Summary: Following Jesus is a radical lifestyle, and Jesus asks us if we are willing to do the same. Are we willing to give up some of what we have, that others might not go hungry? Are we willing to give out of what God has given to us
Have you ever heard of the saying, “Every dark cloud has a silver lining”? If so, then the story of the loaves and fishes is a good example. Let me explain.
This story happens just after the death of John the Baptist. When Jesus heard that his cousin was beheaded, he did what some of us do when a friend or relative dies-he went off to a quiet place to think, pray and grieve. Unfortunately, to paraphrase the words of that great Scottish poet Robbie Burns, Jesus’ best laid plans were led astray by God.
You see, Jesus wasn’t the only person who was mourning the death of John the Baptist. His followers were also in mourning. They had lost their powerful leader. If he could be killed, then no one was safe-not even Jesus. They were seeking a new leader.
People had heard of Jesus and his teaching and healing, and they wanted what he had to offer. They searched for him and found him just when he wanted to be alone. Was he angry with them? No. On the contrary, he had compassion for them and taught them and healed the sick. By night time, the people were still there, and they did not have anything to eat all day. The disciples wanted Jesus to send them away so they could get food in the nearby villages, but Jesus had other ideas, and just like the crowd interrupted Jesus’ plans, Jesus in turn interrupted the disciples’ plans. He told them to feed the crowd.
Now, the disciples had a problem. Where were they going to get enough food? All they had was five loaves of bread and two fish, and that certainly would not be enough to feed everyone-or so they thought. Jesus took the food, blessed it and had the disciples distribute it to the people. Low and behold, there was MORE than enough food-in fact; there were 12 baskets of leftovers! (Pause)
The miracle of the loaves and fish is not so much what Jesus does as what happens among the crowd in Jesus’ presence. Jesus’ compassion was contagious in the way the people cared for each other and shared the food. The miracle shows us God’s character, the nature of the coming Kingdom, and the nature of the Kingdom in our hearts when it has transformed us. Our heavenly Father, as the head of the household, establishes the household, sustains and liberates us and guides us to spiritual fulfillment. The foundation of God’s household is the duty he imposes on us to care for each other.
Jesus always seems to be asking more of us than we have to give-as spouses and parents and students and workers and on and on. He calls on us to love, even when love is difficult; to forgive, even when we have been wronged; to stand fast and firm on our principles, even when it mean standing alone. And those things are not easy to do. After all, we are not Jesus, and our powers are not unlimited, as his were.
God’s abundance is right here, right now, wherever right here and whenever right now may be. We think we don’t have enough not because our supplies are too small, but because our “we” is too small. The “we” includes God and the gifts of all those among whom we are sent as Christ’s body. Indeed, far more of the gifts are “out there” than “in here”. That’s how it is that ministry in God’s kingdom grows by becoming viral and multiplying. God meets daily needs daily. He will give us what we need when it is needed. Matthew 6:32-33 reads, “Your heavenly Father already knows your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.”
Jesus bore witness to our spiritual duty to care for each other. There is enough for everyone when we live in right relation and harmony, but in reality there are millions of people who live in poverty and are starving. What can we do? Well, we can do what Jesus did. Jesus took the small amount of food that was offered and used it to do his work by using it as an example for the disciples and for us. When we work together and use what we have to do God’s work, God will multiply what we offer. For example, those of you who donate food or money to the local food bank might not think that your small contribution will make much of a difference, but as the treasurer of the local food bank I can tell you that all of the donations, when combined, go a long way to feeding the hungry in our community.
We are not to be a band-aid that provides a small amount of healing and protection for the hurting people around us, only to be taken off and once again made separate. The church must be fused with those who have been hurt by society, working as a unit to bring about healing. Part of our strategy is to become a vital part of life in our region, not just a place for people to visit on the weekends but truly to be a healing place for a hurting world.