Since I will be out of the pulpit this week, we will be revisiting a classic Word and Spirit Guide from August 2017. Happy communing!
13Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. 14When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick. 15When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” 16Jesus said to them, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” 17They replied, “We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.” 18And he said, “Bring them here to me.” 19Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. 20And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full. 21And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.
Reading Scripture to Know:
- What is happening/being said? (Observation)
- Why is this happening/being said? (Interpretation)
- What does the rest of Scripture say about it? (Evaluation)
- What does it mean? (Understanding)
- What does it mean for us? (Application)
Reading Scripture to Grow:
- What words or phrases stand out to you? Why?
- Where do you hear the voice of God in this Scripture?
- How do you see the character of God reflected in this Scripture?
- How does this Scripture reveal God?
- How does this Scripture expose humanity and its need for God?
- How does this Scripture speak to what is happening in your life?
- How does this Scripture speak to what is happening in our world?
- What might God want to communicate to you (us) this week through this Scripture?
Scripture Reads Me:
- This passage makes me feel…
- This passage makes me think about…
- This passage reminds me of…
- This passage teaches me that God is…
- This passages teaches me that I am…
- This passage challenges me to…
Reflection: Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds.
Do you wonder why Jesus did not give the people the fish and bread himself? Why did Jesus first give the food that had been blessed to his disciples and then ask them to give the food to the people? I think it is more than just mere logistics and a desire by Jesus to speed up the process.
Notice in the passage that first Jesus asks for the disciples to give what they have to feed the people. All they come up with are these five loaves and two measly fish. Yet still, they offer it, no matter how small the amount is. Jesus takes this offering and multiplies it, giving it back to the disciples so that they might serve the people.
Jesus has called upon all of his followers to serve others. We might not think we have a lot to give in service. Yet, if we offer what we do have to Jesus, he will make up for any perceived lack on our part. “Simply give me all you have and I will make it a great offering of service.” That is Jesus’s call to us all.
But Jesus will then ask us to take what he has multiplied and go to work. Jesus knew that one day he would no longer be around to do the work that was needed upon the earth. One day, these disciples would be spread out around the known world serving God’s kingdom by serving others. Jesus would not physically be with them to do the work of the kingdom. They would need to trust Jesus, and the coming Holy Spirit, to work through them.
This is very similar to what happens in the sacrament of Holy Communion. We offer ourselves to Jesus, we receive what Jesus has to give (life and grace and power in his body and blood), and then we move out from the altar to “set up” our own lives as communion tables in the world. By eating the bread and drinking the juice, we receive the grace of Jesus that multiplies when we offer it back to the world.
What do you have to give to the kingdom and the world in service? Does it seem insignificant to you? Give it over to the power of Jesus and the anointing presence of the Holy Spirit and watch it multiply in grace. Then, confidently go out and help feed those who are hungry for God. You’ll find that you will never run out of grace and mercy when you entrust your work and your whole self to the Lord.
Prayer Focus: Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself.
The “this” that Jesus heard was the news of John the Baptizer’s death. Jesus was grieving and facing a very difficult burden when he chose to withdraw from the crowds, presumably for prayer and stillness in the presence of the Father. However, by the time his boat reached his destination, the crowds were there waiting for him. Often times when we grieve, it is hard to get the distance and space needed to be alone with God. Pray for those who are grieving and ask God to help them notice and accept refuge in God’s presence. Find your times and places of withdrawal now, so that when you find yourself in times of grief, you will know to whom you can run for refuge.
Meditation Focus: They replied, “We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.” And Jesus said, “Bring them here to me.”
Several weeks ago I sat with a trusted spiritual director who advised that I read and meditate on the story of Jesus appearing to the disciples on the shore after the resurrection. This story is found in John 21:1-14. One part of the passage stood out to me above all the rest. This is what those verses, verses 9-11, say:
When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred fifty-three of them; and though there were so many, the net was not torn.
I began to meditate on the image of dragging the net full of fish to Jesus. As Jesus calls me to life and service in his kingdom, what is in my net that I present to him as an offering? We might look at ourselves and say, “My net is sparsely filled, with only a little bit” (sort of like the disciples in our Scripture for this week) or “My net is empty and I have nothing to give.” However, if you read the whole passage from John 21, you will see that Jesus tells the disciples where to cast their net so that it would be full. They had fished all night and their net was empty; it was only when they listened to Jesus and stopped depending on their own efforts that the net was filled.
Picture yourself approaching Jesus as he calls you to come to him on the shore. Jesus picks up the net behind you and begins filling it with everything you need to be made whole. What does Jesus place inside your net? What is your reaction? Do you say to Jesus, “This is all? There is nothing here but five loaves and two fish!” Or do you trust that what Jesus has given you is exactly what you need?
Journaling Focus: And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full.
God is the God of abundance. After all, Jesus declared that he came to give us “abundant life” (John 10:10). Even when we have received grace after grace from God, there is still grace left. How have you witnessed God’s abundance in your own life? How has God’s grace increased within you? How might you share with others the “baskets full” of grace that are “leftover” from the work of God in your life?
Take out your Bible and search the pages for names of people that you do not recognize. These people will not be the “main characters” in the story of Scripture, but notice what important role they play in the narrative. Then, consider how God might use your life as you reflect on these words from the Rich Mullins song Who God is Gonna Use:
And a princess pulled a baby out of the water
He was hidden in the rushes
Sleeping in a basket made of reeds
And you never know who God is gonna use
A princess or a baby
Or maybe even you or me
Breath Prayer: Father, multiply your grace in us.