“Then he told the people to sit down on the grass. He took the five loaves and the two fish and, looking to heaven, he thanked God for the food. Jesus divided the bread and gave it to his followers, who gave it to the people.”
Matthew 14:19 (John 6:9)
The disciples of Jesus don’t always understand every spiritual thing. And we feel we should. We place a lot of importance on wisdom and maturity, and seeing a certain logic or routine on these things. We are of the opinion that being able to predict and then anticipate makes us quality Christians. But Jesus keeps surprising His disciples. (And He still does!)
What do you have? We make an inventory and find just a smidgen, not even worth talking about; just five small barley loaves, and two skinny fish. Laughable to be sure. A little boy’s sack lunch. They turn what they’ve found over to Jesus, but they have absolutely no idea what their Master is about to do.
Barley was the food fit for the poor and animals. Middle-class Israelites considered eating it to be beneath them. Barley was considered sub-standard. But Jesus chooses to use the worst.
The kingdom of God is made up of people of dubious quality. There are not many wise, or rich, or of a sterling reputation. Most of us are made of barley and we bring very little to Jesus’ hands.
Is it strange that Jesus would restrict Himself to what His disciples could scrounge up. He purposefully chooses to keep His activity confined to what they provide. There is no question that Jesus could manage quite well without a thing at all. After all, as the Creator, He made the Universe from nothing, “ex nihlo“.
That small boy’s lunch is enough for Jesus. Five thousand men, plus wives and children sit in anticipation of a promised meal. Their eyes are watching. The disciples are wondering. And Jesus is praying. No one has the slightest clue what will take place next.
We have the lesson of the barley loaves. But a parallel lesson is the edgy unpredictability of God. Even the wisest and most gifted disciple is pretty much clueless about what is going to happen next; this drives pastors and elders of churches crazy, (so cut them some slack.) We should be building up an atmosphere that anticipates surprise. Our faithful God is notoriously unpredictable.
Following Jesus is an amazing adventure of faith. We just need to do what we are told, and leave the rest up to Him. He seems to delight in using our barley and our fish. And the world is waiting, and they are very hungry for something that will satisfy.
- The Miracle of the Five Loaves and Two fishes (rproy1.wordpress.com)
- Loaves, Fish, and Writers (wordservewatercooler.com)
- What are Your Five Loaves and Two Fishes? A Meditation on the Gospel of the 17th Sunday of the Year (adw.org)