Summary: In the story of the feeding of the 5,000, Jesus is telling us that we all have resources that we don’t yet realize. We tend to forget that, with Jesus, we have divine resources at our disposal.
Give Them Something to Eat
August 7, 2005
John the Baptist had become a thorn in the side of the monarchy and an enemy of those who believed that they didn’t have to be accountable for their actions. Out of hatred and jealousy, King Herod’s wife and daughter demanded – and received – John’s head on a platter.
In grief and sorrow, Jesus withdrew to a place apart; a place where he could spend time alone praying and recovering from his heartfelt anguish. But solitude was something which was rare for him, and it was not to be found this time. The crowds followed him. His compassion overrode his fatigue and he moved about them, preaching, teaching, touching, and healing.
When evening came, it was obvious that they were hungry. After all, even the most compelling of teachers – even the Son of God - can’t hold a crowd’s attention indefinitely without a break now and then for food and a bathroom. There were five thousand men there that day. The miracle that is about to happen increases in amazement when you stop to consider that there were probably more than 5,000 folks there…a lot more. Let’s make the assumption that most of those men were married. They would have had their wives along. In addition, there would have been children. All in all, we may be talking about 15 to 20,000 people…a huge crowd.
The disciples, not being all that creative, didn’t see any way that they could feed all these people. So they began to encourage Jesus to send them away while it was still light enough that they could make their way into town to find food and shelter. Jesus told them that sending them away wasn’t necessary. He told the disciples to feed them.
I’ve always thought that Twinkies are a food group. I have a friend Cheryl who I met when she was in high school. She is about 29 now. She has a teaching degree from Goshen College in music, and taught Middle School for a while in Colorado, but found out that she really didn’t like teaching. So now she is back in Goshen where she lives with her husband while picking up a few classes at Notre Dame in order to get into Veterinary School. We communicate on occasion by e-mail to keep up with each other.
She was a member of my youth group when I served Trinity Church in Hobart. I made a comment one day about Twinkies being a food group. Every couple of weeks from that time on, she would bring me in an industrial-sized box of Twinkies. I thought that if it wasn’t for the fact that she already had a family that loved her, I would have adopted her on the spot.
But then I remembered the San Francisco incident in 1979 when Dan White killed Mayor George Moscone and City Supervisor Harvey Milk. You remember, don’t you, that White’s attorney was able to get him convicted of the lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter because he said that he had eaten so many Twinkies that the high sugar content in his body caused him to have diminished mental capacity…the so called, “Twinkie Defense.”
In the days of Jesus, Twinkies weren’t an option. There were basically two food groups: bread and fish. The disciples looked around, rummaged through their pockets, canvassed the area, talked with other folks present…and discovered that all they could come up with were five loaves of bread and two fish.
Somehow, I don’t think we’re talking about loaves of Wonder Bread or pan fried Mississippi River Catfish. I’ve got a feeling we’re talking about five crackers and a couple of sardines. There is no way, the Disciples thought, that this was going to do any good. After all, it was barely enough for a single person’s lunch, let alone that entire multitude.
Along with not being very creative, the disciples didn’t remember their history very well. They had heard all of the stories of the faith. They had been told about the exploits of their heroic ancestors. They grew up knowing that they could trust God. But at that particular moment, they forgot. I guess that there is nothing all that unusual about that. We forget about God from time to time ourselves. So the Disciples forgot their history. They forgot about, among other things, the prophets Elijah and Elisha.
During the ministry of the prophet Elijah, there was a drought in the land. He found himself up in the city of Zarephath, in modern day Lebanon, on the Mediterranean coast (I Kings 17:8-16). There was a widow there who was down to her very last flour and cooking oil. She was going to make one last meal for her and her son and then prepare to die.