The Feeding of the 5000
["A New Social Order"]
By the fourth century, the churches in Rome were feeding an estimated 20,000 poor people each week. The church at that time presented to the world a visible alternative to the prevailing social order. As Georges Florovsky has written in "Empire and Desert":
Christianity entered human history as a new social order or, rather, a new social dimension. From the very beginning, Christianity was not primarily a "doctrine," but exactly a "community." There was not only a "message" to be proclaimed and delivered and "Good News" to be declared, but there was a New Community, distinct and peculiar, in the process of growth and formation, to which members were called and recruited. Indeed, "fellowship" ("koinonia") was the basic category of Christian existence (1).
Charlie Brown and Lucy are talking in a Peanuts comic. They are lying on their backs looking up at the night sky. Charlie Brown says, “I read that in 8-10 billion years the sun will expand and consume the earth.
Lucy sits up, glares at Charlie Brown and asks, “Well, what can I do about it?”
People were out there a long way from any village, and they were hungry. Jesus said to his disciples, “Feed them.” And the disciples asked, “What can we do about it?” They couldn’t imagine what they might do, so he took a few loaves and a couple of fishes they found and worked a miracle to meet their need. He met the need of the hungry people, AND he met the need of the helpless disciples.
Point #1 of the story: There are some things we cannot do for ourselves.
–We cannot make hope at the edges of life,
–We cannot derive meaning from the rat race,
–We can forget our mistakes but we do not have the power to forgive ourselves.
–We cannot make 5 loaves and 2 fish feed 5000 hungry people.
The people have come to Jesus to receive what they cannot provide for themselves. Later, the disciples come to Jesus because they were overwhelmed by the need before them, and they have no idea what to do to meet that need. On occasion, we have all been overwhelmed by the need before us.
–I have stood in neighborhoods where poverty is the only constant and felt overwhelmed;
–I have walked the cell blocks of a prison and wondered what could be done to relieve us of the need for such places.
–The crowds came to Jesus because they wanted their hopes fulfilled. They wanted something more from life than they could see. And, so do we. We want to share in God’s purposes for the earth.
This why we come: we come because there are some things we cannot do for ourselves. The miracle came that day in the realization that, in Jesus’ hands, five loaves and two fish could feed the multitude. The miracle comes today in the realization that in Jesus’ hands our willing efforts can still feed or house or heal the multitudes.
Text: The next day the crowd has been so “stirred” by the miracle Jesus had done, that they follow him all around the Sea of Galilee like he was a superstar. I believe that when they first started following Jesus, they just thought he might provide an afternoon diversion. He was the most interesting visitor passing along the road. It was not much but it was enough, so they followed him just to see what would happen. And even after he worked the miracle of feeding the 5000, they could not put into words what moved them to follow him so frantically.
+The whole thing started because people wanted to hear the traveling preacher who was passing through the village.
+Then, their hunger and the disappointment over a young boy's lunch turned into a miracle which surrounded them with God's abundance.
+All of this touched their souls in ways they could never have imagined. They find themselves leaving everything else to go looking for Jesus.
Have you ever gone out, thinking you are looking for something fairly unimportant only to run into something that stirs your soul? Often, the stirring is hard to define; we cannot easily put the moment into words. You were looking for the pedestrian, but you run across the profound. You don’t know whether to stop and sort it all out OR to forge ahead and enjoy the experience.
We have all had such moments. We have been told all our lives that we are supposed to be looking for something.
+Find a career.
+Find what makes you happy.
+Find the American dream and live it.
+Find the answer that will make you a hero.
Further, the world tells us that, whether or not we know what we are looking to find, we are in charge of the search – that it is our task. We have spend a lot of life looking, assuming that looking was something we have to do by ourselves for ourselves.
--Never realizing that the bread of life which Jesus offers is the answer to life’s tantalizing questions about meaning and purpose and connection.
–Never realizing that in His presence we are known and loved beyond counting and without the small print that undermines every promise the world makes.
–Never realizing that eating the nugget of bread and drinking the tiny cup of juice the servers provide as we kneel at the communion rail is a feast for body and soul.
The meal that day for the crowd started with low expectations and ended in the stirring confidence that God was moving among them. We come to this Table – some of us – with no higher expectation than to get it done. But here at he Table the Lord of Love moves among us.
III. Something that we need to notice about this miracle of the loaves and fishes is the simple fact of the bread and the fish. In our world we expect more of the physical than we do of the spiritual. You can show the physical to your friends; it might fatten your bank account. The only thing we have to show from the spiritual is nothing to show; it is rarely more than a good feeling. As a result, we are quick to spiritualize everything that Jesus does (just to keep expectations low) and therefore miss the physical fact that this miracle dealt with hungry stomachs filled with bread from Jesus' hands.
In fact, the bread was so ordinary that 5000 people wolfed it down without a second thought. It was so ordinary that 12 basketfuls were gathered up when everyone had eaten enough. 5000 witnesses and 12 disciples did not notice anything unusual about the bread which came from this miracle except that five loaves and two fish turned into food enough for all of them.
Life at its fullest is both spiritual and physical. A good meal satisfies the body’s need for fuel; it also imparts a sense of connectedness to the earth and often a sense of community around a table – physical and spiritual.
+The life of a Christian is both physical and spiritual.
+What we do in church on Sunday morning is no less physical just because it is deeply spiritual.
+The miracle of the feeding of the 5000 is a physical miracle which pointed the crowd and the disciples to the reality of God among them. And God among them was seen the face and acting in the hands of Jesus Christ.
IV. So, come to the Table of the Lord. Here there is bread. Here there is the cup. Here there is the undefinable and yet stirring presence of the Holy. We arrive with an nonchalance that allows us to keep our demeanor and our distance intact. But, somewhere between the Lord’s prayer and “this is the Body of Christ,” we discover a different presence moving among us. It is the presence of the Living Christ, come to visit, to listen, and to touch his own.
Come to the Table. It is the Table of the Lord.
1. Terbush, Rev. Dr. Jay M., The Significance of the Insignificant