks. What would he think today?
Back to Oswald Chambers, for his concluding quote, “Jesus cannot teach us anything until we quiet all our intellectual questions and get alone with Him.”
We don’t necessarily have a problem with ‘noise’ as we do with the noise between our ears. My wife was talking today about having some alone time with Jesus. That is odd since she is such a profound extrovert. I find my alone much easier, since I am an introvert. But there is a difference in alone time and being alone with Jesus. My wife’s point touched on what Chambers had written, her own idea. (I don’t think she snuck a peek at what I was reading.) She said that we needed to have a childlike faith when we came before the Lord. When she closes her eyes and sees herself running toward Jesus, she is an adult as she runs. When she is engulfed in a big bear hug with Jesus, she is a child. What she is saying is that she has quieted all her adult intellectual questions, and she simply sits and gazes at the wonder which is Jesus Christ our Lord.
Jesus will answer our questions, as Oswald Chambers suggests, when we are ready, but for now, isn’t it beautiful to simply sit at Jesus’ feet and marvel? We learn so much when we do.