You would think after eight years of parenting, Aaron and I wouldn’t be playing musical beds at 2:00 in the morning. Alas, my youngest (who was up the last two nights for bed-wetting and coughing) slept sound till 7:30, but the other two circulated the rooms and ended up edged between two sleepless parents. You’ve been there: despite how much–ahem, how little–sleep you get, life still demands you get up and face the work.
For the season of Lent, I accepted Margaret Feinberg’s prompting and am reading through the book of John. Initially, pride scoffed and asserted that I had already read John enough–foolhardy, I know. Thankfully, I got over myself quickly enough to hear God’s voice whisper, “Just listen.” Instead of rushing through the chapters, I am taking my time and studying words, imagining scenes, watching Jesus walk through these dry places (both figuratively and literally).
Through the slow process of inhaling and exhaling this book, I am noticing words and ideas I hadn’t absorbed before. How many times does Jesus “miraculously escape” death before the cross because it “wasn’t yet his time”? What does Jesus sound like when he speaks to the Pharisees, to various women, to his disciples? What tone does he use? How does his love employ him? When does he go off alone and for what purpose?
In John 6, Jesus and his disciples go to the other side of the Sea of Galilee and are followed by a large mass of people (5,000 men, which probably means more than that if we count women and children). The fact that his voice could reach so many people without the use of a microphone raises goosebumps on my arms. He commanded control of Creation and men’s ears: no arena would overwhelm his message.
The “feast of Jews was at hand” but these people weren’t feasting. Stomachs growled and ached and so did hearts. Jesus tells his disciples, “Jesus said, ‘Have the people sit down.‘ Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, about five thousand in number” (emphasis mine John 6:10). As a seemingly insignificant line of Jesus’ words, we often glance over his gentle directive and move on to the miracle.
But, I got stuck… And wanted to cry. Jesus saw the fatigue; He noticed the need. He encouraged them to rest and watch. They were weak, hungry, and without anything to sustain themselves. So, please, sit, and receive.
My mind immediately goes to Psalm 23, where our Good Shepherd makes us “lie down in green pastures.” He knows what we are craving; what our souls need most.
In Micah 4:4, we read, “but they will sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree,
and no one shall make them afraid,
for the mouth of the Lord of hosts has spoken.”
So, I wonder why He asked them to sit. Of course, I speculate for I do not know the mind of Christ, but I do know his heart toward us.
I think He asked them to sit so they could see Him more fully. We have to humble ourselves before Him and grant God the full attention He deserves. Obviously, if 5,ooo+ people crowded around Jesus, those in the back aren’t going to get a clear view of His hands. And knowing He’s about to perform a miracle, Jesus doesn’t want any confusion or doubt about who supplies their needs. All glory to God.
He asks us to sit to be fed. He is our provider and sustainer. Our busyness and striving will only take us so far. He is the one who graces us with the strength, the mental skill, the physical capabilities, and the breath in our lungs to move forward. And when we no longer possess the abilities, he provides anyway (Matthew 6:25-26). Better than we ever could, God understands our frailty and limitations. We may deny them, but in his mercy, our Father calls us frail. He longs to be our refuge and strong tower and so we acknowledge that the world will continue and God will carry us even if we rest.
When we sit before Him, we submit to His authority and show a level of trust. Those sitting down are relaxed in the company of another; they aren’t ready to spring up and run. They feel safe and allow their guard to be lowered.
In His presence we find this rest–not the temporary kind that comes from an hour of Netflix, but the eternal kind that restores our soul’s equilibrium and allows us to say, “It’s well with me.” He has sustained me, and right now, I will allow him to feed me–body and spirit nurtured. I am choosing to acknowledge my need and trusting him to meet it.