When comedian Steve Martin was trying to break into the big time, he refused to compromise is ground-breaking brand of comedy. His attitude was, “this is funny, you just haven't gotten it yet.” God’s sense of humor is the same: just stick around long enough and you, too, will laugh with all of heaven.
For example, when the disciples were faced with a crowd-control problem, Jesus suggested the answer was to invite everyone to dinner. It's hilarious. Before the evening was over, we are treated to the sight of each disciple lugging away a basketful of food. The joke was on them. They told the Lord, "let everyone fend for themselves," but Jesus knew that the path to abundance was caring for others.
As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.”
Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.”
“We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,” they answered.
“Bring them here to me,” he said. And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children. (Matthew 14:15-21)
Heaven rings with the laughter of paradox. Five plus two equals twelve baskets full. One plus One equals infinity. That day on the Galilean hillside Jesus had an object lesson for his friends. He could have lectured, but instead he invited his closest followers to participate in the crazy math of of God’s Kingdom.
School is in session for us, if we so choose:
- “You give them something to eat.” Jesus demonstrated that his ministry calls us to take responsibility for those who respond. When the workday was over, the disciples were ready to pack it in. Jesus invited his disciples to set a larger table, even if it seems ridiculous.
- “We have here only . . . ” The disciples looked at the “only,” Jesus looked at the bread and fish. The students saw their lack, the Master saw the possibilities. In the Kingdom of God we are asked to learn a new kind of math, the kind that starts with recognizing what is, not what is not.
- “He gave thanks . . .” Yes, I know, this is a commonplace observation. Everyone who studies this event notes that Jesus gave thanks. But the commonplace can become easy to ignore. Jesus demonstrated thanks-giving time and again. It was the Master’s habit. To become like Jesus is to live in mindset of perpetual thanks.
- “He broke the loaves . . .“ Too often, even in our thankfulness, we want to hold on to what we have. When Jesus broke the bread he demonstrated that what we have will be--must be--broken and shared. Even more amazing is the lesson that brokenness is God’s means of provision. When we hold back, others go hungry.
- “He gave . . . and the disciples gave.” Here is where the miracle happened, and how the miracle happened is instructive. Jesus included his disciples in the miraculous. What he gave to them was multiplied in their hands as they gave to others. How often do we hold on to what the Lord gives us? We are provided for, but we miss the miracle by keeping it to ourselves. Jesus laid down this ministry principle time and again: “Freely you’ve received, therefore freely give.” (Matthew 10:8)
- “The disciples picked up twelve baskets full.” On the back end of this supernatural meal was an abundant provision for each follower of Jesus. Because they tended to the needs of others, they themselves ended up with more food than they needed. Do we want abundant provision? The Lord recommends looking after the needs of others.
The laughter of heaven pours forth when we discover that it’s the Father’s joy to give, and give again. He wants us to be in on the joke. He invites us to confound the wisdom of the wise and the planning of the careful with hilarious generosity. It’s his idea of a good time. It can become ours as well.