After Jesus had left that place, he passed along the Sea of Galilee, and he went up the mountain, where he sat down. Great crowds came to him, bringing with them the lame, the maimed, the blind, the mute, and many others. They put them at his feet, and he cured them, so that the crowd was amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the maimed whole, the lame walking, and the blind seeing. And they praised the God of Israel. Then Jesus called his disciples to him and said, ‘I have compassion for the crowd, because they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat; and I do not want to send them away hungry, for they might faint on the way.’ The disciples said to him, ‘Where are we to get enough bread in the desert to feed so great a crowd?’ Jesus asked them, ‘How many loaves have you?’ They said, ‘Seven, and a few small fish.’ Then ordering the crowd to sit down on the ground, he took the seven loaves and the fish; and after giving thanks he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And all of them ate and were filled; and they took up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full. Those who had eaten were four thousand men, besides women and children. After sending away the crowds, he got into the boat and went to the region of Magadan.
‘How many loaves have you?’ Jesus has spent time healing the crowds, but he sees they have other needs. They are hungry. He asks the disciples, ‘What can you do to help these people?’
The disciples may be a bit surprised. Perhaps they think, ‘Hmm, we only brought enough for our dinner!’ Someone thinks quickly, adding what they have together, and answers Jesus, ‘Seven loaves and a few SMALL fish.’ Translation: ‘Really, we don’t have much, Lord, this is ALL we have to offer.’
It’s enough for Jesus. He somehow gets the attention of the crowd, orders them to sit (imagine a wave of thousands of people slowly sitting down) and offers the food. It’s enough for everyone.
Corporately, we have lurched from one crisis to another in the last three years. Personally, we may be facing a crisis. If this is the case, we may feel we have nothing left to give. ‘I can barely make it through the day, what can I do for someone else?’ In addition, as churches, our resources may be fewer than they were 3 or 13 years ago. We are older; we are tired. We have less money in our savings. ‘What can we do for someone else?’
Maybe this is how the disciples felt. ‘Jesus does such an amazing job, what can we offer in the midst of these healing moments?’ Jesus simply asks them to see the needs of the crowd, look at what they have and offer it with thankful hearts.
We are faced with crowds in need. What are we doing in response? We have buildings which we can open to offer people warm spaces and safe gatherings. We have an extra few cans in our shopping carts for the food bank. What else do we have, that we perhaps take for granted, that we can share?
Living Lord, we thank you for the healing you bring to the life of the world. For those who dedicate their lives to bring healing through medicine, for the carers who work in homes and care homes, we thank you. Give us wisdom to see into our own lives and offer what we can, however simple, to provide for the needs of your people. Amen.
The Rev’d Martha McInnes, Minister, Cardiff and Penarth Pastorate