The transient nature of American culture is resulting in more and more small groups made up of people who have lived all over the world. My family alone has lived in several states. Multiply our experience out by the number of people in a small group, and you’ve got people from all walks of life.
But is anyone in your group from Galilee?
Consider John 6. Hearing of Jesus’ many miracles between Jerusalem and Galilee, the Galilean peasants put aside their daily labor during the Passover season in order to track Jesus down, see Him perform miracles, and perhaps even listen to Him teach.
The throng of 10,000 approached Jesus and his disciples. Knowing these people lived daily to simply feed themselves and survive, Jesus makes His move. Starting with five biscuits and two small portions of fish provided by a child, Jesus fed the crowd and collected a dozen baskets’ worth of leftovers.
As one might expect, the crowd went wild as they came to comprehend the miracle they had just experienced. And yet, something wasn’t quite right about their reaction to Jesus’ work. They had in mind to make this miracle-worker their political king, yet Jesus had something else in mind. He fled them as they attempted to force their will, but their hot pursuit brought them together again the next day.
It’s at this stage that Jesus confronts this crowd with their error. At their core, these peasants were materialists. Their primary interest in Jesus lay in His ability to feed them, so they no longer had to work hand-to-mouth. As Bruce Milne puts it in The Message of John, “They were so obsessed with the material world that they were not able to see that the true blessing which God is offering them is not on that level at all.”
This is what happens to us when we operate with a materialistic mindset with Jesus. We’re OK with Him … even enamored with Him … to the extent that our presumptive needs are met. To the degree that we get some semblance of an answer or direction in our life issues, we are “OK” with Jesus.
I find Bruce Milne’s words from The Message of John very convicting here, especially when I think about a small group: “Galileans are still met around Christian congregations today. They are down-to-earth folks who ‘don’t go in for this Bible study and prayer stuff,’ or who don’t believe in ‘taking religion too far.’ They are ‘practical Christians’ who ‘live in the real world,’ and whose motto text is ‘God helps those who help themselves.’”
To which Jesus says in John 6:29, “This is the work of God—that you believe in the One He has sent.” The real miracle is not the feeding of the thousands or the healing of the sick: the real miracle is belief in Jesus as Christ.
We may not be physically from Galilee, but our hearts love to claim it as home. We must be wary of this materialist mindset. It’s a subtle yet powerful form of idolatry that never values Jesus for who He is, only for His gifts (and even then only if those gifts are desired).
Quotations are taken from The Message of John, Bruce Milne © 1993, InterVarsity Press.
Rob Tims has been married to Holly for nearly 15 years. They have four children: Trey (10), Jonathan (9), Abby (1), and Luke (born April 10). He has served in the local church for 20 years as a children’s pastor, student pastor, and senior pastor. He currently serves on a team at Lifeway Christian Resources that develops customized Bible studies for groups and teaches two classes for Liberty University School of Divinity Online. He is the author of the book Southern Fried Faith: Confusing Christ and Culture in the Bible Belt.