May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be always acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, our Strength and our Redeemer.
Last Sunday, my sermon dealt with the passage from St Mark’s Gospel – a passage split either side of St Mark’s version of what we have read in today’s Gospel reading from St John.
Interestingly, the story of the feeding of the Five Thousand has particular weight in that it is only one of TWO miracles recorded in all four Gospels – the only other being Jesus’ Resurrection.
I have often wondered about the meaning of this miracle. But researching what lies behind it for my sermons of last week and tonight, I have discovered things which to me have made the answer so much plainer.
Not only can we read into this as Jesus posing his oft used question “… but who do THEY say that I am …?” but we find a possible answer amongst the story.
The crowd has gathered in their thousands to watch Jesus – but is he a Magician, or a King, or a fraudster, or something more? They come to see and watch and learn, to listen – and in many a case, to be cured.
As outsiders to the incident, we have the privilege of getting the “before and after” of the event. We hear what else Jesus has to add.
For example we know that twelve baskets were gathered at the end. Twelve baskets or the Twelve Tribes of Israel?
The Twelve Tribes in Jewish life were all that mattered to them; they were the world. But we know that Jesus could use this image whilst at the same time refer to the whole of humankind – including not only the Jews but also the Gentiles, and in the future counting amongst them YOU and ME. We are all there – gathered in Jesus’ baskets to learn the new way forward – no-one in Gods Creation is excluded.
As for the loaves and fishes – in my sermon last week I touched on the fact that these were the spiritual carbs and spiritual proteins in our lives.
Carbohydrates and proteins are vital ingredients in any balanced diet that keep us healthy as we live through our existence.
A mother’s milk – as even modern medics prescribe – is so important in the early stages of a newborn infant’s life. Added within the compound are not just the carbs and proteins but also the vitamins, minerals and antibodies, so that the whole offers that baby an immunity – and everything it needs to nurture it and help it grow and survive those first few months before it begins to take solids.
And so there are the crowds surrounding Jesus on that day; many of whom are spiritually lost, in their infancy, and as Jesus describes them “as being sheep without a shepherd”. They are in dire need of their first taste of that milk.
He offers them the spiritual carbs and the spiritual proteins, and He, Himself, through his actions and teachings, is also the spiritual vitamins, minerals and antibodies that form that divine diet – without which we remain lost and unfulfilled.
As with a newborn puppy, as it fumbles for its mother’s teat, we too can fumble at first. But when we find and latch on to the metaphorical breast proffered by God through His Son, Jesus, our life begins again with new nutrients that we had previously chosen to ignore.
We find a new self-honesty within; we can rid ourselves of our pride and arrogance; we relieve ourselves of the need to do down; instead we discover a new inner self; one of trust, appreciation, love and kindliness.
This is the importance of The Feeding of the Five Thousand.
So when asked by Jesus, “Who do they say that I am?”, we can all answer, with one voice and in accordance with Peter,
“You are the giver of Life: YOU ARE THE MESSIAH”.
Trinity 9 (Year B)