Eph 2:11-22; Mark 6:30-44
Who here has battled the COVID 15? COVID 15 are the extra pounds many of us have gained due to about 15 months of lockdown. If you are anything like our family, comfort food like mac and cheese, fried chicken, every pasta dish under the sun, Chinese takeout, not to mention all the popcorn, rocky road ice cream or chocolate chip cookies, were the order of the day – as we binge-watched shows like the Mandalorian with Baby Yoda taking the top spot. Our grubhub and uber eats drivers become our new best buddies, next to the amazon guy who delivered the disinfectant wipes and masks regularly.
Because meals have such a social and spiritual benefit, it’s not a surprise that meals are front and center in Jesus’ ministry. Jesus performed his first miracle at a wedding feast, spent his last night on earth at a Passover meal with his disciples, and ate and drank with tax collectors and sinners, and even Pharisees. It’s not surprising that meals are included in his teachings and parables, like the King’s wedding banquet for his son or the feast served up for the prodigal son. It is no wonder that the only miracle that is found in all four gospels is the feeding of the 5000, the story in our gospel lesson today. There are even separate stories of the feedings of four thousand people. Theses miracles are a powerful demonstration of God satisfying a fundadmental need for food and water, the need to be together around the dining room table and take delight in each other’s company.
Our text begins with Jesus and his disciples going away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. They were on their way to get some much-needed rest and relaxation, but that would soon be interrupted, because many who saw them leaving recognized Jesus, the word got out, and so they ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. The disciples are probably groaning. As your boat pulls away from the shore, you hear a shout, “Hey, they’re leaving, hurry up everyone let’s follow their boat!” And the crowd just gets bigger and bigger, and they’re so eager that they’re even starting to get ahead of you to meet you on the other side! Probably for many of us, we’d be a little annoyed. These people seem inconsiderate, rude and disrespectful towards you because they don’t seem to care if you’re tired and hungry too. That’s the human in all of us.
Jesus’s response was different. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. The religious leaders and teachers of Israel were supposed to be the Shepherds. But what were they doing? They were taking money from the poor. They were selling merchandise at the temple. They were burdening people with unnecessary laws.
Jesus the true Shepherd, knew the effort the crowds made to catch up to him. He knew they were filled with spiritual hunger. So, he began to teach them. While the disciples were hungry for food, Jesus was hungry to love. Jesus’s God is a God of compassion, and he looks upon us through the lens of love.
The text tells us that Jesus continued to teach until it was late in the day. His disciples, mindful of the clock and their stomachs, remind Jesus ‘This is a remote place, and it’s already very late. Send the people away so they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat. Late in the day might mean around noon. The Jewish day started in the evening, so by noon the day itself was almost over. The disciples respond to Jesus’ comment that you give them something to eat, with an answer that was realistic and practical: Jesus, that would take more than half a year’s wages – and even if they had enough money where could they go to buy the amount of food it would take to feed all those people? Jesus had placed on them an impossible task.
Jesus wasn’t the only one who had compassion. From a little boy in the crowd comes forward with five loaves and two fish.” Somehow this little boy was touched by Jesus, moved to action despite the odds. The miracle really starts with a little boy, touched by Jesus’s words, Jesus’s presence. He sees the need, he sees the enormity of the situation, but still he is willing to offer what he has.
What a reminder this little boy is to us. We are surrounded by insurmountable needs. People in our community need work. We have bills to pay, many which piled up during COVID. Some of us have illnesses that plague our bodies. Perhaps we’ve gotten cynical, or our hearts have grown hardened given all the social, political and economic shenanigans around us. Look at our church. In this day and age of secularism, how will we survive? We feel defeated before we even begin.
The insurmountable need is there. Our resources are few. But the text tells us of the amazing miracle took place despite the paucity of resources. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, Jesus gave thanks and broke the loaves. Jesus blesses the few resources that are there. God makes a way out of no way.
Jesus himself multiplied the loaves and the fish with his own hands. Jesus enabled the disciples to participate in this miracle as they continued to distribute the food. He didn’t cause the loaves and fish to fall from the sky, like manna from heaven. The food didn’t suddenly appear in everyone’s hands. Jesus gave the loaves and fish to his disciples, so that they could feed the people also.
The text tells us They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces of bread and fish. The number of men who had eaten was five thousand. That doesn’t include the women and children, so bump this number up to 20-30,000. There were even enough leftovers to fill 12 baskets – a doggie bag for each of the disciples to take on the go! This is an illustration of God’s compassion, God’s grace, God’s blessing our meagre resources and satisfying the need. It is a reminder of the difference one person can do, who comes to Jesus and puts what he or she has in the Lord’s hands.
A recent e-mail I received asked readers to reflect on the following questions: 1. Name the five wealthiest people in the world; 2. Name the last five heisman trophy winners; 3. Name the last five winners of the Miss America contest; 4. Name ten people who have won the Nobel or Pulitzer Prize; 5. Name the last half dozen Academy Award winners for best actor and actress; 6. Name the last 10 World Series winners?
As you reflect on these six questions you quickly realize that very few people would know the answer to even one of them. The e-mail follows with another set of questions: 1. List a few teachers who aided your journey through school; 2. Name three friends who have helped you through a difficult time; 3. Name five people who have taught you something worthwhile; 4. Think of a few people who have made you feel appreciated and special; 5. Think of five people you enjoy spending time with; 6. Name six heroes whose stories have inspired you?
The point of the e-mail is this: “The people who have made a difference in your life are not the ones with the most credentials, the most money or the most awards. They are the ones that care.” The ones with compassion. They are the ones who have been involved in your life.
It just took one compassionate child offering up his meal, for our compassionate Lord to bless and multiply the gift for everyone. So imagine what Jesus can do with your resources, your gifts, your dream, your offering, if face of the need around us. You can make a difference. Act on compassion. Bring your gift and put it in the Shepherd’s hands. Blessed by God, the need can be met. People can be fed, clothed, loved. Dreams can be realized. Lives can be changed. A revival can happen, All it takes is that one. Be the one. Come forward. Offer what you have to Jesus, and he will do the rest. Amen.