Feeding the Five Thousand

Reading: John 6.1-15
Thank God for mothers! The miracle of the feeding of the 5000 wouldn't have happened if it wasn't for an unnamed mother who insisted that her son took lunch with him - perhaps over his protests?

What do you think? I wonder how many men and women here today can remember being sent off to school, or on a picnic, with something that we were quite sure we wouldn't need. We were embarrassed about a pullover mum insisted we wear (but we didn't think it would be cold). The hat (and we were sure to be the only one wearing one). The sandwiches (but everyone else would have cake). The lunch (which we would have to carry about all morning and bring back home because we were sure we wouldn't be long). Did you ever feel embarrassed like that? And were you thankful because mum's instinct was right after all? It wasn't so bad. It was the right thing. You were perhaps the hero who saved the day.

I wonder if the scene was in any way like that for this boy who desperately wanted to be with the crowd who trekked around the lake to meet Jesus on the other side!

In any case Jesus sees the crowd coming and says to Philip, "Where can we buy enough food to feed all these people?" Philip does a quick calculation - Hmm! There are about 5000 men here (plus women and children). It would take 200 day's wages to make enough money to buy enough bread for these people. Jesus, you're asking where we can buy enough bread. We've got another problem here, Jesus, before we start looking for a shop, we had better find some money! We just don't have that sort of money!

It is the other gospel writers who tell us that it was 5000 men plus women and children. And it is just as well it was "plus women and children" because - Andrew comes up and says, "There is a boy here who has five loaves of barley bread and two fish." He's the only one who thought to bring his lunch (thought to bring his lunch?). That's all! Not another soul had enough sense to bring their lunch with them. Here's this boy, Lord. Here's his lunch. He's offering it to you. If you're hungry, Lord, perhaps you should have it. "But what good are they for all these people?"

What would you have done it you had been that boy? Would you have hidden your lunch under your cloak all embarrassed, so that no one else could see it? Would you have hidden behind a bush and eaten it all by yourself? Would you have brought it to Jesus? If so, why? What would you have expected Jesus to do with it? I mean - Andrew was right, wasn't he? They wouldn't solve the problem of feeding all those people! We don't really know what that boy was thinking when he brought all he had to Jesus. It was an act of faith, an act of commitment. Jesus would do something. Jesus would know what to do.

And so he did. He took the bread, gave thanks to God, and distributed it to the people sitting down. He did the same with the fish, and they all had as much as they wanted.

We don't know what sized baskets the disciples had - whether they were small baskets carried around in case you needed to carry something, or fish baskets out of Peter's boat. I think smaller baskets would be easier for distributing food. Jesus just kept on breaking bread and fish into the baskets as they brought them back. And when everyone had enough there were still twelve baskets' full of pieces left over. They gathered up the scraps so that none would be wasted - I wonder what they did with those twelve baskets' full of bread and fish pieces!

Do you remember when Jesus was talking with a crowd of adults and the parents brought their children for Jesus to bless them? We were thinking about that story recently at school. The disciples thought that the children were unimportant, that Jesus was too busy with the grown-ups. But Jesus said, "Let the children come to me and do not stop them, for to such belongs the Kingdom of God." And even later when John wrote this story down, he realised that they had only counted the men - he didn't have any idea how many women and children were there. But he knew about one boy, and his mother's provision, and his own simply boyish confidence in bringing what he had to Jesus.

Can you feed 5000? I don't think so! But what I do know is that you can bring what you have to Jesus and he will do far more with your life than you could ever do by yourself.

That mother didn't know what would happen that day when she packed her son's lunch. And the boy's eyes must have opened wide when he saw what Jesus did with the lunch he offered him.

Yes, we can come just as we are to Jesus so that he can forgive us and make us whole. And we can come just as we are to Jesus so that he can use us to bring his life and wholeness into this world!

The Hungry World

That can seem a bit daunting! Lord, here is what we've got, but it will certainly not be enough for all the need that surrounds us! For we live in a desperately hungry world. The hunger of the starving people portrayed on our television sets presents a challenge that can seem beyond our best human efforts - except that we haven't really tried to see what our best concerted human efforts could do.

But what of the other levels of human hunger, the symptoms of which we see in increasing levels of domestic violence, crimes of violence, suicides...? Behind the great evils of our day there lies an emptiness that people seek to fill in forbidden ways. Someone has said that there is in each of us a "God-shaped vacuum". We try to fill that vacuum with anything but God and are never finally satisfied.

The spectacle of the Gay Mardi Gras in Sydney will attract the perverted and the curious. There is no good reason for its endorsement by political figures or for the publicity it is receiving from the ABC. I trust that those of you who are in a position to make your strong protest now will do so.

God has placed within us a hunger for human relationship which is to find intimate expression only in marriage. The means by which that hunger is perverted in homosexuality is not fully understood. The means by which the Kinsey Institute concluded in their 1948 report that 4% of American males are homosexual - a figure which has been unofficially extended to 10% - is much better known. The sample studied was by no means typical sample of the polulation since many of them were in jail for violent sexual crimes! Little wonder that the most recent scientific data puts the figure at less than 1%! And again and again there are people affirm the message of hope - that it is possible to change, that this perverted hunger can be redirected!

No, there shouldn't be a Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras! There shouldn't be an advertisement and celebration on television of what is perverted and broken! But we do need to recognise the deep hunger that has led to a personally destructive life-style.

Lord, here is what we've got, but it will certainly not be enough for all the need that surrounds us!

Listen to the words of Jesus, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never be hungry; he who believes in me will never be thirsty" (v. 35). We must willingly bring what we have to him, knowing that he has all the resources for fulfilling and healing our hungry and hurting world.


© Peter J. Blackburn, Buderim Uniting Church, 6 March 1994
Except where otherwise noted, Scripture quotations are from the Good News Bible, © American Bible Society, 1992.

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