Today’s Author: Carol Swanson
I find it interesting to ponder the details given in the story of The Feeding of the 5,000 in John’s Gospel (6:1-14). This is the 4th sign pointing to who Jesus is. It takes place on a mountainside above the sea of Galilee. (I think back to my visit to Israel in January 1985, how I sat for a while and enjoyed such a spot.) And we are told that the Passover is near—therefore, the second year of Jesus’ ministry. I’m thinking: the middle of a 3-year ministry, the middle sign, 4th of 7. Was this also John’s thinking when he crafted his gospel? I don’t know, but there seems to be something central about this event that appears in all four gospels.
The theme “Come and See” that we have heard again and again I hear partly echoed in John 6:5. “When [Jesus] looked up and saw a large crowd was coming toward him, Jesus asked Philip, ‘Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?’ He said this to test him, for he knew what he was going to do.” Who is Jesus testing? Philip seems overwhelmed with how much would be needed—and the expense! Andrew finds the boy with the 5 barley loaves and 2 fish, but he is unsure that is useful. Does it take a child to openly share, to give freely without fear of loss or consequences? Did others share?
“Jesus said, ‘Make the people sit down.’ Now there was a great deal of grass in the place; so they sat down, about 5,000 in all.” I think of Psalm 23, “He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul….” In her commentary on John, Karoline Lewis says that this detail about grass foreshadows John’s chapter 10, where Jesus is the Good Shepherd—one of his “I am” statements. “The pasture for the sheep signals provision and abundance of life and this abundance is clearly present in the feeding of the five thousand,” she writes (p 83). We have heard this theme of Abundance repeated as we live in the Gospel of John. Am I able to see the “abundance of life” in my own?
Another connection to this story is the prayer petition, “Give us today our daily bread.” Martin Luther explains this in his Small Catechism. “What does this mean? God gives daily bread, even without our prayer, to all people, though sinful, but we ask in this prayer that he will help us to realize this and to receive our daily bread with thanks. “What is meant by ‘daily bread’? Daily bread includes everything needed for this life, such as food and clothing, home and property, work and income, a devoted family, an orderly community, good government, favorable weather, peace and health, a good name, and true friends and neighbors.”
I read this list and find I have abundance of life and much to be thankful for. But not everyone is so lucky. And then I think of how the “Lord’s Prayer” is prayed by God’s community. “Our Father,” “Give us today,” “Forgive us… as we forgive…” “Save us… and deliver us….” We are in this together, with God our Creator who gives so much so freely, and with Jesus who shows us what it means to be truly human, loving and caring for the world.
God of sustenance, provide us with your living bread daily so that we might be brought to eternal life. Help us share your living bread with all who will receive it. Amen.
(“Prayer of the Day” from Sunday)
Mid-week devotions are authored by members of our community. If you are interested in creating a trio of reflections to be shared on an upcoming Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, contact Pastor Peter.