For those of us of a certain age, the phrase “Don’t panic” is synonymous with Corporal Jones of Dad’s Army
“Don’t panic” could well be Jesus’ strapline for these readings:
Feeding Five Thousand
6 Jesus crossed Lake Galilee, which was also known as Lake Tiberias. 2 A large crowd had seen him work miracles to heal the sick, and those people went with him. 3-4 It was almost time for the Jewish festival of Passover, and Jesus went up on a mountain with his disciples and sat down.
5 When Jesus saw the large crowd coming toward him, he asked Philip, “Where will we get enough food to feed all these people?” 6 He said this to test Philip, since he already knew what he was going to do.
7 Philip answered, “Don’t you know that it would take almost a year’s wages just to buy only a little bread for each of these people?”
8 Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, was one of the disciples. He spoke up and said, 9 “There is a boy here who has five small loaves of barley bread and two fish. But what good is that with all these people?”
10 The ground was covered with grass, and Jesus told his disciples to have everyone sit down. About five thousand men were in the crowd. 11 Jesus took the bread in his hands and gave thanks to God. Then he passed the bread to the people, and he did the same with the fish, until everyone had plenty to eat.
12 The people ate all they wanted, and Jesus told his disciples to gather up the leftovers, so that nothing would be wasted. 13 The disciples gathered them up and filled twelve large baskets with what was left over from the five barley loaves.
14 After the people had seen Jesus work this miracle, they began saying, “This must be the Prophet who is to come into the world!” 15 Jesus realized that they would try to force him to be their king. So he went up on a mountain, where he could be alone.
Jesus Walks on the Water
16 That evening, Jesus’ disciples went down to the lake. 17 They got into a boat and started across for Capernaum. Later that evening Jesus had still not come to them, 18 and a strong wind was making the water rough.
19 When the disciples had rowed for three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the water. He kept coming closer to the boat, and they were terrified. 20 But he said, “I am Jesus! Don’t be afraid!” 21 The disciples wanted to take him into the boat, but suddenly the boat reached the shore where they were headed.
The crowds had arrived. In their haste to get to Jesus they were unprepared – they had brought no food. And the disciples panic.
As Jesus asks them where they will get enough food, Peter replies that it will take a years wages to give each person only a small amount.
Andrew, finds a boy who has some food – but has no idea how that will be enough? Are they focussing on the limitations and difficulties, or being realistic.
I can just imagine the disciples trying to work out what they can do, how this problem can be solved. They thought of ways they could solve it, rather than ask Jesus how he could solve it.
What they forget is that even a little is enough in the hands of Jesus. He can take what seems wildly insufficient, and make it more than enough. He takes what is available and makes things possible.
I find it so awesome that Jesus can take something so small, and make it so huge – and I am humbled by how keen I am to worry about solving problems, how I look at the enormity of them – without asking Jesus what he is going to do.
The disciples see this, yet later the same day, their panic overcomes them again.
They are in the boat. They have set off ahead of Jesus, and the sea becomes rough – and they panic again.
You can just imagine the cries, “I don’t like it”, “We’re all going to drown”, “It’s too rough for us”.
What’s not clear is why they had set of without Jesus in the first place. Had he told them to, reassuring them that they would be fine, and they’d lost nerve? Or had they got bored with waiting for him, and decided to go on without him? I can imagine that either would lead to the panic they felt.
How about us?
Do we forget what Jesus can do?
Do we try to sort things ourselves, without asking him?
Do we lose our nerve?
Do we get tired of waiting and set off under our own steam?
Jesus comes to us.
He can do such amazing things if we allow him.
He can turn the smallest possibility into something huge, if we allow him to travel with us.
Don’t be afraid
May we remember what he has done, ask him what he can do, work with him in what he will do.
forgive me when I panic.
When I look at me and my resources,
not you and yours.
Lord let me allow you to work,
and around me;
not with what I can see,
but the amazing things you can do;
that the world may see
what an awesome God you are.