The windows rattled from the force. Deadly silence followed the explosion. We had crossed the line.
He was far too kind for that; to do such a thing without being provoked. And we had certainly provoked him. Our complete disregard for his efforts for our attention had shattered the vast limits of his patience. His sparkling eyes darkened. The lighthearted smile wiped from his face by a couple dozen tenth graders who refused once too often to quieten down and pay attention.
Shut up and sit down!
And we did. We had never heard anything like that before, at least not from Mr. Palmer (names are changed to protect the innocent). We knew we were in trouble and we waited to see what the consequences would be. This was not going to be good.
School-age or middle-age, when we hear the words “sit down”, or anything similar, we can experience all kinds of emotions.
From the parents: Sit down, be still, and stop that!
From the spouse or significant other: Come sit with me; let’s talk. (Men especially hate this)
From the doctor: Please take a seat and let’s discuss your options.
From the boss: Have a seat, I have some concerns about…
Sit down. It usually means you can expect something is about to happen. Something is going to change. No more status quo. Will it be good or bad? Do I even have an option as to whether or not I sit down? Can I just run for my life now?
What if Jesus told you to “sit down”? What would you think? What would you do? Try to imagine what it would sound like. Do you think it would sound like a stern command; like the kind you got when you were called to the Principal’s office? Or, do you think it would sound like a gentle invitation to relax and spend time with Him?
I recently came across an example of what I believe it would be like. It’s one of those dozens of passages in the Bible that I’ve read hundreds of times and then all at once this particular part just jumps out at me. It’s one of those select stories of an actual event that is told in all four books of the Gospel in the New Testament… Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
As soon as Jesus heard the news [of John the Baptist’s death], he left in a boat to a remote area to be alone. But the crowds heard where he was headed and followed on foot from many towns. Jesus saw the huge crowd as he stepped from the boat, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick.
That evening 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 food for themselves.”
But Jesus said, “That isn’t necessary — you feed them.”
“But we have only five loaves of bread and two fish!” they answered.
“Bring them here,” he said. Then he told the people to sit down on the grass.
Matthew 14:13-19a, NLT
Jesus told the people to sit down. There is no record of a collective sigh from the crowds. Neither Matthew, Mark, Luke, nor John wrote that anyone ran away out of fear. We have no reason to believe that anyone dreaded what was about to come, and they didn’t have the luxury of knowing the end of that story like we do. Still, they all sat down; all five-thousand men, plus the women and children who had come with them. And they expected to get something in return. Something good.
Thanks to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, we know what they got. They got a miracle.
Jesus took the five loaves and two fish, looked up toward heaven, and blessed them. Then, breaking the loaves into pieces, he gave the bread to the disciples, who distributed it to the people. They all ate as much as they wanted, and afterward, the disciples picked up twelve baskets of leftovers. About 5,000 men were fed that day, in addition to all the women and children!
Matthew 14:19b – 21, NLT
Thousands of people were fed. They got all they wanted with plenty to spare. But they only got it after they sat down.
I can’t explain why or how those words jumped off the page of my Bible that morning when I read that passage in Matthew. I can’t explain the feeling when I was so compelled to look up the Greek word for “sit down”, and why I couldn’t resist the urge to see if it was mentioned in the other accounts.
Then he told the people to sit down on the grass… Matthew 14:19
Then Jesus told the disciples to have the people sit down in groups on the green grass. Mark 6:39
… Jesus replied, “Tell them to sit down in groups of about 50 each.” Luke 9:14
“Tell everyone to sit down,” Jesus said. John 6:10
Sit down. It doesn’t just mean stop standing. It means much more.
The Greek word is anapipto. Its definition: to recline at a dinner table. It is the same word used in many other verses about eating, like this one…
When the time came, Jesus and the apostles sat down together at the table. Jesus said, “I have been very eager to eat this Passover meal with you before my suffering begins.” Luke 22:14-15
Jesus was telling them to prepare to be fed. To prepare to receive what they needed; as much as they needed and more. He had no intention of asking this hungry crowd to grab a bite on the run; He was letting them know they needed to position themselves to receive a feast.
They were hungry. We don’t know if the people asked the disciples about a meal, or if the disciples just picked up on the fact that the crowd was hungry because their own stomachs were beginning to growl. Jesus was aware of their need, and all He asked of them was to position themselves to receive more than they could ask for.
He told them to sit down.
When was the last time you sat down with Jesus? Maybe you’ve asked Him to give you something you need. Maybe you have a need, but haven’t even asked Him to meet it. Either way, He knows you’re hungry.
When my soul is hungry I’m afraid my first instinct is to make my own tuna sandwich, not to sit down and look to Jesus for fish and bread. He’s no bully. He won’t run us down, tackle us, and force-feed us fish and bread. He just wants you and me to take a seat with Him, to position ourselves to receive what we need… and then some.
He simply wants us to sit down. With Him.