Hello readers! It’s Wednesday, so we’ll be catching up with our reading from Pancakes and Prayers this past Sunday… looking at Jesus feeding 5000 people in John.
After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, also called the Sea of Tiberias. 2 A large crowd kept following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick. 3 Jesus went up the mountain and sat down there with his disciples. 4 Now the Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near. 5 When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?” 6 He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do. 7 Philip answered him, “Six months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.” 8 One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, 9 “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?” 10 Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” Now there was a great deal of grass in the place; so they sat down, about five thousand in all. 11 Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted. 12 When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, “Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost.” 13 So they gathered them up, and from the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets. 14 When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, “This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world.”
Community, Communion and Commission
This story is a beautiful picture of the three core elements of a microchurch- community, communion and commission- at work together in the ministry of Jesus. It begins, of course, with a community (the disciples) gathered around Jesus (communion). He has drawn a crowd, and when he commissions his disciples to help feed the crowd and they give him what they have he performs a miracle (communion). As a result of that we see their community expanded to include all those who join them for this meal. This story is a picture of how communities of disciples should operate. As we walk with Jesus he gives us a mission (grounded in
his compassion and love), and through that mission his presence and
power is revealed, and all those who took the risk of seeing what was
happening through him are then invited to join his community.
Also, note that it was a big deal who you ate with in the ancient world, and who your host was, because the act of eating with them marked you off as belonging to "their people,"; people who they would care for, support and claim as their own. And here the ENTIRE crowd is invited to dine with Jesus (the Messiah!), who is the host of the meal (he stands, they sit) regardless of who they were or are up to this point. The point is, his presence and his community is offered to any who were willing to make this journey with him. It did not hinge on any religiosity, ritual observance, clean living or virtue. At this moment it was just about recognizing that something big was happening through him.
That Exodus story again!
Yup, just as we saw allusions to the Exodus last week in Acts 2, we see it again here! That shouldn’t surprise us, as it is THE central story of the Old Testament. Here we find Jesus and his disciples in the countryside (think wilderness) and going up a mountain (think Sinai). And of course, John tells us that it is nearly time for Passover, a celebration of God’s leading the Israelites out of Egypt. Then, lo and behold, the crowd needs bread, just like the Israelites did after escaping Egypt, and Jesus provides (think manna). So what’s the point of this? The point is, John is telling us this story in such a way to drive home the point that Jesus is in fact acting as a new, and superior, Moses who God has commissioned to free his people from their oppression. Only this time it’s not oppression from a political entity (at least not in the first place), but rather oppression from sin and death. And note that the people’s attempt to crown Jesus in verse 15, while a correct instinct, misses the point of the larger exodus that he is working towards.
Give your bread and fish.
The example for us as individuals to follow in this story is the little boy whose five loaves and two fish are used to feet this massive crowd. There are a few things we should note about him. First off, children in the ancient world had no status or protection; essentially they were nonentities except in the eyes of their parents (if they had good parents). Second, the amount of food that this boy is offering is obviously inconsequential in the face of the need of the crowd. And finally, by giving it to Jesus he runs the risk of becoming just another hungry face in this crowd. Yet, it was by HIS small offering of bread and fish that Jesus performed this miracle.
We live in a world of tremendous need, and when we take a hard look at these needs it is clear that we do not have the resources to meet them. Furthermore, many of us are keenly aware of our own shortcomings. How could we with all our issues help anyone, and why would anybody listen to us? Wes are this little boy; we have too few resources and we’re not seen by the world as people who could actually bring about change. Yet Jesus does not let us off the hook. He knows what he can do with whatever we have… whether it’s our time, our resources, our talents, our hobbies or whatever we can offer to him. He simply asks us to take the risk of giving to him what we do have, in the hope that he can turn it into something amazing and beautiful and transformative… something that reveals his kingdom, and builds community and calls others into his mission.
May you be bold then, faithful reader, and offer your bread and fish to him today.