The main focus in most stories is big, dramatic and polarising. We hear a lot about them, but off to the side, something’s going on that’s often discounted by the watchers.
For instance, have you wondered about the few people whom Jesus healed in his home town of Nazareth and what became of them? Or the jar that the angel used for water for Elijah to drink in the desert? Did Elijah keep it? And do you remember the 153 fish in the unbroken net?
In the example of the healings during a town riot and the imminent assassination of Jesus, a few found faith to believe in him… and he healed them. This was their special testimony; no-one else was included. In the retelling of the events on that Sabbath day, the small sentence can easily be missed, but it’s there in our Bibles because those who felt it passed it on for us (Mark 6: 1-6).
Then there’s the story of Elijah. In the midst of a devastating drought in his country, God provided water for him to drink. Did he carry that jar with him on the rest of his journey? He’d be the only one to tell the story; apart from the angel, he was the only one there! (1 Kings 19:6,8).
As for the 153 fish which seven discouraged disciples caught at the end of a long, unfruitful night of fishing, some were eaten at the meal on the beach when the disciples accepted Jesus’ invitation to breakfast (John 21:10). The rest were probably sold in the market, but they were never forgotten. Afterwards Jesus made it clear to his friends why he wanted to spend this time with them, especially Peter. He understood their devastation at his expected departure. The fish story was a repeat of the one he’d performed when he first called them. It was a reminder of his words, I will make you to be fishers of men. Now he was refocussing their minds on the real task.
Each of these three events is like a painting, where everyday activities are sketched off to the side, while the main focus is large and dramatic. They are all miracles, and they each have a lesson to teach us if we’ll only see it. That’s Jesus’ way!
I’d like to meet those few people of faith in Nazareth. I also wish I’d been an observer when Elijah woke to find an angel waiting to feed him in the wilderness. And I’d surely enjoy seeing the disciples’ faces when they saw their net so full of fish, just like it was at the first. Now Jesus was sending them forth.
Side stories keep us focussed. When they get forgotten in the telling of the main tragedy, drama, or event in our lives, Jesus wants to turn our eyes onto the side story and remind us what he’s been doing for us all along. We may not have seen an immediate answer to our prayers, but there’s always a water jar, many fish, or a few small healings to help us to remember what he’s already done. When we’re seeing someone we love about to be thrust over a cliff, or our nation is falling into decadence; when our business lags and we fear for our livelihood, we can be sure God’s there. He’ll always provide sustenance when we’re on our way to do his will.
We can all be part of a side story: close to Jesus, feeling his loving touch, seeing his miracles, and drinking from his water jar. He’s waiting on the beach to share his generous supply.