The cry of physical need 072615
After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, also called the Sea of Tiberias. A large crowd kept following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick. Jesus went up the mountain and sat down there with his disciples. Now the Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near. When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming towards him, Jesus said to Philip, ‘Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?’ He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do.
In John’s gospel Jesus always knows what’s going to happen….John has a very different image of Jesus than the other 3 gospels……the point here might be that God is already at work, what are you going to do to participate in that work?
In the book of Jeremiah this week I read this: prophets and priest ply their trade, but still there is war and famine. The professionals have a role to play, but meeting the physical needs of the world is everybody’s call.
Jesus sees an immediate need. And he expects his disciples to get involved in the need….in one of the other gospel versions of this story he tells them directly, “Give them something to eat”
It’s the same today….there are people with deep physical needs right in front of our sight, sometimes actually, tho we protect ourselves carefully from the sight… sometimes on the tv or computer screen, which we can turn off. Hunger and poverty and physical danger are rampant in a world where we have plenty and others not enough. I’m not telling you anything new. But it seems we haven’t yet got the message. God expects us to participate in meeting the need.
Philip answered him, ‘Six months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.’
The power of thinking little….we don’t have enough, we will never have enough, and even if we had money it wouldn’t be enough to really make a difference. A great excuse for inaction.
One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, ‘There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?’
Enter a child who is willing to share his lunch…..someone who has already got God’s message. But Andrew can’t see that.
There isn’t one of us who hasn’t said or thought something like Andrew: what can one person do, what difference can I make, the issue of poverty and hunger is too big – there’s no hope of fixing this…..
Rather than see what we have, and go with it, we see what we don’t have, and go with that.
When Jesus takes something in hand, and blesses it, it is transformative.
Jesus said, ‘Make the people sit down.’ Now there was a great deal of grass in the place; so they sat down, about five thousand in all. Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted.
There was enough. Not just enough to meet the immediate hunger, but enough to absolutely satisfy the hunger. Some commentators have suggested that the real miracle here is that of sharing. What that child did may have multiplied into a community of sharing….I bet he wasn’t the only one who’d brought his lunch. Jesus takes something in hand and blesses it, and the situation is transformed, the need isn’t just met, it is exceeded.
When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, ‘Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost.’ So they gathered them up, and from the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets.
Left overs…..clearly more than enough….enough to take home and make a lasting difference.
When we see the need, and share from our own bounty, things change. And there is enough and more than enough
Which leads us to one more enough….are we changed enough by our relationship to the living Jesus? We can remain observing receivers of the abundance, or we can become participant givers to the need.
Our youth and their leaders see the physical needs of those living in poverty, and give what they have in abundance, time and money – we’re going to hear from them what happens when we share our own bounty…..it makes a difference not just to other recipients, but it changes us too.
Lets take a few moments of quiet, to reflect on God’s message so we might finally get it, and do something about the cries of physical need that we hear…..more than just salving our conscience with monetary donations that become toxic charity, may we become physical participant givers, with eyes to see the need and hearts to hear the cry. Amen.