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. Philip answered him, ‘Six months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.’ 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?’ 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. 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. When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, ‘This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world.’
When Jesus realized that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself.
Have you ever dreamt of winning a large amount of money? Not just a few extra pounds but the sort of money that would enable you to completely reshape your life. As you purchased your lottery ticket, or whatever, what plans were you making? Were you dreaming of houses, cars, holidays or early retirement? Were you thinking of all the ‘good’ you ‘could’ do, if only it proved to be your turn to be that lucky winner, that one in however many millions.
Sadly, such dreams, and good intentions, have been the ruin of many lives. So many have convinced themselves that their next bet (and that is what a lottery ticket is, by the way) will be the one! They have convinced themselves of that deceptive ‘truth’ so many times that they have come to see their lives reshaped in the most negative of ways, leaving behind a trail of financial ruin, hardship and irreparably damaged relationships.
In today’s reading we see a very different type of life-changing event. Crowds gather around Jesus. Having heard of the wondrous deeds he was doing, they gathered to see for themselves. Then, in response to their need, their hunger, Jesus produced such an abundance of life-sustaining food that there were twelve baskets full left over. From such a small outlay (five barley loaves and two fish) Jesus produced indescribable life-sustaining riches.
What must it have it have felt like on that day? Hundreds upon hundreds of people clamouring and jostling to be near Jesus. It is probable that, for many, joining that throng was a spur of the moment decision. Surely none of them had much advance notice of his arrival in the neighbourhood. And yet, over five thousand people gathered and were amply fed from so little. Those who stood closest to Jesus would have had a better view of the proceedings, while those who stood farther away would have had to trust the rumours that ran through the crowd. Whatever any individual’s experience may have been, they were all fed. They all enjoyed the abundant outpouring of God’s love for humanity.
The miracle of the feeding of the five thousand was not a matter of chance or good luck, and nor was it a one-off event. This miracle continues to the present day. As we commit ourselves to faithful discipleship we also find ourselves sharing in Christ’s abundant feast. We find ourselves festooned with life-changing riches, riches that far exceed our wildest and most fantastic dreams. And, for those who dream of sharing their good fortune with others, Christ encourages us to pick up those baskets full of left overs and share them far and wide.