- 2 Samuel 11:1-15
- Psalm 14
- Ephesians 3:14-21
- John 6:1-21
Jesus’ compassion for the people leads him to respond with food for mind and body. Today’s Gospel reading of the feeding of the five thousand expresses the significance of the Holy Eucharist. In this account from John, Jesus has crossed the Sea of Galilee, where the crowds continue to follow him because of his healing of the sick. As with other miracles reported by John, Jesus takes the initiative. Upon seeing the large crowd coming to them, Jesus asks Philip how they are to feed all these people. Philip thinks of the impossibility. Andrew notes a boy who has a little, but certainly not enough when there is so much need.
The report on the miracle of the bread and the fish is about what happened to somebody who gave all he had. It is, of course, a story about Jesus multiplying all that bread and fish. But whose bread did he multiply? Whose fish did he divide? It all started with the real hero of that story: one small boy. I think that Jesus praised that small boy who had given all he had . . . When you are asked for something you think you are unable to give, thing of that small boy of this story, and think of the twelve baskets full of food given to him because he gave all he had. Joseph P. Donders (The Jesus Community: Reflections on the Gospel for the B-Cycle, Orbis Books, 1981)
Jesus takes the child’s loaves and fish and shows the unbelieving disciples that he can satisfy the needs of an enormous multitude from an inconsequential source. No matter how meager these resources appear to human understanding, they prove to be more than enough when Jesus takes charge of them.
To accept the reality of Christ’s presence in the bread of the sacrament is to be open to a whole new dimension of life. It is the Lord who is the source of our life and strength. It is he who quiets the waters around us if we have the faith to perceive his presence. Our eyes become open to the events that happen around us as we see the Lord’s feeding us in the sacrament.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes, “The table fellowship of Christians implies obligation. It is our daily great that we eat, not my won. We share our bread. Thus we are firmly bound to one another not only in the Spirit but in our whole physical being. The one bread that is given to our fellowship links us together in a firm covenant. Now none dares go hungry as long as another has bread, and anyone who breaks this fellowship of the physical life also breaks the fellowship of the Spirit.” (Life Together, Harper Collins)
The Eucharist is one of the means by which we receive God’s grace. This Eucharistic theme will be carried out in the next four weeks.
Grace is God’s favor towards us, unearned and undeserved. By grace God forgives our sins, enlightens our minds, stirs our hearts, and strengthens our wills. (BCP 858)
- As you read the Gospel passage, put yourself in the place of one of the various characters in the story. How do you describe what happened? What do you understand to be the importance of this event? What insights do you derive from comparing the various viewpoints?
- In John 6:5-6, why do you think Jesus wanted to test Philip? How do you think you might have reacted in Philip’s place? How are we tested in our own lives of faith?
- How did the crowd interpret the mission of Jesus in light of the miracles of the loaves and fish? Why do you think Jesus reacted as he did in verse 15? In what ways do we continue to lose sight of the work of Jesus in the world today?
- What do the actions of Jesus here suggest to us about discipleship and compassion?
- Read the accounts of the feeding of the five thousand in the other Gospels (Matthew 14:13-21; Mark 6:32-44; Luke 9:10-27). What differences do you notice among the various stories, and how do these differences impact the meaning of the event?