Ever have that experience when a story you've read a thousand times suddenly jumps off the page and slap you upside the head? Here's what I read today, from John 6:
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. NIV
I know that story. I've heard it told and retold since I was a child (and that's a pretty darn long time ago!). But it struck me today that there's a lesson in the fact that there were 12 baskets full of leftover bread that I'd never noticed. Jesus could easily have provided just enough bread and fish for each person there. Just enough. And it would still have been an amazing miracle. But He didn't.
There were leftovers. Twelve baskets full of bread. Scripture doesn't tell us what was done with the leftovers, but it's probably safe to say it went to people who needed it. So why didn't Jesus provide just enough? I'm no Bible scholar, but today I realized that Jesus loves going beyond the expected. He didn't grudgingly heal people - He searched them out. Instead of dining with the wealthy, He went to dinner with sinners (GASP! Oh, wait. I'm one.)
Jesus didn't tell lofty sermons with words no one understood; He told stories they could relate to. He berated the religious leaders and welcomed children. He could have set up a works-based religion where we have to achieve level after level before we're allowed into heaven. Instead, He chose to die a horrific death so we can live with Him into eternity if we're simply willing to accept Him as God's Son. (John 3:16-18)
As I looked at this familiar story, a new understanding lit my heart. Jesus finds joy in the extra - even today. Just enough isn't enough for Him. Should it be for me? It's not always in my nature to go the extra mile, spend the extra time, or give the extra amount. But what if I CHOOSE to provide extra as an offering to Him, and learn to find joy in that choice? What if I embrace the extra, instead of seeing it as a chore or requirement? What if I pursue the extra, look for it in every conversation/opportunity/new day, instead of only when it's convenient for me? What if I revel in the sacrifice of giving extra time, money, forgiveness?
What if I see it as a privilege?
I don't expect this to be easy for me. Finding joy in the extra isn't in my nature. But it is in His, so I'm expecting Him to continue the good work He started in me and teach me to find joy in the extra.
Gotta love a good Bible story that whacks you with "extra" understanding. :) Do you go beyond the expected? Why? And if you do, do you find joy in it?