When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” Jesus said to them, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” They replied, “We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.” And he said, “Bring them here to me.” Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full. And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.
The wonders that Jesus performed were and still are, always signs of God’s loving character whose presence Jesus wears. When Jesus saw the great crowd that followed him he had compassion on them, and that is the nature of God, to have compassion. Not only did he heal them, when evening came and they had no food out there in the wilderness, rather than send them away to go find food, he fed them. The miracle of making five loaves of bread and two fish feed thousands of people with leftovers is not in any way ordinary. But, perhaps the point isn’t what Jesus does, but why. Because the character of God that Jesus reveals is a deep compassion for people.
Jesus did not complete the feeding of these thousands of people alone. He included the disciples to tend the needs of these thousands of men, women, and children. This is what happens when you move from a view of scarcity – “we have nothing here but five loaves and two fish” – to one of abundance – “thank you, God, for these five loaves and two fish that are offered to help.” Whatever their initial skepticism, the disciples got caught up in Jesus’ compassion and abundance and distributed what they had as they participated in the wonder and joy as “all ate and were filled.” God used skeptical disciples to care for the poor and hungry that God loves so much.
This miracle gives us an invitation today to be involved in miracles God is still performing. Discipleship is participating in the miracles Jesus does today. In the provision of food for many, the disciples witnessed that the promise of God‘s provision would be in their future too.
Jesus signaled his promise of abundance when he said, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” In other words, you do it. In that statement, Jesus empowered his disciples to be a part of the miracle. In other words, “I am counting on you to be involved in the miracle of feeding the masses.” Then Jesus multiplied the five loaves and two fish for them to distribute. God still does miracles, but when we participate in the miracle that is another miracle itself.
During this coronavirus pandemic church communities all over the country are reaching out to those who have lost their jobs to assist them with food, supplies, and financial assistance, meals for senior citizens and so many other means of outreach to help carry the food that God multiplies into the places of need. This made me consider Jesus’ directive to his disciples in a different way, as a major lesson in discipleship. Discipleship is rarely something we think to do first. What we will be asked to do to live out our discipleship to Christ may be a miracle itself because it opens our minds and our hearts to others and their needs.
- When have you discovered that you took part in bringing a miracle of God to someone?
- In what ways are you involved in serving others during this pandemic?
- Who have you called or Zoomed today to check on them or cheer them up?
Sue is NLS Spiritual Director, since 2019 and is a retired Lutheran Pastor (ELCA). Active in VdC since 1995, she has served two terms on the Board of the Texas VdC Secretariat, and also on the Texas Gulf Coast VdC Board as Spiritual Director since its start-up in 2017.