Thursday, June 7, 2018

You Feed Them

13 Now when Jesus heard this [that John the Baptist was beheaded], he withdrew from there in a boat to a lonely place apart. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. 14 As he went ashore he saw a great throng; and he had compassion on them, and healed their sick. 15 When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a lonely place, and the day is now over; send the crowds away to go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” 16 Jesus said, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.17 They said to him, “We have only five loaves here and two fish.” 18 And he said, “Bring them here to me.” 19 Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass; and taking the five loaves and the two fish he looked up to heaven, and blessed, and broke and gave the loaves to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. 20 And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over. 21 And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children. (RSV,

Jesus withdrew (anachoreo this Greek verb is associated with the monastic vocation, people called anchorites or hermits who have withdrawn from the world to pursue a deeper relationship with God in solitude and prayer. see to an eremos (dessert, deserted place, wilderness. The word "hermit" is derived from this Greek word. The early church practice is modeled on this and similar passages about Jesus' spiritual life. See for more this article.

Jesus is withdrawing at the news of John's death. What does it mean for Him? Is it a sign of His own demise? The death of Jesus, of course, is connected to Passover and the Last Supper echoes in the wording of the miracle of the loaves and fish.  He looked up to heaven, blessed, broke and gave to the disciples. This connects the Last Supper//eucharist to feeding the crowds, and it is a preview of the church's ministry through the apostolic church's ongoing celebration of the eucharist. The huge crowd is fed by five loaves plus two fish (seven), which may be symbolic in meaning. The resulting left overs is twelve baskets, certainly an image of total Israel.

The words of Jesus are important to hear. "You feed them." You. In the end, of course, Jesus works the miracle, but what He starts with is their gift. So often our resources are insufficient to the task at hand. We  are overwhelmed by the demands of life. The crowds are few and we have only a sack lunch, not even enough to care for ourselves. Jesus makes clear, our mission is to serve. He heals. He feeds. So should His church. If we fear to give away all we have, perhaps we should meditate on this story. Twelve guys have five loaves and two fish to share. Twelve guys who were hungry. Jesus said, "you feed them." So they did. Nothing left, yet somehow at the end of the day each disciple sat with a basket full of loaves and fish. A basketful!

The church in an age of diminishing membership and resources much become more generous with its time and resources. The church must be more completely focused on teaching and healing. The crowds still need what Jesus has to offer. We must trust Jesus.  

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