It is March of 2020, and the entire world is facing the pandemic of the Coronavirus, which has many people fretting about provisions. People are making runs on stores, stockpiling and hoarding toilet paper and food, shelves are becoming empty, and panic is erupting in many countries.
But as believers who have received eternal provisions purchased at the cross by Jesus, we can be immune to this widespread fear and fretting about provisions. "Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won't he also give us everything else?" (Romans 8:32)
To encourage our hearts toward courage and resting in Christ, let's look to God's Word and consider another situation where the need was high, but the resources seemed meager and what God did about it:
“Jesus soon saw a huge crowd of people coming to look for him. Turning to Philip, he asked, “Where can we buy bread to feed all these people?” 6 He was testing Philip, for he already knew what he was going to do. 7 Philip replied, “Even if we worked for months, we wouldn’t have enough money to feed them!” John 6:5-7 (NLT)
It is clear that there is a real lack of provision for this “huge crowd of people.” Phillip’s resounding “we wouldn’t have enough” is the desperate feeling of many people in our world today. The fear of running out of necessities is real, and many are becoming frantic in their effort to store up enough provision to last.
“Then Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up. “There’s a young boy here with five barley loaves and two fish. But what good is that with this huge crowd?” John 6:8-9 (NLT)
We understand Andrew’s lament. He saw the great crowd of people and the available meal for one and thought the situation hopeless. And when we see the great need in our world, we might find ourselves doubting as well.
But Jesus had a plan. Notice Jesus' first instruction to His disciples as it is highly instructive for us as we seek to serve the needy crowds today:
“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.” John 6:10 (ESV)
The word Jesus used, translated here as “sit down,” can also mean to recline, to lay back, even as Jesus sat down and was “reclining at the table” (Matthew 26:20) in the upper room. In other words, Jesus told the disciples (and us) to be still, be calm, sit down, and rest. From this, we can understand that position precedes provision.
When needing provision from Jesus, the first thing to do is to sit down and rest (Matthew 11:28-30), but it is harder than it sounds. Hebrews even says that we must strive to enter the rest that Jesus purchased at the cross (Hebrews 4:1-11). So, we start by sitting down.
Now, did you notice what was said about where they were to sit down/lie down? “there was much grass in the place” (John 6:10 ESV). Why is this important?
Often, when Scripture includes details like this, it is to prompt us to make connections with other verses. In this case, we are reminded of Psalm 23:
“The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters…” Psalms 23:1-2 (NIV)
This most famous psalm is a psalm of provision! We learn that when the Lord is our Shepherd, we lack nothing because He provides everything we need. And the first thing He provides is rest: "He makes me lie down in green pastures."
God provides physical rest to be sure, but the real rest for us as believers is found at the cross of Jesus Christ, where Jesus worked hard for three hours to purchase our rest, and then said, "It is finished!"
On the cross, Jesus bled for you, paid for your sin, broke the power of sin, and purchased your eternal life. Now, to honor and receive the benefits of Christ's work, you must come, look up to the cross and enter into complete rest. "Now we who have believed (the good news of Christ crucified and risen) enter that rest" (Hebrews 4:3, added comments mine). Put your trust fully in Jesus and what He has done for you on the cross as trusting Him for your eternal life will enable you to trust Him increasingly in your daily life.
For sheep, green pastures mean food! The Shepherd brought the sheep to the pasture and made them lie down in a great abundance of provision. Grass everywhere!
God provides abundantly for our every need. Where the grocery store's shelves may be empty, God's storehouse is completely full. "There was much grass in that place" (John 6:10). While the world is frantically trying to secure basic necessities, believers are at rest in abundant provision. "And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:19).
"Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks to God, and distributed them to the people. Afterward, he did the same with the fish. And they all ate as much as they wanted. 12 After everyone was full, Jesus told his disciples, "Now gather the leftovers, so that nothing is wasted." John 6:11-12 (NLT)
This passage tells us three things about the abundant provision of Jesus during this miracle of feeding the multitude:
If you have been frantic and fretting over issues surrounding the Coronavirus, Jesus invites you to sit down and take a breath. Relax and be calm. Put faith in Jesus’ promise to provide and believe that He can miraculously meet your every need.
“Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, you want to be with me because I fed you, not because you understood the miraculous signs. 27 But don’t be so concerned about perishable things like food. Spend your energy seeking the eternal life that the Son of Man can give you. For God the Father has given me the seal of his approval.” John 6:26-27 (NLT)
In a world that is clamoring after basic necessities, Jesus sets the correct priorities. “Don’t be so concerned about perishable things like food” but rather “spend your energy seeking the eternal life that the Son of Man can give you.”
Here we see Jesus pivot; He moves from the physical to the spiritual, from providing bread and fish to providing His body and blood.
Jesus instructed His disciples not to be as interested in their physical necessities, but instead to spend their energy seeking eternal realities. Jesus calls us as well to search until we find the spiritual bread - food and drink that lasts. We want to learn how to be nourished spiritually by Christ.
And where do we find this spiritual and eternal food? This is the subject of Jesus’ final teaching:
“So Jesus said again, “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you cannot have eternal life within you. 54 But anyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise that person at the last day. 55 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.” John 6:53-55 (NLT)
The cross of Jesus Christ is a feast for the soul, for there we feed on forgiveness, we satisfy our hearts in being reconciled to the Father, we become full on our freedom from sin purchased by Jesus' blood and death. Yes, at the cross, we receive a new heart, get new hope, and find a new life, and this is called "abundance." "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly" (John 10:10 ESV).
Finally, notice an amazing contrast: the beginning portion of John 6 shows a multitude that had come to Jesus, but toward the end of John 6, we read, “At this point many of his disciples turned away and deserted him.” John 6:66 (NLT)
As long as Jesus was doing miracles, feeding multitudes, providing for physical needs, multitudes were following Him. But when He pointed to the cross, the people became offended and left. As if they said to Him, "Just give us the food, Jesus. Stop this talk about the cross!" (See Galatians 5:11 to understand the "offense of the cross.")
This shows the proclivity of human beings toward the physical, natural, and carnal. We are born this way - focused on gratifying the lusts of our flesh, living in the physical and natural. It is this base way of living that leads to habitual sin and bondage to sin.
But there is a way to be free! You must push past the natural aversion of your flesh and go to the cross! You must see the blood Jesus shed for you, watch His agony, see His bleeding wounds and His tears, hear His loud cries, and His anguished prayers. And believe that Jesus did it all for you, to free you, cleanse you, forgive you and heal you. "...To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood" (Revelation 1:5).
Yes, at the cross, you will see your sin very clearly, as you watch Jesus enduring your punishment. It might make you sick as you consider your previous way of life, and you might want to leave, like the disciples in Jesus' day did.
But if you stay at the cross long enough, you will find that your heart, which was broken at the sight of Christ's sufferings, is mended. You will see Jesus' dying love, you will experience His embrace of forgiveness for your every sin, and you will find new hope, new life, and a new purpose. You will feel loved completely. "Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13).
"And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for his own sins! But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed." Isaiah 53:4-5 (NLT)
Yes, those who experience the miracle of Jesus' feeding with His body and blood will find freedom from habitual sin and healing for their wounded hearts.
Additionally, having all our needs met through the sacrificial death on the cross and resurrection of Jesus, we begin to see many opportunities ahead.
“You know the saying, ‘Four months between planting and harvest.’ But I say, wake up and look around. The fields are already ripe for harvest.” John 4:35 (NLT)
God is using the Coronavirus to till up the soil of human hearts, to break the crusty ground that was hardened by prosperity and ease, by false gods and comfort.
Right now, believers have an opportunity of a lifetime. It is time to “show and tell” by showing our love to our neighbors, giving where they lack, providing needs they cannot meet. And we must take the seed of the cross and plant it like never before. We must learn to ask questions, engage people around us, see what their needs are, ask if we can pray for them, and then pray the gospel! “Live the gospel and give the gospel” can be our theme during this time!
Believers are not fretting and frantic about our need for provisions. We know to go to God and pray, “Give us this day our daily bread,” and we see the cross as God’s promise to provide our every need.
Instead of panic, we pray! Instead of fretting, we exercise faith in the One Who loved us and gave Himself for us. We spend our time seeking eternal things rather than temporary, and we view this worldwide crisis as the greatest opportunity of our lifetime. Hearts are being tilled up and made ready for the seed of the cross; we have an unprecedented opportunity to show them Jesus’ love and tell them about the cross and resurrection of Jesus.