Holy smokes! God is here

Friday, July 27, 2018

Have you ever had what you felt in your heart of hearts as an experience of God? They happen far more than we might want to admit.

Imagine you are a Jew in Palestine a little over 2,000 years ago. You hear about a man named Jesus who is teaching and healing in a region around the Sea of Galilee, and you decide you want to hear him. Is he really a man sent from God? You don’t know. You only know him by reputation. You want to find out for yourself.

You’re self-employed as a farmer or a fisherman or a shopkeeper. It would be no big deal if you closed down the shop or left the boat or the farm for a day and went to where Jesus is teaching. It might be an inspiring way to spend some time.

But the meeting lasts longer than you expected. Jesus obviously doesn’t realize it is written in stone that worship services should always conclude sharply at noon. He keeps teaching and healing people long into the afternoon. People are sitting there with their mouths open in awe at his wisdom and his acts of healing. It is a wonderful event. It’s all you had hoped it would be, and more. However, your stomach is beginning to growl. You had come expecting that the event would last an hour or so; you hadn’t even thought to pack a lunch. Not a brilliant move. Is there a village nearby where you can grab a sandwich?

Then you begin to notice that you are not alone. There are at least 5,000 hungry men (not including women and children) and you are not the only one that did not pack a lunch. Even if there were food shops available, they would not be able to feed this crowd.

Then you notice the teacher is talking with one of his associates. You step closer so you can hear. The teacher asks, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” Good question. At least the teacher is aware of your situation. Little good that will do, however. About all he can do under these circumstances is to pronounce the benediction and tell everyone to go home.

One of the teacher’s associates named Philip sees the hopelessness of the situation and says, “It would take more than a half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!” You’re looking around and we aren’t near a supermarket. We’re on top of a mountain. How are we going to feed this crowd?

Just then, another of the teacher’s associates, Andrew, speaks up. You see him nudging a small boy to the front of the crowd where the teacher could see him. “Here is a boy with five barley loaves and two small fish,” he says. “But how far will they go among so many?”

To make a longer story short, the teacher is not ready to go home yet. “Have the people sit down,” he says. “Oh no,” you think to yourself, he’s going to keep us longer.

But everyone starts sitting down. Then the teacher does something unbelievable — no, unbelievable doesn’t even begin to describe what you are witnessing. The teacher takes the five loaves and two fish, says a prayer, and starts passing the food among the crowd. Crazy?

Something miraculous is happening. Something that cannot be explained. The more bread that is eaten, the more bread there seems to be. The same is happening with the fish. Thousands are being fed. “That’s impossible,” you think as you reach out hungrily for your share. What’s happening here? Then the thought grabs your mind. “Holy smokes. Holy smokes. God is here. This is holy ground. I am standing in the presence of God.” It is a day that will stay with you as long as you live.

This is the impact Jesus had on people. They came to see and hear a simple carpenter who built cabinets and kitchen tables, and instead they found themselves in the presence of the one who created the universe. Make no mistake about it, Jesus was more than a wise teacher. We have always had wise teachers. Every faith has laid claim to wise teachers. And we should listen to them. The Lord knows we need all the wisdom we can gather. But Jesus was more than a great teacher. Here was a man to who the forces of nature were subservient. Not only could he give sight to the blind and hearing to the deaf, he could still the storm, walk on water, cause ordinary bread to multiply, even raise the dead. What can we say in his presence except this, “Holy smokes. Here is God.”

Can 5,000 hungry men and an unknown number of women and children be fed with five loaves and two small fish? You tell me. All I can do is pass on the reports of people who were there. They saw it happen with their own eyes. They tasted it on their own lips. And they wanted to make him king. I hope you want to make him king of your life. I hope you look into the eyes of Jesus today and say something like this, “Holy smokes, God is here. I am experiencing God.”