by Larry Broding
Gospel: Luke 9:11b-17
Have you ever worried that the little you had would be enough? What happened?
11b The crowds followed Jesus into the wilderness. So, he welcomed them and spoke to them about God's Kingdom. He cured those in need.
12 Late in the day, the twelve apostles approached Jesus. "Tell the people 'Goodbye,'" they told Jesus, "so they can go into the villages and fields around here to find food and a place to spend the night. After all, we're in the wilderness."
13 "You give them something to eat," Jesus replied.
"All we have is five loaves of bread and two fish!" the apostles said. "We could go and buy food for all the people."
14 Five thousand men were there ."Have everyone sit in groups of about fifty and get ready for dinner," Jesus told his followers. 15 The apostles gave the order and everyone sat down.
16 Jesus took the five loaves and two fish in his hands, looked up to heaven, and blessed the food. He broke the food into pieces and gave it to his followers so they could pass it out to the people. 17 They ate, and everyone was satisfied. Then, his followers collected the twelve baskets of leftovers!
The multiplication of the loaves and fish was one of the only miracles recorded in all four gospels. It related everyone a simple but difficult challenge to the believer. How could dinner for three feed more than five thousand people?
11b Having welcomed them, HE spoke to them about the Kingdom of God. HE cured the ones having need of healing. 12 The day began to wane. Having approached, the Twelve said to HIM, "Dismiss the crowd, so they, having traveled into the surrounding village and fields, might find lodging and provisions because we are in a wilderness place." 13 But HE said to them, "You give them (something) to eat." They said, "Between us there are no more than five loaves and two fish-unless, having traveled, we might buy food for all these people." 14 For there were about five thousand men. HE said to his disciples, "Have them recline in groups, about fifty (each)." 15 They did so, and everyone reclined. 16 Having taken the five loaves and two fish, having looked up to heaven, HE blessed them and broke (them) and gave (them) to his disciples to pass to the crowd. 17 Everyone ate and was satisfied. The left-overs were collected for them, twelve baskets of fragments.
"It is really the kind of problem I wish we had all the time." This popular saying describes Jesus' situation. The number of people he attracted was greater than the amount of resources that could met their needs. The apostles realized the problem and proposed a solution. [11-12] Both the problem and the apostle's "reasonable" solution gave Jesus a chance to challenge faith.
Jesus answered the Twelve's command with a command: "You do it"  Of course, Jesus implied that what little his followers had would be sufficient; the thought that so little would fulfill so many must have been left the followers completely incredulous! However the small number had important implications to Jews in the time of Jesus. Two loaves and five fish equaled seven pieces of food; the number seven meant fullness, completion, perfection. Jesus would take these mere seven pieces of food and feed a multitude!
The Twelve now became meal servants who organized the people so that they could be fed in an orderly fashion. [14-15] Part of the revelation, the challenge, is to act as if God would take the little and provide an abundance. Once the Master had given the command, there was no turning back; to follower Jesus, the Twelve had to act on his command.
9:16 has many Eucharistic overtones. Taking the food in his hands, looking up to heaven, blessing, and breaking for distribution remind us of the Eucharist. The blessing, it must be noted, was not on the food itself; like a pious Jew, Jesus most likely blessed God for the food as a way of thanks for what he already had. When Jesus blessed the food, he acknowledged what the Father could do with so little.
And it was enough, enough to produce more food than what the disciples started with in the first place.  The number of baskets, not mere pieces of food spoke of a new fullness. Twelve was a Jewish number that represented totality. So from the wholeness of a little came the wholeness of plenty.
Eucharist is a challenge of faith. How can so little feed so many? How can little I offer God do so much? Ponder that thought the next time you receive Eucharist.
(Copyright 1999 -2007, Larry Broding)
God Blesses Our Scarcity with Abundance
by Larry Broding
Sermons and Bible Commentaries for the 5th Sunday after Pentecost
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