This post was inspired and prompted by words ** from William H. Willimon in his book Thank God It’s Thursday.
One of the great physical miracles wrought by the hand of God through his Son is the feeding of the five thousand. There were so many people present that day that the disciples counted only the heads of households—one man representing perhaps three or more. Yet, scholars have tried to explain it. Skeptics have dismissed it. They want to remove the miraculous from it. Strip it of the divine and make it be nothing more than a humanitarian effort.
But that is not what it was.
I can’t explain nor dismiss this miraculous moment. I can’t even understand it. My finite logic just can’t seem to wrap all the way round the perimeter of this miracle, but I know it to be true just as sure as the earth is rotating on its axis and revolving around the sun at the same time. I can’t wrap my finite mind around that fact either, but I know it to be true.
The way John tells the story you get this feeling that Jesus has been waiting all day just for this. Matthew lets us know that this feeding came right after Jesus heard about the beheading of John the Baptist—his cousin, friend and forerunner.
In the midst of his grief he went to seek a solitary place, but the crowds followed. They’re waiting when he stepped off the boat. He looked out at that great crowd and instead of sending his disciples to act as press security and crowd control he moved among the people and bled his compassion on them. He laid the heat of his hands on their broken, sick and diseased bodies and heals their sick. In his own grief he heals. He opened his hands and did what John the Baptist said he was coming to do.
All day long Jesus moved among and through this crowd. When the day was almost finished, as evening began to set, the people heard and felt the rumblings of their empty stomachs.
Jesus heard the talk. He heard the questions and he waited. Jesus waited to see what his disciples would do. He knew what he would do; he had it planned, but he waited to see if his disciples would remember who they said he was? Would they remember what they had witnessed and seen? Would they be expectant? Would they anticipate how he would take care of this dilemma? No, instead they slipped back into the cloak of flesh, back into the realm of finite expectations, back into the dull sight of seeing only what is visible.
Jesus’ patience is wide and long, not just with them, but also with us.
Jesus disciples came to him. They, too, have heard the murmuring of the crowd. Jesus’ disciples were nervous. And they told Jesus just to send the crowd away. Let them go fend for themselves. Let them go get their own food in the villages nearby.
I’m wondering what prompted the little boy to offer his meal.
Jesus, had you spotted this little guy already? Did you see him arrive earlier and knew that the little boy would become an integral player in the drama that would unfold?
Did you see Peter keep brushing the boy’s hands away? Little hands pulling on his tunic,
Mr. Peter. Mr. Peter. I’ll share.
Did Peter swat him away like an annoying fly, and the boy had to turn to Andrew who finally paid attention?
Jesus, were you inwardly grinning at Peter’s awkwardness with the child? Of course Peter did not want to trouble or embarrass you with what little was offered. The boy’s meal was a mere snack to Peter, one eaten mid-afternoon to curb hunger until evening.
Did John turn to look at you? Did James smack his forehead? Did Philip roll his eyes as he did his mathematical calculations? What did they do when they saw this boy and his lunch? Did they really think that you couldn’t or wouldn’t do something with what was offered? You already knew. You already knew what you were going to do.
And even once the meal was surrendered they seemed to think you would use it as it was—that you would simply disperse the five loaves and fish. Divided as evenly as possible so that a few people could have a little lunch.
It's almost as if what they were thinking in their heads got spoken out loud.
“How far will they go among so many?” they asked.
Oh, these poor clueless men.
How far? Depends on whether what is being used has been blessed by Jesus. Depends on whether what is offered into Jesus’ hands is to be used for his purpose.
And then Jesus doesn’t tell them how far this will go, he shows them.
Jesus took the loaves and gave thanks (Ann Voskamp’s eucharisteo). He did the same with the fish. Then he distributed both.
Jesus took that thin little meal, barely enough for a boy, and feeds (with leftovers mind you) what eight months of wages couldn’t have even bought to give them all one bite.
He saw something in them that would multiply. Something he could use.
Jesus saw good in the five little loaves and two little fish of the boy. He saw what could be rather than what was meagerly offered.
Jesus saw beyond.
Oh, Father, let me be both the boy and the meal. Let me be the coarse bread and the raw fish…and may you see in me something you want to multiply. May you see in me something that you can use to feed your masses.
May you see something in me that can use to feed your hungry sheep.
Oh, Father, let Jesus take me in his hands, bless me and break me (and oh God, help me) to feed
The little loaves and fish were a paltry answer, actually no answer at all, until they were placed in Jesus’ hands and asked to be blessed by you.
May he see beyond in me.
Oh, Father! Today I ask that you put something in me that he can use, that you can bless.
Let me be bread and fish and boy in your hands, Jesus.
**"Jesus worked a great miracle in multiplying a few loaves and fishes to feed a multitude. A similar miracle is how Jesus is using people like you to multiply the good that he wants to do in the world."
Thank God It's Thursday by William H. Willimon
Chapter 5, page 82
Bread and Fish image