+ In Nomine Jesu +
Grace to you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
You’re all part of the story. You’ve been following Jesus for some time now. You've had your ups and downs. You've had your moments of serene calm and your moments of doubtful worry.
That said, your story isn't unlike that of the first disciples. It’s about a year before Jesus' arrest and crucifixion. You’ve seen Him work all sorts of miracles and you’ve heard Him preach all sorts of parables about the Kingdom. Some of the parables you got. Other ones, frankly, went right over your head. Still, you follow Jesus because there’s nowhere else to go. After all, "He has the words of eternal life.”
On this particular day your heart is heavy because John the Baptist was recently murdered by King Herod. You mourn for John, but you also recognize, really for the first time, that there are serious consequences for following Jesus and for speaking the truth. Maybe, somewhere in the back of your mind, you’re also wondering why Jesus didn’t save John from the sword. Was it that He couldn’t save Him? Or, was it that He could have saved Him, but He didn't.
Either way, your conclusions are somewhat troubling. Needless to say, you’ve got a lot on your mind. And as you follow Jesus you’re increasingly more aware of the crowds that are always around Him. Everywhere He goes people want to see Him, they want to hear Him and touch Him. For sure, some of them are believers like you. But, most of them are looking for a bread king. They just want Jesus to take care of them, to clothe them when they’re naked, to free them when they’re imprisoned, to heal them when they’re sick and to feed them when they’re hungry.
Today isn’t any different. You’ve followed Jesus out onto a hillside just outside of Bethsaida. He went there for some peace and quiet, to mourn John's death, but it wasn't to be. You see, unlike you and me and all of the other disciples, Jesus had a way of facing interruptions with a certain amount of grace and compassion. Other people's needs were always more important to Him than His own.
Overwhelmed by the crowds, you’re even more overwhelmed when Jesus tells you “give the people something to eat.” I mean, there was the apparent ridiculous nature of His demand. Even if you pooled your resources you only had five loaves of bread and two small fish. What good would that do among so many people? Not only that, why was Jesus so concerned about whether or not these people were hungry? Shouldn't He have been concerned about spiritual things? You know, holy things? Things that are more fitting of Almighty God’s attention!
As you walk with Jesus today, you’re frustrated by what people say about Him and the miracles He performed. Some people read this story about the day Jesus fed all those people on the hillside and they miss the whole point. The life He lived, the stories recorded about what He actually did are taught as fables, children's stories that teach some sort of lesson about morality or manners.
"It's inexplicable, even a miracle,” writes a modern day theologian. “Many bible scholars argue that this story is included in the Gospel precisely to demonstrate that Jesus is capable of commanding miracles. But this story doesn't need to be about a miracle for it to be meaningful. What matters is that Jesus' perspective, born in hospitality, is one of abundance and not scarcity. And that perspective changes everything. Was there a miracle? Perhaps. Or did people in the crowd who were moved by this man's generous hospitality, pull out their stash of goodies from the knapsack and start sharing? Perhaps. But it was Jesus' commitment to hospitality and his ability to see abundance rather than scarcity that made it happen."
With the strike of the pen your fears are realized and you’re sickened by your Lord’s name taken in vain. The truth is covered up and the story, Jesus’ story, which is your story, is clouded in mystery and deceit. Jesus took the five loaves and two fish that were collected and He multiplied them until there was enough to feed the huge crowd and still have food left over.
Out on the mountain that day, you realize there are a number of things you learned from the miracle. For one, God is a giving God. He cares about the needs of people, all their needs. He cares about your needs too. After all, He took on human flesh and lived among us, that you might know Him and that He might know you. Martin Luther, a brother in the faith from another time, from another part of the story, said, “(God) provides me daily and abundantly with all the necessities of life, protects me from all danger, and preserves me from all evil. All this he does out of his pure, fatherly, and divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness on my part.” He even gives us our "daily bread without our prayer, also to all the wicked; but we pray in the Lord’s prayer that He would lead us to know it, and to receive our daily bread with thanksgiving."
The miracle shows you the giving nature of God. It also showed you Jesus’ power. Who but God could do such things? Who but God could bring into being that which did not exist? Again, Luther, whose time had not yet come, said, “the great need of Jesus’ disciples was that, though they could think and figure, they did not believe or realize what kind of Lord they had in Christ. And that is the universal need even today, not only when we need food but also when we realize all sorts of necessities. We know how to figure and calculate carefully so that our needs might be filled. But when help does not come immediately as we would like it, we get nothing out of our careful figuring and calculating except sorrow and loss of spirit. It would be much better for us to commend the whole matter to God and not think so much about our needs.”
You’ve been there before, haven’t you? Figuring, calculating and planning, you finally hit a brick wall of sorrow and loss of spirit. The numbers don’t add up and you’re not all together sure that God knows your plight and, if He does know, if He even cares. The feeding of the 5,000 reminds you that He most certainly does care. Just as He had compassion on all those people, he will has had and will have compassion on you.
When the numbers don’t add up, you could call those moments little tests of your faith. God isn’t beyond testing your faith, you know? In fact, as gold is refined, as it is purified by fire, so God purifies your faith in testing. In the midst of the crucible, it is good that you remember that God is always FOR YOU! If God did not withhold from you His own dear Son, what would He withhold from you now?! What is more precious than the life, the body and blood of Jesus!?
You’ve been right in the midst of this story all along and you’re still in it. Jesus’ story is your story. The One who had compassion on the masses, who fed the wanderers because they were “like sheep without a shepherd,” is here to feed you today. The miracle is no less astonishing than it was then! In, with and under the bread and wine are the body and blood of Jesus! I wonder. Which is the greater miracle, that Jesus is here present in such simple elements, or, that His body and blood were given and shed FOR YOU?! Is it a miracle? Yes! Is it a double miracle? Yes it is! In Jesus’ name. Amen.
The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.
+ Soli Deo Gloria +
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