August 8, 2022
TODAY’S SCRIPTURE REFERENCE:
“At mealtime Boaz said to Ruth, ‘Come over here. Have some bread and dip it into wine vinegar.’ When she sat down with the harvesters (she was not one of them), he offered her some roasted grain. She ate all she wanted and had some left over.” (Ruth 2.14-15)
Under the heading of “a prelude to the gospel,” let me use this scripture reference above from the story of Ruther to point us in another direction than the one I reflected upon yesterday. Most everyone has heard the story of the feeding of the “5000.” There were many more than five thousand people on the hillside above Capernaum that day when Jesus was teaching. It would be more appropriate to understand the “non-male” oriented version of this count by describing it as “5000 family units.” In that day, there was a sense of “we are all in this together as a family.” As Luke writes the chronicle of the early decades of the Church, he includes those conversion stories where entire families were baptized. This happened because “as the father goes, so goes the family.” Hmmm, makes you wonder about today’s world doesn’t it! Going on, it was not unusual in the “non-Jewish” territory of the northern section of Israel for such a cosmopolitan approach to life to take the lead. By “non-Jewish,” I simply mean that the rule of the Sanhedrin and the Pharisees was not as far reaching as that in Jerusalem and Judea. Sure, there were synagogues and teachers of the Law, rabbis, present, but there were far less “trappings” included in their presentation of the Word of God. There were no less accountabilities, however. Still, the picture presented in the story of the Feeding of the 5000 is more focused on the disciples than the crowd itself. We would do well to remember that the gospels were discipleship primers used in the early Church to help fulfill the Great Commission left by Christ Himself for the disciples so they would remember what their purpose really was. As a reminder, the Great Commission directs “Go into all the world with the authority I give to you to do this: make disciples in all nations of all nationalities without differentiation, teach them all that I have commanded you and taught you, baptize them into the community of faith in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit; and remember, I AM right with you every step of the way.” As the “eyewitness” team of the first generation disciples moved out into the world, it became important for a written record to be developed that helped to capture for posterity what the oral traditions were declaring about Jesus, the righteousness of God and the hope for the time to come. By the time we get to the work written by the beloved disciple John, we would read his conclusion that stipulates “Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.” (John 21.25) It is about “coming near and finding that you will always have more than enough.”
Listen as the story told of the Feeding of the 5000 draws to a close. The helpless and resource-poor disciples end up gathering twelve baskets full of leftovers. Where did all that food come from? It came from a basket lunch packed for a family of five which the oldest boy surrendered to the cause of Christ. You see, the disciples were not prepared for such a gathering as that which Christ drew wherever He went. This was not their first rodeo with Jesus, meaning “this was not their first crowd event of the gospel.” John’s gospel itself starts with a huge wedding party in Cana for a “friend of the family.” The number of people at the party overwhelmed the resources of the host and caterer. It was so great that Mary, the mother of Jesus, directed her Son to create the abundance which was within His power so to do. He attempted to defer the request but out of respect and love for His mother, He complied. In that very place were six large jars (each as big as a man) that were filled with water. The water may have served multiple purposes but the primary function was for “ritual bathing and the washing of feet.” This was a baptismal story in the eyes of John the disciple. It was a story of an anointing for the new covenant with a taste of new wine. Whatever the host and caterer had prepared for was insufficient to the need of the grand banquet. Perhaps the number of the crowd swelled because they had heard Jesus was going to be there. His reputation may well have preceded Him causing all invitations to be accepted. You know how that planning goes, right. Take the number of invitations extended and divide by three. The number derived by that equation is the number you plan for. Except, this time, all the invitations were accepted and acted upon. Regardless of the number, which we do not know, the factoring is similar to the feeding of the five thousand. There was abundantly more than expected. The host of the wedding party was overwhelmed. The disciples were overwhelmed. Jesus was not. At the wedding, the caterer exclaimed to the host “How is it that you have saved the best for last which is not protocol.” And there was plenty for all. At the hillside feast, there were baskets of leftovers after everyone had their fill. In the end, the disciples were left with far more than when it all began.
And isn’t that the truth of the matter of faith? As Ruth found herself in the very presence of Boaz, the “host of the harvest party,” her intention was to just gather some leftovers for herself and Naomi, her mother-in-law. She became overwhelmed. She was overwhelmed by his generosity, kindness and inclusion. She was not there by his invitation but by his acceptance of her presence. True, the fact that she was a “looker” may have had something to do with it. However, it was more likely her countenance of faithfulness and humility that actually drew his eye to her. She was unassuming and obedient to the cause. Just as the boy holding the family basket of two loaves of bread and five fish. The disciples didn’t invite the boy to surrender the family meal, he offered it willingly to support the cause of Christ in accordance with His teaching. He was moved in faith by faith. The disciples were moved by something else. They were more “self” motivated by the hunger of their own stomachs than a true concern for the hunger of the crowd. Note that the crowd probably prepared for a family meal. What they came for the world could not provide. In the end, they were the witnesses of another miracle of faithful obedience to God which Jesus evidenced; the generosity of a community in faith. Jesus, the bread of the world and the caster of nets which drew in an abundant catch, was the host of the feast. Jesus, who said “I can do nothing Myself which is not given first by My Father in Heaven,” acted out in faith so that the seeds of faith planted in the lives of the disciples would be further nurtured and cultivated until they, too, became an abundant harvest as well as harvesters. A simple obedience to the task for the cause of others results in an abundance which defies the reason and logic of humanity. Ruth, a servant to Naomi, not only got her fill but she received more than enough. With that came the blessing which Boaz ordered not only to leave the gleanings at the edge of the field as the Law required, but to leave an abundance of the harvest for her, too. And, if you think for one moment, that Ruth was the only beneficiary, you would be wrong. She wasn’t the only gleaner of the fields. “The poor are always with us.” They benefitted from the abundance of leftovers which were full well intended for Ruth. She became the cause of blessing for both Naomi and for the “others” whose number was not counted.
As I said, “a prelude to the gospel.” Is this not a prelude to the gospel we are to declare in Jesus’ name as we are sent out into the fields ripe with harvest? Jesus taught, “The harvest is plentiful.” He saw the souls who yearned for the freedom of salvation as numerous as the stars in the heavens, the grains of sand by the seashore and the grains of wheat in the field of humanity. He followed it by teaching, “But, the laborers are insufficient in number; so pray that the Lord will send more laborers into the field.” He saw the need of the people for salvation as well as the need of those looking for a meaning and purpose in their lives. Those lives are the ones who become disciples of Christ and later apostles; students of the Word and then teachers of the Word. And the supply would be sufficient and abundant to meet the need. That means we are never without opportunity nor resource to accomplish the work that is called in us and given to us by Jesus the Christ. We become both the Word of life shared and the receiver of the Word of life in more than abundant measure. Dare to care to share: broadcast good news!
OUR CALL TO PRAYER:
Father, You have given us so much and in measure far more than we ever believed we deserved. Thank you. Now, may our thanksgiving be completed as we share the abundance of the gospel resource which is ours in Jesus’ name so that others who are hungering and thirsting for righteousness may receive their fill and more. Let us become one together in the cause of Christ for the world. AMEN.