Jesus Feeds the Multitude–A Miracle Retold

It was one of those epiphany moments. It was an instant in which everything came into clearer view. Something I always thought I knew and understood suddenly shifted into focus. The outcome was the same, however the details of the process were different.

More importantly, my view of the message and purpose of Jesus shifted once again.

Imagine the scene. It’s easy. It’s a story with which we are all familiar. Crowds have begun to follow Jesus and his rag-tag bunch of loyal trainees. He was their guru. They were his disciples. Better than Connan O’Brian or Jimmy Kimmel, this Jesus guy was a boatload of contradictions: sarcastic and straight-forward, funny and serious, aloof and compassionate, wise and seemingly foolish, positive and cynical. People who could get close enough to him were forever changed.

He was simply irresistible.

It’s a typical day in the countryside areas of Judea. The crowds have found the guru. Everyone is gathered in close straining to hear what the guru called Jesus has to say. He’s not some televangelist asking for money. He talks about sharing, but asks for nothing for himself. He mentions loving not only neighbors and friends and family, but also enemies. He says a neighbor isn’t necessarily someone of the same race or clan, but the one who shows compassion.

He mentions how lucky the poor are (this crowd is full of peasant men and women) because they don’t have wordly possessions weighing them down. He shares how the kindgom of God is not something guarded by the priests, but rather is contained within and attainable by each and every person there. He even says little children already “get it” and that becoming like a child is a good way to experience the kingdom.

His words of wisdom continue until later in the day. The disciples begin to let the cares of the world move in as they lose site of the day’s message.

“Jesus, it’s getting late, and these people are bound to be hungry. What are we going to do? We can’t just send them away.”

Here’s where the story takes a turn for me. Most of us are familiar with the only miracle story that appears in all four of the New Testament Gospels. Jesus tells the disciples to see what’s available. They find a small boy with five barley loaves and two small fish. Jesus takes the food, prays over it, breaks it, and miraculously it feeds thousands with baskets of leftovers.

And then this morning, my epiphany.

What if the miracle wasn’t a “powerful deity” miracle, but a “changing hearts” miracle? What if the sudden appearance of plenty of food had nothing to do with the magical duplication of five loaves and two fish, but was instead the magic of an example of sharing as set by a small boy?

What if absolutely nothing supernatural happened to the food supply that day?

And so our story continues, my way.

The disciples reported back to Jesus that a small boy, a child too young to know better than to hide what he had brought with him, had eagerly begged the disciples to take what he had and give it to those around him who were hungry.

After all, his hero, Jesus of Nazareth, had just said the way to experience the kingdom of God was through giving and sharing.

Then Jesus gratefully acknowledged that little boy and showered him with love and adoration. “But Jesus called the children to him and said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.'” Luke 18:16-17

Jesus blessed the small meal and began to share it.

And suddenly the hearts of the crowd began to soften. Jesus words about giving, sharing, and being like this little child affected them deeply. Many had brought along a lunch that day. It would have been foolish to travel out to the countryside empty-handed. They never went anywhere without at least a few provisions. Everyone present began to share what they had with the person next to them.

After the crowd had satisfied it’s hunger, Jesus asked the disciples to go around and gather up all that remained. Several more could have been fed from the leftovers.

Jesus made a beautiful point that day. If we take care of each other, share what we have and meet the needs of our fellow humans, not only will there be more than enough for everyone to be satisfied, but there will be plenty left over.

What good does it to do collect and store and stash and hoard if rust and moth ravage the loot? Mother Earth (God) is good to us. There will always be provisions enough to take care of everyone if set our sights on sharing what we have, not from our abundance, but from our very sustenance.

That little boy shared his lunch. It was all he had to eat that day. He didn’t know any better. By doing so, a miracle happened. His example opened the hearts of the entire crowd and everyone shared the little they had brought with them. Before the little boy opened his heart and his hands, no one seemed to have anything to share. Everyone was keeping the meagerness of their poverty lifestyle food to themselves.

One little boy opened his heart, and Jesus used it to open so many others.

Through sharing the most meager of resources, abundance was produced.The kingdom of God was experienced by everyone present, and  Jesus lesson was beautifully illustrated.

I like this version much better than the one that assumes deity must do some type of magic to turn five loaves and two fish into a banquet feast. It puts the power and the responsibility back on us……

….right where it belongs.

What if this were to happen today? What if we suddenly had no need for welfare because we simply took care of our neighbors?

It would take a miracle.

I’m pretty sure there’s a political statement in here somewhere. I bet you can figure it out.

10 Responses to “Jesus Feeds the Multitude–A Miracle Retold”

  • Great post, Angie! This is exactly how I envision this miracle as well. Miracles happen every single day, but we often too blind to see them.

    • It’s funny…..I don’t understand why this is the first time I have been able to see it this way. I guess when the time is right, the veil of blindness is lifted.

  • LOVE IT!!!!! VERY well said.

  • Brandon:

    I can appreciate what you are trying to do here, but I’m afraid you may have completely missed the point of who “God With Us” is and the signs which John says were recorded so that “you may believe” (John 20:30-31).

    Jesus had not just been teaching on the beatitudes in any of the four recorded miracles, and in three of the four recorded places (Matt. 14:13ff, Mark 6:30ff, Luke 9:10ff) it says that the people had followed him out to a desolate place. Yes, we could assume that the people typically brought provisions for themselves (the boy did have his own lunch), but I’d rather take the disciples’ point of view when it comes to an analysis of a crowd in their own culture: “This is a desolate place, and the day is now over; send the crowds away to go into the villages to buy food for themselves.” The disciples recognized the people (at least *most* of the people) didn’t have food and Jesus’ response was, “You give them something to eat.” At this point, Jesus has acknowledged that the people don’t have anything to eat either. Mark’s account says that Jesus told them this to test them because “he knew what he was going to do.” Was what “he was going to do” was watch the people share with each other? Not the Jesus I know. Not the Jesus who turns water into wine, raises the dead, calms storms, walks on water, and heals people of their sicknesses and handicaps.

    I think 5000+ people following a man out into a remote place tells us more about Jesus than it does about the crowd. Jesus had a message that people wanted to hear, and they had sicknesses they wanted him to heal. They weren’t focused on their own hunger as much as they were hearing this amazing speaker and healer, and probably weren’t anticipating being out as late or as far away as they ended up being.

    It goes on to say, “Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And they all ate and were satisfied.” Pay attention to what is stated, and not what isn’t: Jesus broke pieces off and gave the pieces to the disciples, the disciples gave them to the crowd, and the crowd ate and was satisfied. Then they picked up 12 baskets full “of the broken pieces.” There is no mention of sharing, but there is mention of something unnatural happening. And even if we are tempted to think this was only a “miracle” of people sharing food with each other, it is important to see that there would not have been 12 baskets full of leftovers because at the very maximum, there would have been only enough for everyone to have *some.*

    I’m sorry to have written such a long comment, but it very much appears that you are taking away some of the miraculous power *Jesus* showed while he was on earth which, again, John tells us was recorded to make us believe in who he was. I’d be much less motivated to believe in someone who simply motivated people to share than I would in someone who had the power to make a little nothing into a really big something. And we can’t stop here, either; if we are going to de-deify the miracle here, logic only leads us to do the same with the others as well, and before we know it Jesus has simply become a nice man who said nice things.

    I was in a class recently about studying the Bible and interpreting scripture and something that was brought up really made me think about “new” teachings of classically understood passages. The teacher said that if someone takes a verse of scripture that has generally been understood the same way for 2000+ years and says, “Now here’s what it really means!” we should see a warning flag.

    Though I don’t think history is always right about everything, if the Christian world has understood this to be a true miracle of Jesus for two millennia, I think you should carefully examine new epiphanies before you post to Twitter that you rewrote a Bible story and that you like your own version better.

    Better than whose version? God’s?

    • I appreciate the time you took to express your concern. Your points are valid assuming we believe the gospel writers are in fact recording first-hand eye-witness accounts of the event(s) in question. I have quite frankly come to the conclusion that this is not the case. There is very little that history has successfully been able to directly attribute to Jesus which hasn’t been tweaked, modified, embellished, etc. (much as I have done) by someone with an agenda. Most of that agenda evolved between 70 CE and 400 CE. In order to survive 2000 years, people like me who dared disagree with the writings as presented were murdered as heretics. I have yet to find where such action was in any way part of the teachings of Jesus.

      I used to believe everything contained in Biblical scripture was divinely inspired, written by God through “men” for God’s purposes. I have since come to realize how misguided that thinking is for me. Rather than continue pouring energy into a belief that requires constant contradiction and suspending the laws of nature, I have instead chosen to focus on the life and teachings of a man (a human man) who shared an amazing wealth of wisdom, most of which is corroborated not only through historical sources, but also appears in many other world religions as well.

      As for your teacher’s comment regarding “new teachings of classically understood scripture”, I am not at all surprised. Christianity and even small groups within the big umbrella of Christianity are highly protective of traditional interpretations and tend to react with sword and spear to any differing views. I know this from very personal experience.

      “Better than whose version? God’s?” What is God’s version? How do you know it is God’s version? Where’s your proof? It was a man’s version. It was written by a man with an agenda. It was copied by other men with agendas. And yes, I like my version better.

  • Brandon:

    Thanks for the reply, and I need to apologize. Because this page was referred to me by a mutual friend, I had assumed you were a part of the same Christian faith the both of us share. Obviously if you don’t believe in the historical accuracy of the New Testament, my comments that rest on what the text says doesn’t get us anywhere.

    Even though my studies have led me to believe that there is quite a lot of evidence to support the reliability of the New Testament documents, it does, at some point, all come down to faith. Do I believe that if God had a message to share with the world he could ensure its accuracy through 2,000 years of human history? Yes, I most definitely do. I believe that if God has an agenda, his will outweigh any of ours.

    So thanks for the polite reply, I do appreciate it. If you’d like to continue this conversation in any way, feel free to email me. I don’t want to clutter up your comments section anymore on a topic that doesn’t relate to what you’re post was about.

    Appreciate the discussion,

    Brandon

  • Angie- I like you version. BUT, that doesn’t mean (tongue in cheek) I’m going to follow you as a “new prophet of God”. Like you, I think we all need to reevaluate the “traditional” Christian stories to see what new thing might be there for us to interpret. I, too, am done with letting clerical minds tell me what to think. I will study, research, and then interpret these stories for myself to see what they have for me.

    • Frankly, I’m relieved. I don’t really want to be a followed prophet. Maybe a followed Twitterer, even a followed blogger, but not a followed prophet. Too much hassle with that one! ;-)

  • I’ll be your blog follower! Awesome post!

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