Finally Peterson has posted his his musings on the Feeding of the Five Thousand. It is something we talked about several times whilst we were in Guernsey and rather than paraphrase his comments I intend to take the lazy option and cut and paste!
“The disciples and the crowd are out in the countryside for three days. This is before the days of Subway Sandwich shops and Red Lobster restaurants or well-catered retreats. This is a people used to carrying food around when they travel. Jesus rightly discerns that some folks don’t have any food left and will need nourishment to get home. Wow, how thoughtful, how sweet, how unbelievably practical. I love this Jesus.
So he turns to his team, “What you got?” I love how even in the English you can hear the sarcasm and exasperation in the disciples’ response. But Jesus had a plan, a radical one that did not require any magic tricks, one that I believe serves as an even more impressive miracle.
Jesus sat everyone down. Then taking the scant offerings the disciples rustled up, he begins to serve the people. Now I don’t for a minute believe the disciples gave up all they had to Jesus. If they were like most of us, they probably squirreled away a secret stash for themselves for later in the day. In fact, in the John 6 version of the same or similar story, the disciples offer nothing of their own but instead take five loaves and two fish from a little boy (giving an entirely different meaning to “out of the mouth of babes.”)
Jesus provocatively begins to distribute the little he has to give. I imagine Jesus doing this very slowly, dramatically, taking his time with it. The disciples see the basket rapidly emptying. They dig into their hoards and pass some more food forward. The news spreads quickly and quietly through the crowd, first to those closest to the disciples then radiating out. A supply line forms as each one who has food passes it along through many hands to the disciples then to Jesus and then back to the people.
In the end EVERYONE eats, including those who had no longer had food as well as those who carried more than enough. The crowd had such vast resources of food among them that stacks of leftovers remain.
A “magic trick” Jesus is cool and convenient to have on hand. One that calls on me to contribute from my own stockpile so that another’s needs can be met, challenges me and the society in which I live.”
I absolutely love this revisiting of the story. The magic-trick Jesus definitely appealed to me when I was a child but it would seem that this compassionate Jesus is one that I want to identify with much more strongly.
The idea that Jesus calls us to bring our into the open our secret stashes and the things that we hide away and keep for ourselves is extremely appealing. The idea of sharing out our resources so that as a community we can be sustained, both physically, emotionally and spiritually, for me captures the true power of the Gospel as epitomised in the life of Jesus.
I know I have plenty of resources, both in the things I own and in the emotional strength that I have. Somehow though it never seems to be enough. The world encourage us to acquire more and more and yet the Gospels clearly show that by giving away the things that we have then we will have sufficient for our needs. The idea of having sufficient, rather than excess, is one that I have been musing on for a while. A while ago I was talking to someone about the fact that they want to build an extension on their house. I don’t get it. Only two of them live there at the moment and they already have three bedrooms. Why do you need more when you have enough for your needs? Why add more to an already large mortgage when you don’t really need it? I fully acknowledge that I would like to have a slightly bigger house (with a garden – but that’s a dream!) with another bedroom so that I could more easily have people to stay. The reality though is that for most of the time I don’t really need it.
I am so fortunate. I have somewhere to call home, a job, a wonderful family and friends who sustain me through the good and bad things of life. Truly I have sufficient and yet the struggle to maintain some sort of balance in my life goes on. This version story of the Feeding of the Five Thousand encourages me to redress this balance. To give up my resources and share my wealth with those around me, whether that be in physical or less tangible terms.