Even Through the darkest phase
Be it thick or thin
Always someone marches brave
Here beneath my skin
Has always been K.D. Lang
And Jesus took the loaves, and when He had given thanks He distributed them to the disciples, and the disciples to those sitting down; and likewise of the fish, as much as they wanted. John 6:11
In 1863 a German philosopher named Ludwig Feuerbach wrote an essay entitled, Concerning Spiritualism and Materialism in which he poked fun at spirituality. He basically said that mankind is simply a co-location of molecules and it is an accident of nature that we rose to the top of the food chain. He pointed to the food that we eat and said that we are nothing more and nothing less than the food on our plate. He is the one who coined the term, “You are what you eat.”
The philosopher didn’t mean to, but I think he accidently agreed with Jesus even though he would be horrified at that assertion. Jesus taught that we hunger for a kind of life that only He can give. That we are created for a flourishing life and that what you take into your soul will affect whether your life will flourish or flounder. You really are what you eat.
Jesus offers bread for the world and bread for our souls.
This is the only miracle recorded in all four of the Gospels and John calls this miracle as “sign.” By using that word John is saying this miracle points to a higher and holier truth than simply the multiplication of bread and fish. This miracle points beyond itself to something much more significant.
What I love about the Gospel of John is that if we step back and look at it panoramically, you see John echoing the first book of the Bible. Genesis 1:1 begins by saying, “In the beginning God created the Heavens and the Earth. John 1:1 begins by saying, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.”
In Genesis there is a poetic rhythm to the way the author describes how God created the cosmos out of the soupy darkness and nothingness in seven segments or days. Throughout the Gospel of John there are scattered seven “signs” in which Jesus reveals who He is and what kind of Kingdom He has come to this earth to establish. John is saying that Jesus of Nazareth is the Creator-God of the cosmos and is now among us restoring the creation that has come unraveled due to our sin.
So, Jesus feeds this large, hungry, and rowdy crowd in a miraculous way. And, surprisingly, the crowd misreads the sign. They let the meaning of this miracle skip right by them like a stone on the Sea of Galilee.
If the miracles were simply power-displays, then I am confused as to why Jesus chose to showcase his supernatural abilities in this way. If it had been me, I would have levitated and then flown around the lake like those wingsuit base jumpers and buzzed the crowd; but Jesus feeds a crowd of hungry people.
If this miracle is simply the disruption of natural laws, we miss the point of what is happening here. The miracles are a glimpse of the restoration of the natural order; it is God putting His creation back to the original design. All of Jesus’ miracles are assaults on hunger, illness, poverty, decay, and death. They are never simply power-displays to attract a crowd.
I sometimes get asked why there is pain and suffering in the world and I can never provide an adequate answer. What I can say with a high degree of certainty is that hunger, illness, poverty, decay and death were never part of God’s original design. Those things were not God’s idea and he is working on setting things to rights through Jesus.
Jesus’ healings are not supernatural miracles in a natural world. They are the only truly ‘natural’ thing in a world that is unnatural, demonized and wounded.” —Jürgen Moltmann, The Way of Jesus Christ: Christology in Messianic Dimensions
Jesus was restoring the world! As we pattern our lives after Him, then serving the real-time, real-pain of this world is part of the expectation of what it means to follow Jesus. It is at the very center of what it means to be a church.
One time Jesus said, I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these… John 14:12
I used to think that meant if Jesus walked on water, I could fly if had I enough faith. If Jesus could raise Lazarus, I could empty the graveyard…if I had enough faith. But that is childish. I think Jesus is speaking to ALL of his disciples down through the ages. And if we were to add up all the acts of service done by Christ-followers for the last 2,000 years, it would far outweigh what Jesus was able to do in 3 ½ years of public ministry.
When we serve the deep needs of our community that is not just window-dressing and marketing for Jesus and our church. When we serve the City for the sake of the City, we are fulfilling this prophetic verse. We are contributing to the RESTORATION Jesus started 2,000 years ago.
Maybe you don’t think what you have to offer is adequate. You don’t have the time, the energy, the creativity, the talent, or the resources that Jesus could use to make any real difference in our community. Well, what did Jesus have to work with in this story? They aren’t bringing very much to the potluck. All they could find was a boy’s couple slices of Spam and a handful of saltines. He takes their little and uses it to re-weave, rescue, and restore this world.
Maybe you don’t have much to give, but that’s all the little boy had, and that’s all Andrew could find, AND THAT’S ALL THE LORD NEEDED. That is the way of Jesus. Little becomes much when placed in the hand of Jesus.
No one has an empty lunchbox; what’s in yours?