In those days there was another large crowd with nothing to eat. Jesus called his disciples and told them, “I feel sorry for the crowd because they have been with me for three days and have nothing to eat. If I send them away hungry to their homes, they won’t have enough strength to travel, for some have come a long distance.”
His disciples responded, “How can anyone get enough food in this wilderness to satisfy these people?”
Jesus asked, “How much bread do you have?”
They said, “Seven loaves.”
He told the crowd to sit on the ground. He took the seven loaves, gave thanks, broke them apart, and gave them to his disciples to distribute; and they gave the bread to the crowd. They also had a few fish. He said a blessing over them, then gave them to the disciples to hand out also. They ate until they were full. They collected seven baskets full of leftovers. This was a crowd of about four thousand people! Jesus sent them away, then got into a boat with his disciples and went over to the region of Dalmanutha.
This is the second story about Jesus feeding a multitude of people. As we recall from the previous story, about 5,000 people were fed. In our story today, there are roughly 4,000 people being fed. In both stories, there were plenty of leftovers, several basketfuls actually.
One thing that some commentators, scholars, and theologians have been brought up, and I think it’s quite valid, is that in the story of the feeding of the 5,000 (and their families), the people would have mostly been Jewish. Here, with Jesus going to the region of Tyre and Sidon, the feeding of the 4,000 suggests that most of the people would have been foreigners, Gentiles. And, if we take the lesson that Jesus learned previously from the Syrophoenician woman, we could see that his vision of G_d’s reconciliation was expanded to include all creation.
There’s also a sense of the wilderness experience from the Exodus story here. Notice that this huge crowd of people had been wondering “in the wilderness” for “three days” with nothing to eat. And, like before, Jesus miraculously provides food for them. So much food that they ate until they were full with several baskets left over. Indeed, the New Exodus is forming in and around Jesus. This new deliverance is not just limited to the Jews but is for all people.
Lastly, as in the previous story, Jesus doesn’t do this on his own. His disciples distribute the food and collect the leftovers. In other words, G_d works through humanity to bring reconciliation to creation. This has been G_d’s pattern for doing things over and over again. A lot of people ask the really hard questions when things go wrong, “Where was G_d when my child died?” “Why did G_d let this happen?” “How can a loving G_d allow some much evil in the world?” All of these questions are valid questions. What we need to see is that the answer to all of them is the same - G_d uses people to change the world. The question shouldn’t be, “Why did G_d let this happen?” but “Why did we let this happen?” We are G_d’s coworkers. We have been shown how to live, love, and be Christ in the world. It is up to us to spread the message and actions of reconciliation to all creation - not only to those who agree with us, but also our neighbors and our enemies. All of creation has been set free. It’s up to us to help make that freedom a reality for all.
In the Love of the Three in One,
Br. Jack+, LC