Dear beloved of God, grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior Jesus who is the Christ. Amen.
This is a neat story isn’t it? I mean, here you have all of these people who are so compelled by the things that Jesus has been doing and saying that they follow him to the other side of hefty body of water. They’ve walked nearly 10 miles. They followed Jesus partway up a mountain. No doubt they’re getting hungry, maybe even a little hangry. But Jesus is dialed in, he sees their needs. With simple a simple offering from a little boy, Jesus is able to feed the multitudes of people on this mountainside. Jesus takes five loaves and two fish and creates such a feast that there are 12 big baskets of leftovers.
The feeding of the multitudes. This is the only miracle that Jesus performs on this side of the cross that shows up in all four of the gospels. That’s a fun fact.
Here’s another one. Matthew and Mark record a feeding miracle twice, the second go-around Jesus feeds 4,000 people. Not sure why the crowd got smaller the second time. But there you have it.
I don’t know about you, but this story has never really grabbed me. I’ve never understood why all of the gospels tell it, I’ve never really appreciated why some of them tell it twice. Of all of the improbable and unlikely acts that Jesus performed, restoring someone’s sight, healing leprosy, walking on water, raising Lazarus from the dead, turning water into wine, this feeding of the multitudes has always felt a little, I don’t know, basic.
I mean, on the one hand, this story sounds impossible and kind of ridiculous. But on the other, all you are left with on the other side of the miracle is full bellies and lots of leftovers. Kind of sounds like Thanksgiving.
Which is why, I think, I’ve always struggled with the crowd’s immediate reaction to try and make Jesus King. I know this is my privilege talking, but after a big meal, I just want a nap. I’m not thinking about political revolutions. Everyone knows not to talk politics at the dinner table.
But still, for much of the world and for much of human history, the promise of bread, of sustenance, of meeting the most basic of human needs was something worth following. The great Russian author Dostoevsky wrote there is “the one infallible banner which…make all men bow down…the banner of earthly bread.”
So I’ve wondered. Are we too comfortable to feel the full weight of this story. Maybe. I don’t think so, but I want to try something out on you.
What’s the thing in your life that feels most scarce? Most elusive? What’s the thing, that try as though you might, you can’t quite get enough of what you want or need?
Is it money? Maybe. Our culture does live with this narrative that money fixes most of what ails us. If Jesus gave us baskets of leftover money would we try and make him king? Possibly.
But more than money I think it’s time. Right now we live in a culture that worships at the altar of busyness. “How are you,” we say. “Good, but so busy,” we say. If there’s one thing that feels elusive, that feels as though it is always slipping through my fingers, that I worry constantly about finding more of it’s time. I need more time to work, to accomplish what needs to get done. I need more time to parent, to be present at this formative time in my kids’ lives. I need more time to be a better partner for my spouse. I need more time for family and friends that I never see. I need time for myself to be healthier. I’d love to have more time for my own spiritual growth. It feels like there’s just never enough time.
So if just Jesus were somehow able to stand on the mountain top and create more time out of thin air, if there were just baskets of leftover time. You get an hour and you get an hour, everybody gets extra hours. That’s something I could get behind. That would be incredible.
Time feels so scarce. What an incredible gift that would be, more time. If Jesus could multiply time for the multitudes? Then Jesus for king in 2020, am I right?
The crowds want to make Jesus king because they see in his miraculous sign the giver of incredible gifts. They see in Jesus someone who will meet their needs, keep their bellies full and help them shake off the bonds of the Roman Empire. They see Jesus’ power and they want to harness it, wield it. They see what he can give them and they want more. We would be no different.
What they don’t see, and what we don’t see, is that Jesus is the gift. It’s not just the bread, it’s not just more time. What the crowds fail to recognize, what we fail to embrace is that they and we have the presence of the living God right here in our midst. We have already been given more than we could possibly ask for. We’ve been given God’s own life, we’ve been given God’s forever.
In Jesus God has given the fullness God’s own self to you. That’s the gift. That’s the promise. It is yours, now and forever. It’s a gift that can feed and strengthen the whole world. It’s a gift that gives time and purpose to the multitudes, to the whole entire human race.
Yes, our time on this earth is still limited. We can’t do it all and have it all. But we have been given time and life for what matters most. We’ve been given enough to be of service to the one who is Lord of time and life.
That’s more than just a little neat. That’s good news, today and always, Amen.