On their return the apostles told Jesus all they had done. He took them with him and withdrew privately to a city called Bethsaida. When the crowds found out about it, they followed him; and he welcomed them, and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who needed to be cured.
The day was drawing to a close, and the twelve came to him and said, ‘Send the crowd away, so that they may go into the surrounding villages and countryside, to lodge and get provisions; for we are here in a deserted place.’ But he said to them, ‘You give them something to eat.’ They said, ‘We have no more than five loaves and two fish—unless we are to go and buy food for all these people.’ For there were about five thousand men. And he said to his disciples, ‘Make them sit down in groups of about fifty each.’ They did so and made them all sit down. And taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke them, and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd. And all ate and were filled. What was left over was gathered up, twelve baskets of broken pieces.
The Gospel message of the feeding of the multitudes is a well known and beloved portion of scripture, and for good reason! Here, we meet Jesus and the exhausted disciples trying to take a much needed break from their work of healing, only to discover that a huge crowd had followed them to a desolate place across the lake. As the sun began to lower in the sky, the disciples realized the families would soon become hungry, and they had no way of feeding them.
Jesus’ compassion for the crowd led to something very unique, and to a characteristic we may have difficulty discerning and sharing in our noisy, broken world.
Jesus’ compassion took action in the form of extravagant, generous love, a kind of love that overflows, a kind of love that gives abundantly. Not unlike Jesus’ healing, the feeding of the multitudes shows Jesus’ love for the needs of all humanity. Jesus cared for the people in their ordinary hunger, and demonstrated loving hospitality. We may not think we have much to offer, but God knows otherwise! God delights in using the little that we have to do amazing things. As Jesus shows us, a little bit of love goes a long way!
Loaves and Fishes
Are you so anxious for your life? The problem of hunger.
What shall you eat? Now listen and ponder.
Remember He took five loaves in His hands
And looking up to heaven, gave thanks,
And broke and kept on giving,
And in His hands, in the very act of breaking,
The bread multiplied
And they all ate and were satisfied.
Each of the twelve picked up a small basket
To take home, a divine token,
Of fish fragments and bread broken.
Another time He took a few small fish and seven
Loaves, and looking up to heaven,
Blessed, and kept breaking;
And the disciples taking
The food to the multitude
Wondered how it multiplied;
And again they all ate and were satisfied.
From each loaf a large basket (a total of seven) ,
Speaking of the overflowing abundance of heaven.
When questioned about the miracles, they replied
Childishly, and He dissatisfied
Said, Do you not yet understand?
This is a divine illustration of supply and demand:
Twelve small baskets for each disciple's need;
And from seven loaves, the baskets broad
Display the bounteous provision of God.
(inspired by Matthew 14:15-21, Mark 6:35-44, Luke 9:12-17, John 6:4-13)
We come believing in our emptiness,
believing that we will never have enough,
believing that what we have is unworthy.
We come fearful of sharing,
fearful of losing our tenuous grip on security,
fearful of touching and knowing the pain of others.
We come overwhelmed by the hunger,
overwhelmed by the suffering of children near and far,
overwhelmed by the endless tales of senseless violence, greed, and death.
We come aching from the weight of the responsibility,
aching from the chilling challenge of knowing our abundance,
aching from the gnawing awareness that we have much to share.
We come clinging to our meager lunches;
bless them, and us.
break them, and us.
share them, and us.