On their return the apostles told Jesus all they had done. He took them with him and withdrew privately to a city called Bethsaida. When the crowds found out about it, they followed him; and he welcomed them, and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who needed to be cured.
The day was drawing to a close, and the twelve came to him and said, “Send the crowd away, so that they may go into the surrounding villages and countryside, to lodge and get provisions; for we are here in a deserted place.” But he said to them, “You give them something to eat.” They said, “We have no more than five loaves and two fish—unless we are to go and buy food for all these people.” For there were about five thousand men. And he said to his disciples, “Make them sit down in groups of about fifty each.” They did so and made them all sit down. And taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke them, and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd. And all ate and were filled. What was left over was gathered up, twelve baskets of broken pieces.
Once when Jesus was praying alone, with only the disciples near him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” They answered, “John the Baptist; but others, Elijah; and still others, that one of the ancient prophets has arisen.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered, “The Messiah of God.”
He sternly ordered and commanded them not to tell anyone, saying, “The Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.”
Then he said to them all, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it. What does it profit them if they gain the whole world, but lose or forfeit themselves? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words, of them the Son of Man will be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. But truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God.”
I am never sure if Jesus is commanding the disciples to literally follow Him, or to follow His teachings. But reading it now, it seems like Jesus wants them to follow in his footsteps. They, too, must undergo suffering and rejection. They, too, must bear a cross. Now it is the word “daily” that I don’t understand. Maybe the cross just refers to the burdens of life like I always thought it did. There are certainly plenty…
I find it increasingly easy to relate to the disciples. One day they’re out there performing miracles in God’s name, and the next they don’t have enough faith to provide the people with food, and try to send them all away. But then later Peter gets it, and knows exactly who Jesus is! I feel the same way. Last time I felt like I had a lightbulb moment with trust, but today I am struggling with a passage that so many people seem to find so simple. Am I overthinking it, or is this frequently simplified? Maybe, like with feeding the five-thousand, sometimes simple is better.
I think that when in comes down to it, maybe it doesn’t matter that I don’t quite know what I’m doing. I want to follow Jesus and I am trying my best to do so, and maybe for now that’s enough. The disciples seem clueless enough, yet Jesus says that some among them will see the Kingdom of Heaven without having to first suffer through death, so I guess they were doing something right.