Oh, the joy of food, and the danger! We are feasting this day. Two of my sons unexpectedly landed a halibut this morning off our island in Alaska. Not a little halibut, not a sardine of a halibut but a 200-pounder as big as our front door. Enough fish to feed us and our friends for the whole year. We were especially excited because our commercial fishing nets had been nearly blank all week. But now our table is heaped with two platters of deep-fried fish, green salad, quinoa pilaf, and two loaves of crusty whole-grain bread. We grab hands, 10 of us, and I pray, “Thank You, Lord, for Your provision every day, and especially for this halibut. Please bless us in all the work we do. Please send salmon into our nets. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”
And we’re off. Forks head for the platter of fish. The boys stuff their mouths, barbeque sauce and salsa are passed, and plates are refilled while we laugh and the iced tea melts and a pie bakes in the oven.
While we eat, I think of my favorite meal in the Gospels, the picnic on the hillside. I see Jesus breaking those five puny loaves of bread and passing those sardines, and somehow neither one runs out. From hand to hand, two tiny fish into three and 30 and 300 then past anyone’s ability to count. Everyone filled from two fish.
I sit at the table with these faces around me—my children, my husband, our crewmen, and friends—we pass the plates to one another, and I marvel. What has God not multiplied in my life? Duncan and I stumbled upon the beach of this island almost three decades ago. We were greeted by two empty shacks—no one and nothing else. Before this, I came from 5,000 miles away, from my own growing-up houses, all of them ruined and cold, from tables where food was hard to find and doled carefully to each plate. No one could be welcomed into the houses of my childhood, because there was no food to share. I didn’t know about miracles. I didn’t know about Jesus.
And somehow, though we deserved nothing, God multiplied the work of our hands on this island. Out of nothing but hope and muscles and prayer—through storm, darkness, and snow—a house emerged. Then, after more ardent prayers, children came one by one, filling that house until it throbbed with more living than I knew was possible. Could anything be better? Who needed anything more? Never did I imagine such a life of healing and abundance!
Both multiplication stories could stop there in these moments of bounty and joy—but there’s more. John’s gospel tells us what happens next: Just as their stomachs are feeling full, some men notice the rabbi moving among the crowd, and they begin to whisper. Soon they’re on their feet, pulling in a few friends. This rabbi … He can be our king! Look at His power! (See John 6:14-15.) The whispers turn to rumbles. But some shake their heads. He won’t do it. He’s a rabbi. He wants only to heal and teach. Haven’t you been listening to Him? But others insist He is the Messiah come to set them free. Who else can do these things? They are divided, but one vision unites them. They see Jesus in a robe and a crown. They see Him rousing the men, gathering the troops, feeding the army, feeding their families, crushing the Romans, ruling the temple. They imagine the end of taxes. The end of Roman brutality. They envision walking again with pride through their own streets, heads aloft. Don’t their people need this?
Excited, they move as one through the crowd, searching. Whether this man wants to or not, it doesn’t matter; they will “force him to be king!” More importantly, they will be the king-makers. They will rule this ruler.
We want His throne, but we don’t want Him.
Had I been there that day, I, too, would have colluded to capture Jesus and make Him king by hook or by crook. I know this because I want everything they wanted. Sitting at the table with my family, I do the same. I crown Jesus king of abundance, of blessing. Even in the midst of bounty, I ask Him for more. I expect more. I want to rule the ruler, to harness His power for my own ends, for my good, that my family and I might prosper always. Yes, Jesus, King of the halibut on our table, won’t You keep feeding us this way? Won’t You bless us and heal us and give us back our nation and keep us all safe and happy and well fed always?
Don’t we do this, all of us?
When He’s filled our stomachs, when He’s healed us, we want that kind of king. Like the crowd on the hill, too many times we want His food, not His will. We want His supremacy, not His humility. We want His power, not His meekness. We want our nation, not His kingdom. We want His throne, but we don’t want Him.
Yet Jesus is not the king of my selfish prayers, nor was He the king of the mob’s desires that day. Our Savior would be an entirely different kind of Lord, one the world has never seen before or since. The kind of king who bends like a slave to wash His people’s feet. The kind who chooses our lashes instead of His power, who is crowned with briars on an execution cross instead of seated on a throne, and who bleeds out His life for the very ones who put Him to death.
The kind of king who refuses our power so He could choose our healing.
I look at the fish and broken bread on my plate this day. I remember His body, broken for me, broken for all His people. I repent. I rejoice. I worship. Our King has died to serve us. Through abundance, want, poverty, or loss, whatever He brings—I want to serve this King, and Him alone.
Illustrations by Adam Cruft