Thursday, November 5, 2009

Loaves and Fishes

The Feeding of the 4000. The Feeding of the 5000. The Miracle of the Five Loaves and Two Fishes. The Miracle of the Seven Loaves and Fishes. The Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes. "The sign that he had done" (John 6:14). Or whatever you want to call it.

Matthew 14:13-21; 15:32-38
Mark 6:31-44; 8:1-10
Luke 9:10-17
John 6:1-15

Either or 4000 or over 5000 people were listening to Jesus. Jesus wanted them to be fed. Sometimes the disciples wanted the people to eat. Sometimes Jesus wanted them to eat. In every story but the one in John, the disciples had food, just not much. Every time it was bread and fish.

Jesus prays over the food and breaks the bread, and the disciples give the food out. Everyone eats. Food is left over. The disciples gather that food and have more than they started with. In every telling but John 6, that's the end of the story. In John, the narrator says, "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.'"

Only two of the stories said the people had nothing to eat (Mark 8 and Matthew 15 ). And maybe none of the people had any food, except for that boy who only appears in John's account. And the disciples, of course. With well over 4000 people in both situations, I'm unsure how the disciples would know whether or not people had any food.

None of the stories say Jesus multiplied the food. John calls it a sign, even though he doesn't call the very next story a sign, the story of Jesus walking on the water. I'm not saying no miracle occurred, but I want to work with a different interpretation for a moment. I mean, even those who believe differently than us have fruitful thoughts, don't they?

I don't know if I heard it in a sermon or in class or read it in a book. Regardless of its source, some people think the "miracle" here is a moral one, not a physical one. These people say the disciples and/or a young boy started handing out bread and fish, which inspired other to give out of their abundance. They presume other people had food, but the disciples didn't know about it. Jesus was wise though.

In these interpretations, Jesus didn't multiply loaves and fishes, but caring and sharing. I don't know who is right, because the text does not tell us. Either interpretation, what a miracle!


I lamented to a friend the other day. I told him I only had small ideas, but big goals. I want to cure AIDS, but I only have a box band-aids and lips for kissing boo-boos.

"Loaves and fishes," he said. (Actually, he might have said, "loaves and fish." I like "fishes.")

I can't end homelessness or poverty or racism or sexism or bigotry or hypocrisy or oppression or people's aversion to deconstruction.

I can't do it; a trip to Miami solves no problems.
You can't do it; smiling to someone at the DMV doesn't fix anything.

But I've got a few loaves in the shape of a trip to Miami. You've got some fish for a smile. Together, we could feed a few. And with the Bread of Life at work, we're going to see others sharing their loaves and fishes. We're inspired by Jesus to share and sharing that inspiration.

Hunger will be no more when God does multiplication.

Loaves and fishes, friends.
Loaves and fishes.

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