CAN WE REALLY FEED 5000 PEOPLE? Re-imagining The Miracle
Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about the story in the Gospel of John 6:1-13 where Jesus feeds about 5000 people from just five small loaves and two small fishes.
In this story Jesus sees a great crowd coming towards him and he asks one of his disciples, Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?”
Philip responds saying “it would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each on to have a bite!” Another of Jesus disciples speaks up saying “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?”
Both Philip and Andrew, seem to be saying to Jesus that it would be impossible to feed so many people when the only thing available to them five small loaves and two small fishes. However, Jesus takes this small offering from the boy and performs what I have always seen as one of the great miracles in the Gospels and feeds all of the people in the crowd, and there is still twelve baskets full of bread left over.
When I used to think of this story, I was always left with a childlike awe that Jesus can do this. It reinforced my belief therefore that Jesus must be God as only God can do such things. However I have found myself re-imagining the meaning of this as I notice the way in which the community has pulled together through the current pandemic.
Over the last six months we have all become aware of the struggles and worries that the coronavirus pandemic has brought to so many people across the world and in each of our communities. People are worried about finances, health, and are missing their family and friends and the activities they normally do day to day that help keep them feeling connected and part of the community.
As I think of the current situation, I am constantly aware of Jesus’ call to reach out and help in whichever way we can. I can almost hear Jesus saying as he looks out on at the “great crowd” of people that are finding things a struggle just now, “what can we do to help?”
I also hear Philip and Andrew’s response to Jesus when he asks where they can buy bread to feed the great crowd in my own thoughts as I feel what I imagine is a similar sense of impossibility when I think about of the scale of the pandemic and the stress, fear and challenge it has brought to so many.
Like many others, I was feeling particularly disheartened and in low spirit as I awoke yesterday morning, in light of the new restrictions placed on us because of the increasing prevalence of COVID-19 in our communities. I wondered how much longer we would have to live in this way and was worried about the impact this news would have on the way people were already feeling and coping. I found myself wondering how we, as individuals can possibly help and make a difference, when it all feel so overwhelming at times.
As the day went on and I went about my work I connected with lots of different people in different ways; a phone call with a friend; a virtual “Wee Blether” on Zoom; a chat with folk around the village as I went on my walk. I also received two unexpected words of profound encouragement sent through text and facebook messages, that reminded me that I can trust that God will provide me with all I need when I feel overwhelmed by what is in front of me.
Having started the day with a sense of despair and inadequacy, I found myself not only sharing my worries with people, but sharing in lots of laughter, fun, friendship, and hope with those I connected with. Each person that I connected with shared something of themselves with me in different ways, something that made a real difference and something that I was then able to share with others. I shared the stories that made me laugh that day with friends and family, and I shared the messages of encouragement, and the hope and trust that had been restored in me with others that I knew were also feeling overwhelmed.
As I stand back and reflect on the last six months I am reminded of the many small acts of kindness and support that have been shared in our own community. Acts that I know have been replicated in communities across the world; a kind word, a smile, a prayer, a cake left on the doorstep, a tin of soup donated to the foodbank, people offering to get something from the shops, a text just check up and see how someone is, or a word of encouragement.
I am reminded that we all have something of value to share with those we meet, speak to and think of each day, no matter how small we think our offering is. As we share the little that we have to offer, that offering ripples out and, just like the five loaves and two fishes offered by the young boy, has the potential to go way beyond the reach of 5000 people.
As I re-imagine the meaning of the miracle of the five loaves and two fishes, I am reminded that the power of that miracle lies within each one of us as we trust that Jesus will take the little that we have and use it to touch the lives of others.