Did you know that of all the miracles Jesus ever did, besides the Resurrection itself, there is only one that was important enough to appear in all four Gospels? More important than healing miracles, more important than raising other people from the dead, the only miracle to show up in all four of the Gospel accounts is the feeding of the five thousand.
Why is that?
In John 6:1-15, we see that it’s time for the Passover. Jesus and His disciples are up on a mountain, and a large crowd has formed around them. “Testing” Philip, Jesus asked him “where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?” Philip seems astounded by the problem. He scans the crowd and realizes how big this problem is. “Two hundred denarii worth of bread would not be enough for each of them to get a little.”
Two hundred denarii, by the way, is about two-thirds of a year of wages. And for a single meal! Andrew offers that “there is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish…” but even he understands that it’s a pointless thought. There’s too many people!
Think of these disciples. Philip, staring with gaping mouths at the vast crowd, overcome by the impossible need. And Andrew, shaking his head over the meager resources in his hands.
Both of them were looking to the wrong place. Both get an F on the Lord’s test. Both are trying to accomplish an impossible budget by their own effort. This is why they fail the test. The only right answer is to firmly place the dire problem right back in the lap of Jesus, for He is the only one who can handle it.
Jesus has the people sit down, and He says some things in the hearing of the crowd that still echo what He does for us in the Lord’s Supper. He takes the bread, gives thanks, and distributes. Same for the fish.
Did you know that there are drawings of this miracle in the early Christian catacombs? Something about this miracle touches the very heart of the Christian faith.
Matthew, Mark and Luke make it clear that the disciples are the ones who actually distribute the food. Some say that five loaves and two fish was enough for Jesus and the disciples’ supper. In other words, Jesus has them pass out their own dinner! Imagine Peter swallowing hard as he looks first at the tiny bit of bread in his hand and then out at the large crowd. Imagine him breaking off a small piece, hoping to stretch it as far as he can.
When was it that they realized the miracle? When did they see that no matter how much they broke off and gave away, the lump in their hand remained the same? Can you see the astonishment on their faces as they looked back to Him? Was He smiling? And then they began their work in earnest, without fear now. I imagine even with laughter!
Here’s another thought. What if they had held on to their little lunch and kept it for themselves, scared that they might go hungry? How much would each of them had at the close of the day? A small handful.
Jesus uses this miracle to open their eyes to see a new truth in God’s economy. By giving away to others, they ended up richer themselves! They ended up with a basket of bread each, far more than that fistful they had started out with. Hands clenching in fear were transformed into hands opened wide to give away.
What keeps us from giving to others? Isn’t it fear? We hold tightly to our stuff and our money because we are afraid that the stuff we have accumulated may not be enough. But true riches come from recognizing that every last thing we have is completely a gift from the Father in heaven. And He has more to give than we will ever need.
The feeding of the 5,000 is a picture of the church. As you give your gifts in service to the Church at Zion, you are part of that picture. Sometimes our gifts don’t seem like much. Sometimes they seem like they might be of better service in our own bank account than in that of the church’s. Our Lord teaches us here that that is a response born out of fear and lack of trust.
There are many ways to give. We give with our energy, with our time, with our skills, and with our money. All of it is out of the abundance with what our Lord has already given to us.
As we all know, the way we deal with money is changing. For instance, fewer and fewer people carry cash, or even use checks. We’ve seen this at Zion, now 21% of our income as a congregation comes through electronic giving! Check out our website at ZionMitchell.Org, where you can have complete control over your donations. It’s not just bank transfers anymore, either! Debit and credit cards are now accepted.
It takes so many people donating time, energy, and financial resources to operate a congregation like Zion. I once tried to count it all up, and I believe there are well over 100 people volunteering in various capacities in this church. At last check, well over 200 families have contributed financially to Zion in the last year. So to each and every one of you, THANK YOU for your ongoing support and interest in the Word and Sacrament ministry here at Zion!