A disciple’s look at five loaves and two fish.
Crowds. I see them in my dream. Bodies, faces, sweat and heat. And hands, so many hands, reaching and clutching. Jesus had sent us out with the power to preach and heal. What a privilege. What a responsibility.
We’re home now, pressing through yet another crowd to get to Jesus. I can’t wait to tell him everything. Even with the crowd and the twelve of us vying to get a word in, each of us seems to have his undivided attention. Jesus is just like that.
Maybe Jesus can see that we’re tired, or maybe he’s just looking for a little down time. He says we should go to Bethsaida, away from the crowds. But as usual, they follow.
This part of being with Jesus can be exasperating. It’s like you never have a quiet moment. At times I want to shut it all out, go into a dark cave and just forget about all that need pushing its way into my personal space.
Jesus needs his time alone, as well. He’s human like the rest of us. Now and then he tries to steal away, but it doesn’t last long if it happens at all. That’s what comes of having something people desperately need.
I look at his face. He’s tired, but he’s not annoyed the way I am when my plans go awry. He’s not shutting them out, the way I want to right now, inside. He’s smiling and talking to the people as if they were invited. As if he were expecting them. As if they were wanted.
Somehow we make it all the way to dinner time. The sun is going down. Peter claps his hands together with finality and says what we’re all thinking. “Okay, that’s it then. Let’s get this crowd out of here. They must be starving by now.”
But Jesus says to us, “You give them something to eat.”
I look at the crowd. Really? They haven’t eaten all day. For that matter, neither have we. Between us we have five loaves of bread and two fish.
I start to check off the other options that aren’t really options at all. I already know this, but I’m just confirming in my mind how ridiculous this is. I realize it doesn’t help the situation, but I feel better knowing that I’ve tried my best. I pride myself in being a creative problem solver. If we had money, (which we don’t, but say if we did), we could go to the next town, (which we can’t because it would take too long), and buy food (which we’d never be able to carry back). See? Impossible.
I’m starting to get a little peeved that I even have to think about this. Why are these people our responsibility? Shouldn’t it be enough that we’ve given up our entire day, that we were kind of hoping to have off, to meet their pressing needs? I mean, I get that part. That’s ministry. But we’re not caterers. Let them get their own food.
Jesus probably sees us looking perplexed and maybe a little disgruntled. I’m relieved when he tells us to have them sit down. At least he has a plan.
Or maybe he doesn’t. He doesn’t pull out a bunch of coins he’s been hiding in his robe. He doesn’t say, “Oh, I happen to know someone in the neighboring town who can feed everyone.” He doesn’t propose any solution that looks even remotely plausible. He just starts tearing up the bread. The same bread we had. The bread that wasn’t enough.
“Give this out,” he says, handing us pieces of bread and fish. I had seen Jesus look up to heaven. I had seen him bless the bread. But as far as I could tell, nothing had changed. It was still the same bread, and it still wasn’t enough.
I’m looking at five thousand hungry, now expectant, men sprawled out on the ground. I’m not even counting the women and children. Maybe we’d hit twenty-five before we ran out. And that was being conservative.
I shrug and take the bread from his hand. The crowd is eager. The bread passes from hand to hand. And it just keeps going, until everyone has had more than enough.
Maybe the bread would have stayed the same, if we’d tucked it away in a small basket to share later among ourselves. (We were hungry, too).
Five loaves with the potential to feed five thousand.
But instead we stepped into the crowd. And in the passing from hand to hand, the blessing broke out.