On their return the apostles told Jesus all they had done. He took them with him and withdrew privately to a city called Bethsaida. When the crowds found out about it, they followed him; and he welcomed them, and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who needed to be cured.
The day was drawing to a close, and the twelve came to him and said, ‘Send the crowd away, so that they may go into the surrounding villages and countryside, to lodge and get provisions; for we are here in a deserted place.’ But he said to them, ‘You give them something to eat.’ They said, ‘We have no more than five loaves and two fish—unless we are to go and buy food for all these people.’ For there were about five thousand men. And he said to his disciples, ‘Make them sit down in groups of about fifty each.’ They did so and made them all sit down. And taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke them, and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd. And all ate and were filled. What was left over was gathered up, twelve baskets of broken pieces.
The stories of our faith traditions get lost in a maze of mummy gauze and distortions by romantic whitewashing to the point it’s difficult, if not impossible, to grasp the depth and breadth of such an experience as Jesus feeding well over 5000 people in the desert.
How astounding to witness thousands of folks fed from a tiny bit of two little dried up fish and five biscuits. Jesus was trying to get away with the disciples to discuss a few things but had spent much of yet another day healing the sick. Late in the day when the “deacons” and “elders” said why don’t you “send the crowd away” to get lodging and food elsewhere, Jesus said, “You feed them.” This was already an unbelievable administrative nightmare, you know they weren’t all getting along like a Sunday School class of kids in 1955. Yet tried and true leadership skills came into play as thousands were gathered into smaller groups and invited to have a seat.
Jesus, taking a meager snack, blessed it, broke it and then broke it some more and gave it to his disciples who distributed the food to everyone and there were still twelve baskets of food left over.
This story of God’s mercy and love is also one of the greatest images of the living church today; folks, hurting and hungry, gathered to find Jesus, being healed and fed. The world we live in now is still looking for healing and wholeness. Miracles happen when we, the church, find our voice of compassion and love.
Should we, in our bickering and complaining about “not having enough,” just send the world away to be filled elsewhere? We have enough. We have what the world needs. We have Jesus. We have God’s grace and mercy. We have enough to tell the administrators of Our Church that we don’t have to exclude anyone or hold back on God’s love because, there is enough. There is enough love, there is enough food, there is enough healing for everyone. And there will be leftovers.
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