“Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns.” (Matthew 14:13)
What Jesus heard – his cousin and his comrade in ministry, had been put to death by Herod. Herod’s wife, who did not like what John the Baptist was saying to and about her, connived a plan to bring about John’s death. And Jesus was grieving, and understandably wanted to grieve and mourn privately. But Jesus had become a very public figure, and would become even more so.
“When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick. 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.” (Verses 14 – 16)
Jesus’ good humor restored, or his seeing a teachable moment, tossed out a slightly impossible suggestion.
“They replied, “We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.” (Verse 17)
Remember, Jesus did have his time away. And perhaps John’s death reminded him and helped him to take the next step in teaching his disciples and the crowd what it meant to trust in him and the Lord God who sent him. I am just theorizing; Jesus probably knew that John the Baptist’s time on earth was limited. And John’s death might have been a foreshadowing of the cost to following Jesus and the Lord God. But there were “perks” as well.
“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.” (Verses 18 – 21)
Can you, or have you ever imagined that scene beloved reader? A large tract of land, perhaps even a hill side, covered with people sitting down. The NRSV titles this section “the Feeding of the Five Thousand”. I do not what size of ground five thousand would fill, but the prospect of just using five loaves of bread & two fishes to feed them all seems more than a little optimistic and even far-fetched. Read carefully what it sees in these verses. Each disciple, however many there were was only given a PORTION of a loaf of bread and PART of a fish. And from that they started passing out the food. The pieces of bread never ran out, and there was lots of fish to go around. And leftovers?!?!? There were leftovers! Any potluck I have been to, the leftovers were taken home by those who attended. So not only did Jesus feed them there, but he supplied them with food for their journey back home!
We have talked about the hard times we are going through, and if I have not recently talked about that, it is only because you know so well and too well the current circumstances. We talk about the Divine supplying us with what we need. We doubt, because our need is so great. We wonder how the Lord God will provide, especially when there seems to be so many in need, and such varying needs. This story is in testimony to the fact that the Divine provides everything we need to survive our days; well, maybe not material things like, say, loaves & fishes. Jesus provided the five thousand with what they needed for their bodies. After the coming of the Holy Spirit what was & is provided is nourishment for our spirits.
That is part of the wrestling and grasping too; that the Divine does not always provide for bodily needs. And we do struggle to understand that. Maybe what the Divine is telling us is to offer up what little we have, and the Lord God will multiply it so that the needs of those around us are filled with abundance left over. I guess, beloved reader, then the “ball is in our court.”
May you beloved reader wrestle and be able to grasp the concepts and meanings in your faith & spiritual life. And may the Divine bless you with abundance so that you might share with others. Shalom & Selah!