I recently finished studying the book of Matthew with a group of women. It took us a year and a half. After spending so much time in Matthew, it’s difficult to decide what to focus on. Joseph’s radical obedience? An angel appeared to him in a dream four times and he immediately did something incredible: married a pregnant woman, left his home to go live in Egypt, left Egypt and returned to Israel, and then specifically to Galilee (Matthew 1-2). Or how most of the people Jesus healed came to Him or were brought to Him (8:1-4, 8:5-13, 8:16, 8:28-32, 9:1-8, 9:18-22, 9:27-31, 9:32-33)?
OR how about Matthew 14:12-21, where Jesus does an insane thing? A large crowd has come to Him for healing, but as evening approaches, His disciples want to send them away so they can get something to eat. Jesus doesn’t send them away; he keeps them close and feeds five thousand men (plus women and children) with five loaves of bread and two fish. Once everyone finished, there were twelve basketfuls left over.
I wonder at the human capacity to take in this kind of a miracle, because shortly after (Matthew 15:32-38), the disciples are faced with the same dilemma: a huge, hungry crowd and very little food. Yet they don’t say, “Jesus, here are seven loaves of bread and a few fish. Could you do that amazing thing you did the other day? When you fed all those people with just a little bit of food? Thanks, that would be great.” No, Jesus tells them He doesn’t want them to send the people away and the disciples respond, “Where could we get enough bread in this remote place to feed such a crowd?”
Huh. Where? Where?! Come on disciples!!
We don’t expect repeated miracles. The disciples didn’t, neither did the Israelites when they came out of Egypt, and it’s the same with twenty-first-century Christians. When God moves powerfully in my life, I tend to believe I’ve used up some sort of quota – that the next time things go wrong or become difficult He’s probably not going to provide in the same way.
I don’t know why we do this, but Jesus is so patient with us. In Matthew 15, He simply asks, “How many loaves do you have?” He takes the loaves, gives thanks, and then the disciples pass out the bread until everyone has eaten and there are leftovers once again. They didn’t expect it, but He did it anyway.
Maybe you’ve prayed desperately for something God didn’t provide in the way you hoped and now you guard yourself; you don’t want to pray expectantly and be crushed by disappointment or despair. Or maybe you’re like me – I believe He can, but I seldom believe He will. I identify with the father of the demon-possessed boy (Mark 9:24) who said “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” I pray that God would strengthen our faith; that He would bless us by giving us eyes to see the ways He is still taking very little and multiplying it, until it becomes more than enough.