Bread Basket by DeFerrol Creative Commons Image on FlickrAfter this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, also called the Sea of Tiberias. 2A large crowd kept following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick. 3Jesus went up the mountain and sat down there with his disciples. 4Now the Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near. 5When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, "Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?" 6He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do. 7Philip answered him, "Six months' wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little." 8One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, said to him, 9 “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?” 10Jesus said, "Make the people sit down." Now there was a great deal of grass in the place; so they sat down, about five thousand in all. 11Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted. 12When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, "Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost." 13So they gathered them up, and from the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets. 14When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, "This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world."15When Jesus realized that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself.16When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea, 17got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. 18The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing. 19When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were terrified. 20But he said to them, "It is I; do not be afraid." 21Then they wanted to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the land toward which they were going.
My favorite childhood Bible story has always been the story of the feeding of the five thousand.
The reason is found in a simple illustration on the pages interleaved in my children’s Bible: of a little boy who gives his five loaves and two fish to Jesus.
That little boy doesn’t get too much attention in the text, which is a shame—because his generosity was a tremendous act of faith on his part that I could never picture myself doing as an adult in this situation…
What I can imagine is me stuffing that bread down my throat as fast as I could swallow it; hoping no one would notice. [I’d leave the fish. I don’t like fish].
As an adult, I worry: “what if this is the last food I’ll eat for a while?” “What if the crowd turns rowdy and steals my food?” “What if I get lost in the desert and can’t find my way home?”
The child doesn’t ask “what if” questions… The child trusts Jesus. We adults, on the other hand, ask, “what if?” The reason why is simple: all is not well with the world.
While our children watch Sesame Street, we watch 24-hour cable news—which reinforces what we already know to be true: that we inhabit a world of crime and violence; terrorism and civil unrest; scarcity and recession… Not only must we look out for ourselves, we must constantly ensure that our children are safe, healthy, educated, and given their fair shot at the American dream.
Fear is out natural, human reaction to the state our world is in—and fear begins with all the “what if?” questions: “What if I get sick?” “What if the economy tanks?” “What if I lose my job?” “What if ISIS attacks our country?” “What if that candidate I despise gets elected president?” “Are our schools safe? Is our food safe?”
We ask “what if” because survival is on the line!
Make no mistake—it’s not a sin to ask, “what if?” It’s not a sin to worry or be afraid.
It’s what we do with our fear that counts. Fear has tremendous power to turn is in on ourselves. It makes us vicious in protecting our own self-interests. It drives us to treat our neighbors with contempt. And, worst of all, it makes us greedy.
It is the greedy who trample on people to acquire, consume, and hoard all they can eat at the buffet of life (maybe that’s better said “more than they can never eat.”
All the while, we pay no attention to the one in five children, and one in six adults who face hunger every day—all the while 70 billion tons of food goes to waste every year.
The crowds following Jesus knew something about food insecurity—and not merely because they were in the desert. Most of them lived on the brink of hunger. Then, a little boy brings his food to Jesus.
Jesus takes the gifts in hand and gives thanks. The bread and fish are distributed. All five thousand eat their fill. Twelve baskets of leftover pieces are collected, so that nothing is wasted.
We need to be clear that Jesus doesn’t merely solve a problem. Jesus is revealing himself to be the bread of life for all the world to eat, so that all may partake of him and live forever.
This is still happening, in our time, because this is a hungry world—and we are a hungry people. We’re hungry for new life in a world full of death. Our greed and wasteful consumption only exacerbates the problem. And—there’s a billion people in the world with nothing to eat.
But right here, right now—Jesus has come into our midst. To all who are weary, broken, and afraid, he says “come and eat.” To the sinners, he says “come and drink my forgiveness.”
So we do as the boy does—we offer ourselves into the hands of Jesus: our hopes and dreams; our toils and cares; all that is precious and valuable. With Jesus, we give thanks and pray that we and all that we have be transformed into all that God desires. We eat and drink of the body and blood Jesus gives to us, so that we may become bread for all the world to share.
In offering ourselves, we offer up our worries and fears to Jesus just the same—which is a good thing. We need to be rid of worry. We need to be rid of all the “what ifs” that turn us into selfish, sullen, and ugly people. When there’s worry, there’s no sense of trust in God, ourselves, or anyone else. We’re always poor and we’re always threatened, even when we’re truly not.
All that changes when we put ourselves in Jesus’ hands. We eat and are satisfied by God’s abundance. We define “belongings” in terms of relationships instead of stuff. And—God’s people; our neighbors, are redeemed from the tyranny of hunger, hopelessness, and humiliation. Any notion of “haves” and “have-nots” disappears because we all belong to Jesus.
So—the fish and the loaves are in your hands… What will you do them?