After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, also called the Sea of Tiberias. A large crowd kept following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick. Jesus went up the mountain and sat down there with his disciples. Now the Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near. When 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?” He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do. Philip answered him, “Six months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.” One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?” Jesus 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. Then 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. When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, “Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost.” So they gathered them up, and from the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets. When 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.” When 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.
In a former life I taught Economics – often quoted as ‘the science of scarce resources’! Sounds like the Church and all our discussions.
Here Jesus gives us a lesson in economics of a very different kind.
This miracle begins the long, rich chapter about bread and Passover. The story is told in all four gospels – each with a different nuance but fundamentally the same – how the large crowd are fed.
The disciples were at a loss, they did not know what to do. Eventually, they brought the peedie* boy and his picnic to Jesus’ attention. Many of us will have known the story since we were children. It is simple yet profound – bring what we have to the attention of Jesus.
The emphasis is on what have we got. Jesus does not focus on what we haven’t got. So often our talk is of what we have not got, of decline, of scarcity (yes we have to be realistic). Yet here in this passage we see abundance, grace, promise and faith.
I am reminded of the words of a hymn which is a favourite of many – ‘Finest bread I will provide’ – here with left overs too.
Maybe Jesus reminds us – What have you got? Bring it to my attention. As we look around our congregations we see precious gifts, promise, love and faith.
* (small in Orcadian)
To God, who blesses us beyond our imagining? who loves us beyond our dreaming, who forgives us beyond our deserving, and who uses us beyond our hoping, be praise and thanksgiving, honour and adoration now and always, In the name of Jesus Amen
(adapted from a prayer by the Rev’d Nick Fawcett)
The Rev’d Susan Kirkbride is the minister of the Peedie Church in Orkney