Summary: Jesus takes the little we have and makes a miracle. A message for Commitment Sunday
In a world with 7.3 billion people, and in a country with around 320 million people, it’s easy to feel insignificant. It’s easy to feel like we don’t much matter. At the same time, though, it’s also humbling to think that I have any significance at all. You know that one of my favorite things to do in the world is spend time at the beach. Someone asked me recently what is it about being at the beach that draws me in, and I answered that it was a spiritual experience to sit along the shore, especially at night, and listen to the waves crashing against the shore beholding the vastness of the universe above. Not only is it a spiritual experience, but it is humbling, too.
Actually, life is filled with humbling experiences. I pat myself on the back for being a regular at the Monroe Athletic Center, working out, doing cardio, trying to stay healthy. That’s great, and I feel real good about myself until I turn on the TV and the Bowflex guy comes on the commercial with his six-pack abs (yes, those abs he got in only twenty minutes three times a week on the Bowflex), then I look at mine and I’m humbled (and embarrassed!). Life can be humbling. That’s the context in which we have to view John’s account of the story of the loaves and fishes. That’s okay because it is in the humility of life that we discover the stuff of miracles.
This story, the feeding of the five thousand, is the only miracle Jesus preformed that is recorded in all four Gospels. As such, we can conclude this to be a very important occurrence. It occurred during the Passover season about one year before Christ’s death (John 6:4). John’s version of the story of the feeding of the five thousand (or the loaves and fishes, however you chose to reference the encounter) is distinctive. It is distinctive in that John’s is the only account that tells us about the little boy. Can we identify with that little boy? Think with me for a moment what it feels like to be a child in a large crowd. It’s intimidating. It’s scary. It’s challenging. It might even be humbling. Here’s this little boy in the middle of a crowd of Pharisees, Sadducees, big burly fishermen, rich people, poor people—5,000 men, John tells us and that doesn’t include the women. Heck, this little boy is not even counted among the crowd. He is insignificant…almost as if he doesn’t even exist. Is that a humbling experience?
He’s not just a little boy, but he’s poor, too. John tells us the loaves were barley loaves. Barley was the grain of the poor because it was the cheapest grain. And, the fish, well, they were sardines. Two little fish and a few slices of pita bread. This was the little boy’s lunchable. This is what his mother had packed for him when he left home. He is a poor little boy with the worst sort of bread and a couple of sardines. When we understand this, we begin to see the power of the miracle.
The little boy was probably from a nearby village. He might have been out working in the fields or playing with friends when Jesus came by with this large crowd following him. Jesus comes along and the little boy gets caught up in the crowd. It gets late in the day and the crowd starts to stir. Some man (Andrew) comes along and asks for his lunch, “Jesus needs your lunch!” At first, he’s scared, but fear soon turns to pride—this teacher is asking for my lunch. Then, the pride turns to embarrassment as he says, “All I’ve got is my lunchable—barley loaves and sardines.” It didn’t matter. Jesus took the barley loaves and fish and feed the crowd—maybe ten thousand people in all—and had plenty to spare.
I wonder why John makes mention of the little boy? I’m not sure why he mentions him, but I know the little boy teaches us that even the most insignificant among us possess the stuff of miracles. It was out of what the little boy had that Jesus found the building blocks of a miracle. Jesus desires to use whatever we bring. How many miracles in the world are denied because we won’t offer what we have to Jesus? We have time. We have skills. We have financial resources. We have expertise. We have so much to offer no matter how insignificant we believe ourselves to be.
Offering her little, a lady named Rosa made a difference. The story takes place in hell—Hell’s Kitchen, that is. Hell’s Kitchen is the most dangerous part of New York City. After her conversion, a Puerto Rican woman named Rosa wanted to serve. She didn’t speak a word of English. Through an interpreter, she pleaded with her pastor, Bill Wilson, “I want to do something for God, please!”