Pentecost 9, 2021 (Year B) John 6:1-21 – Feeding the 5000
The River Jordan flows into the north end of the Sea of Galilee and two miles up the river was a village now long lost called Bethsaida Julias and near Bethsaida Julias, almost on the lakeside, was a little plain where the grass always grew.
There is a legend that it was on that grassy plain that Jesus performed the miracle of feeding of the five thousand.
Biblical scholars have suggested that there are possibly three way to look at the miracle.
We may regard it simply as a miracle in which Jesus multiplied the five loaves and the two fishes.
Some have seen the miracle of the loaves and fishes as a contradiction to what Jesus said in the temptation in the wilderness (Matt.4:3-4) where Jesus refused to be tempted to rebel against, or to break God’s natural law.
Those who choose to believe in the miraculous nature of this story, have the freedom to do just that.
However we should also remain open to two other possible explanations or interpretation of the miracle.
In John chapter 6, the language of John is really the language of the Eucharist where Jesus speaks about the eating of his flesh and the drinking of his blood.
Matthew, Mark and Luke all record the institution of the Last Supper – John alone tells it in a very different format.
In John 6, the little that they received was enough, and from this sacramental crumb they were richly nourished and their hearts and souls were satisfied. Much along the lines of what happens in the Eucharist, even today.
Yet there is still another lovely explanation.
It is based on the fact that no one in those days would have set out on a nine-mile walk without making any preparations for their journey. (The baskets are a give-away to this!)
It may be, that moved by Jesus’ example of sharing of the little that could be found, that everyone did the same; and that in the end there was enough. Indeed we are told in the story, there was enough to fill twelve picnic baskets.
It may be, that the real miracle in this story is the miracle of the transformation a crowd into a fellowship of people who suddenly became aware of the needs of others and open to sharing what they had with those who had none.
However it should be recognized that the miracle would not have been possible if it had not been for the faith and the generosity of certain individuals in the story.
Philip was the negative man in the story who implied: “That the situation was hopeless; that nothing could be done.”
Andrew was positive. His actions suggested, “That he would see what he could do; and trust Jesus to do the rest.”
It was Andrew who brought the boy with the loaves and fishes to Jesus. He sought him out and took him to Jesus. It was Andrew who helped to make the miracle possible.
There is a great lesson for us in this, and that is, that when we introduce someone to Jesus – however we do this – we don’t really know what will come of it.
William Barclay, tells the story of an old schoolmaster in Germany who would greet his class every morning, by removing his hat and bowing ceremoniously to them. He was asked why he did this. His answer was: “You never know what one of these boys may someday become.” He was right, because one of his boys was Martin Luther.
Andrew did not know what he was doing when he brought the nameless boy to Jesus on that day, but what he did was to provide Jesus with material for him to work a miracle.
We may never know what possibilities we are releasing when we bring someone to Jesus.
So what do we know of the little boy? All we know is that he didn’t have very much but the little that he had he offered to Jesus and from that Jesus was able to do a great thing.
We may not think that we have much to give to Jesus but that does not matter for he is able to take the little we have and use it for the sake of others.
And think on this for just a moment; the world may well be denied a great miracle because we have not brought to Jesus what we have and what we are.
If we would but lay ourselves at the altar of his service, there is no saying what he could do with us and through us.
We may be embarrassed that we don’t have much to bring, but that is no reason for failing to bring what we have.
The story of the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand is a reminder to us that the little that we have is always much in the hands of Christ. Amen.