Just a little thing She was a nanny and had the difficult task of guiding their stroppy kids through life and trying to help them become decent humans. One night as they all arrived home in chaos she offered to prepare a simple meal for them (well outside her brief). They gratefully accepted; so she served a simple mince stew with baked potatoes and greens. To her astonishment they reacted like she’d fed them a banquet, when all she’d done was grab a few ingredients and throw together her experience of a filling family meal. Her simple meal became their best meal of the week – something they never stopped talking about. A small offering given out of kindness and concern for the kids magnified somehow into a feast for a yuppie family. Her attempt to be a blessing succeeded beyond all anticipation.
No marvel at all? It is important to say that there is nothing marvellous about this story in either of two common reinterpretations of this event. There are scholars who say that what really happened is that many of those who sat on the ground around Jesus had brought food with them and as Jesus started to break and distribute the meagre meal of the little boy, these people were shamed into sharing their food with their neighbours. The second version says that like our current practice of communion, each got a tiny fragment of what was only a symbolic meal.
How do we then make sense of John’s assertion that this is a demonstration of God at work in a stunning and unmistakable way, because that is what the Greek word semeia suggests. Further, was John lying or deluded when he said everyone was full, had all they needed to satisfy their hunger?
Multiplying Blessing. In the hill country of Galilee Jesus has been teaching and ministering to the ill among those following Him and as His ministry progressed His following grew – some would say alarmingly. Jesus is aware that people are getting hungry and as a test he asks Philip, a local, where they could get enough food to satisfy this crowd of 5,000 people. All Philip can see is the problem of how you’d pay for that; Andrew has a similar issue – he’s found a small boy with a meagre meal of bread and fish. The boy is probably poor and yet has come to Andrew’s attention as willing to share what he has. Again Andrew can only see the problem – how do you feed these seated and expectant people with a few barley loaves and some cooked fish?
But Jesus sees only the answer, the opportunity to demonstrate Divine provision. He takes this simple offering in his hands and he thanks God for it; “Blessed are you O Lord our God, King of the Universe, who brings forth bread from the earth.” For this unpromising picnic of a little boy the Lord of salvation gives thanks; and then He starts to divide the food and send it out with the disciples among the many followers. Can you imagine being a disciple, tired, dispirited, defeated by the magnitude of the need, watching that little lunch somehow multiply in to an abundance enough to leave a multitude satisfied, no longer hungry, with enough left over to fill 12 food baskets? Or to be in the crowd and to realise that what just filled your stomach started out as a few barley loaves and a taste of fish? Jesus is revealed here as the Dispenser of life, the Creator at work in full sight.
And have you ever considered the excitement of the little boy as He watched his little gift multiply in an unbelievable way?
What sort of King? The crowd miss what is really happening though. They miss that this is God’s promised and longed for Messiah, who has just given them a glimpse of God’s Kingdom – the same in which the sick are healed. They think Jesus is some kind of gifted prophet, and they try to make Him their King to serve their needs according to their programme or agenda. The crowd are working to a very narrow short-term view, they are seeing things in the here and now, they’ve missed the astonishing presence of eternity on the very hills of Tiberias.
Widening vision, raising expectation. What is going on when in your mind when a situation arises in which Jesus can show Himself to be the Provider? Do you see the problem or the solution? Maybe as you hear or see the difficulties the Lord is actually challenging you to embrace the realities of the Kingdom of God – what God calls us to, He equips us for, providing the means out of His authority and bounty as the Creator, and therefore owner, of all that we’ll need. We don’t have the excuse that Philip and Andrew had – they had yet to see all that Jesus could do. They hadn’t yet been bowled over by His death that liberates and by His rising that empowers – nor had they yet tasted the power of the Spirit at work in and through own words and actions.
Do we despise the small offerings of those who are simply available for whatever God needs?
A child about Darian’s age, or June’s stature was the initial instrument of this sign. How typical that a child should see what we “sophisticated” adults refuse to see.
A friend once lead a thriving, growing impressive local church that was having a serious impact on it’s community – where was this church? Tapanui. You probably haven’t heard of the place. Somewhere north-east of Gore between the main highway to the South and that to Central Otago. Truly the middle of nowhere.
What do we believe God is capable of in our place and time, using us as His primary means of mission? What miracles of provision can He achieve through our simple offerings, our humble skills and talents? What we learn from this story is that all that was needed to feed the 5,000 was right there in front of the disciples? They already had access to enough.
Lift your eyes and see where God is at work especially as you trust with what little you have to offer, and with your willingness to trust Him in absurd situations. Listen for the voice that calls you for you challenge the apparent limitations and obstacles that crowd your consciousness as you give thought to what He might want to do with and through you and through Forrest Hill Church, your church. Whatever we give in his name and for His purposes, however small or unpromising, He turns into great resources that become His means of providing for His purposes. You may not even recognise the results as having anything to do with your giving – but if you gave He is blessing – both you and the intended recipient and blessing is multiplied – exponentially!