The gospels are replete with stories that teach a lesson. Sometimes I just have to smile at what looks like a “throw-away sentence” but is really a clue to the way Jesus functioned and a lesson that he was offering to his followers. Today, for example, we have one of the “feeding of the 5,000” stories—the one that Jesus uses to challenge the creativity of his followers by asking a question. “Where shall we buy bread for all these people?” he asked Philip. We get a clue to his purpose as the gospel then says, “He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.” (I would have hated to be in Philip’s shoes as creativity is not my best gift…and I’m not fond of being tested like that.) Philip couldn’t get his mind around a possible answer to the question so it was a good thing that there were others more creative in the band. Andrew’s answer of 5 barley loaves and 2 small fish from a boy in the crowd was clearly not a solution but it got the miracle going.
Sometimes we don’t have to have the solution to a problem all by ourselves; it’s good to have companions who can add to the solution. I have always been amazed at what can happen if a group comes together with a willingness to help and an openness to possibilities—even if some of the suggestions seem impossible, because sometimes that’s all that’s needed to get the creative juices of the group flowing. Jesus knew that and he trusted the group he had gathered. It’s up to us to do the same, letting go of wanting to be in charge but willing to add what we can to a solution. We may not be able to feed 5,000 people in the end but if the love generated in the group takes over, it can be a beautiful thing to see what God can create in us.