Lectionary Reflection—06 August 2017
When Jesus heard about John (that Herod had him beheaded; vv. 1-12 — jg+), he withdrew in a boat to a deserted place to be by himself. But the people learned of this and followed him on foot from the cities. 14When Jesus arrived and saw a large crowd, he had compassion for them and healed those who were sick.
15That evening his disciples came and said to him, “This is an isolated place and it’s getting late. Send the crowds away so they can go into the villages and buy food for themselves.”
16But Jesus said to them, “There’s no need to send them away. You give them something to eat.”
17They replied, “We have nothing here except five loaves of bread and two fish.”
18He said, “Bring them here to me.” 19He directed the crowds to sit down on the grass. He took the five loaves of bread and the two fish, looked up to heaven, and blessed them. He then broke the loaves apart, and gave them to his disciples. The disciples gave them to the crowds. 20Everyone ate until they were full, and twelve baskets were filled with the leftovers. 21About five thousand men plus women and children had eaten.
This is a hard passage for some people to swallow. No, I’m not talking about the miracle (although, some people do scoff at that). No, I’m talking about the redistribution of wealth.
It got me too.
I’ve never seen it before until this time around. I, too, focused on the bread and fish. But look again.
The disciples specifically asked Jesus to send the people away so they could purchase their own food with their own money in the nearby marketplaces. “Nope,” Jesus said. “You feed them. You take your own resources and feed all these people.” So much for capitalism and helping out the small business owner! Thanks a lot Jesus!
The disciples then try and pull a fast one—hoping they’ll get off the hook (no pun intended…well…maybe a little). “Look, man, all we have between us are five loaves of bread and two fish. That’s barely enough food to feed ourselves, much less 10,000 people!”
Notice Jesus here. He wasn’t all—“Golly! I had no idea! I’m sorry guys. You’re right. This is our food. Let them take care of this themselves. They might become dependent on us and never want to work or support themselves if we give them free food and feed them all.” No. Instead, he demanded all of the food, “Give it all to me. I’ll take your food and give it all away.” I can just hear the disciples now… “But… but… what are we supposed to eat? (hashtag sadface).” Then Jesus just gives them the look. You know what I’m talking about. The look your parents give you when you didn’t do what you were told? Yeah…that look.
So I’m sure the disciples grudgingly gave Jesus all the food they had. “Dang it…” “This is all your fault, Peter.”
“Shut up, Bartholomew!”
“Everyone,” Jesus interjects sternly, “sit down and be quiet.”
Okay, so, it might not have gone down like that but that’s how I hear it in my head.
But Jesus made a very crucial point.
If people are going to follow him, then they’re going to need to know that they’ll be called on from time to time to give away their own resources for the sake of others. That’s the life. That’s the way. That’s The. Way.
The miracle, then, is not the feeding of the people. It’s the changing of the hearts of the disciples. It’s showing them—again—what’s expected if they truly want to follow Jesus. It’s not just about giving up oneself. It’s about realizing that all that one has might be demanded of for the sake of others. Jesus is telling the disciples—and us and anyone else who wants to follow The Way—it’s better for them to go hungry than for others to go hungry. It’s better for them—and us and anyone else who wants to follow The Way—to be without than others to be without.
What would this world look like if that was the attitude of all of us who claim to follow Jesus? If we were more concerned for the well-being of others than we are for our own well-being—what kind of impact would that have on others? I submit that it would change the world.
May the love of God compel us.
In the Love of the Three in One,
Br. Jack+, LC