Scripture: Matthew 14:13-21
Key verse: (20) And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full.
Reflection: As we approach the holiday season (a.k.a. the season of eating), I look forward to gathering with friends and family around a table to share in community and food. One thing is for sure, I will leave from wherever we gather with a plate of leftovers— piled high mashed potatoes, layers of ham and turkey folded into soft rolls, creamy mac-n-cheese, savory green beans, crunchy fried okra, and more. I have learned to bring my own leftover containers.
On the other hand, many go without gathering in community to join in a shared feast. Many are hungry through the holiday season and are hungry beyond this season. It is hard at times to live into the reality of plenty and the reality of want. This miracle story is one of scarcity turned to abundance.
When I read this, I picture the disciples reaching into the basket of bread, pulling a loaf out to share with the community, reaching back into the basket, pulling more bread out, over and over and over again. It is kind of like how a magician can pull the scarf out of a pocket and the scarf never ends. The loaves and fish were enough to supply the needs of the people. A divine miracle of multiplication.
Others see a community in action in this miracle. The gospel of John tells us that a small boy offered his bread and fish to the disciples. Like the disciples, I am not sure how far 5 loaves and two fish will get in feeding a group of over 5,000. But Jesus took this small offering, he blessed it and gave it out to the people. In seeing the selfless sacrifice of this young boy, the group was moved to give what they had. As the disciples were serving the crowd, each offered what they had, adding their contribution to the whole. Now this is still a miracle, not of multiplication but of compassion. It is a miracle of changed hearts; it is a miracle of contribution for the good of the whole.
I wonder how a single selfless act can change the hearts of others. I wonder the courage it takes for someone to stand up and offer all they have, even though rationally it seems it’s not enough. I wonder how we can trust that God will multiply. Even further, I wonder how we sometimes play the role of the disciples, questioning where our needs will be meet. And conversely, I wonder what moves in us when we play the role of the young boy.
The crowd was feed. The crowd also gave. They received plenty, and realizing their own abundance, they gave plenty. And whatever they gave, individually and as a group, God took and God multiplied.
Prayer: God of abundance, thank you for your wondrous miracles. Help us to see our abundance, so that we may give to others in their want. For we know that all we give to you will be multiplied for your glory. Amen.
Author: Ben Brannan
[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].