21 Nov 2021
St. John vi. 5.
When Jesus then lifted up his eyes, and saw a great company come unto him, he saith unto Philip, Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat? And this he said to prove him: for he himself knew what he would do. Philip answered him, Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may take a little. One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, saith unto him, There is a lad here, which hath five barley loaves, and two small fishes: but what are they among so many? And Jesus said, Make the men sit down. Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand. And Jesus took the loaves; and when he had given thanks, he distributed to the disciples, and the disciples to them that were set down; and likewise of the fishes as much as they would. When they were filled, he said unto his disciples, Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost. Therefore they gathered them together, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves, which remained over and above unto them that had eaten. Then those men, when they had seen the miracle that Jesus did, said, This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world.
When St. John tells us about the feeding of the five thousand it can bring to mind many other Biblical stories. Though the meal starts out with five loaves and two fish, it is miraculously transformed into enough food to feed a multitude just as when all of Israel was fed with the manna in the wilderness. We are also reminded of Israel’s Passover meal which was established to bring back to their minds the miraculous liberation from slavery in Egypt. Of course, now we Christians are reminded most of all of our sacred, worshipful Holy Communion.
In our Gospel story today, we learn that the crowd was hungry, and that it would take a lot of food, 200 denari, several months’ wages, to feed them all. Remember that first, Jesus asked Philip, "Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?" Jesus was testing Philip’s ability to see beyond the mundane reality to what the Son of God can provide. The Gospel tells us that Jesus knew what He intended to do, but it was a test. We can see this sort of challenge in our own lives. Are we able to envision the miracles the Lord has in store of us? Can we see beyond what all the mundane forces in the world seem to be trying to compel us to see?
Philip didn't have any idea, but Andrew had a somewhat different perspective: “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they among so many?" Andrew at least sees a possibility in what is already present. The boy has the beginning of an answer, but it seems to Andrew that it can’t be sufficient to solve the whole problem. Life gives us the same opportunities—the beginning of the solution to life’s challenges is often in front of us, but we can’t see how it could fit into a solution. However, with God, there IS a way. Jesus feeds them all through prayer and thanksgiving. Today, Jesus tells us to thankfully receive Him into our hearts “…that He may dwell in us and we in Him.” We offer the Lord the raw material—ourselves--knowing how inadequate that is, but through our faith, it is He who will provide all the rest. Isn’t it a proverb among us to say, “God provides.” Whatever needs to be changed, whatever has gone wrong for us, God will give us the strength, the vision, and the new direction for our journey to Him. We must but reach out in prayer and thanksgiving.
Bishop Edwin Tompkins