“This is a deserted place, and the hour is late.  Send the multitudes away, that they may go into the villages and buy themselves some food.”  Matthew 14:15

“But Jesus said to them: ‘They do not need to go away, You give them something to eat.'”  Matthew 14:16

“I am the bread of life.  He who comes to me shall never hunger…” John 6:35

Food is something that we seem to care a great deal about.  That is why I included that clip from the Lord of the Rings.  Doubt our obsession? Then just look at our media, our commercials.  Watch how often food, the intake of food, its elimination, preparation, shedding of excess food, proper ingesting and many, many other related topics are portrayed in media.  I don’t point this out as a critique, just as an observation.

Thus is it any wonder that one of the most easily remembered, oft quoted, enduring and endearing miracles that Jesus Christ performed on this earth dealt with food and feeding; the feeding of the 5,000?  Yet as is so often the case, there is so much more to this miracle than the miraculous event of more than 5,000 people being fed from five loaves of bread and two fish, as if that wasn’t enough.

Let’s start with the context of when this takes place.  Jesus has just learned of a very tragic event; the death of John the Baptist.  Also, it’s not just that John the Baptist had died but that manner of which, the senseless barbarity of the murder, the beheading of John by King Herod, that reaches Jesus ears.  Thus Jesus decides that He needs some time alone.  The gospel does not reveal why Jesus departed to a deserted place; perhaps, in a human way He was frustrated that Jerusalem had, once again, killed a prophet sent to save them.  Perhaps He was mourning the passing of a dear friend.  Maybe, He was contemplating His own end that He knew was going to come with much greater barbarity; again we just don’t know.

What we do know is Jesus plan, the plan for solitude failed.  For Jesus had been preaching, teaching and healing for a while.  Jesus’ notoriety and popularity had grown significantly.  People from the surrounding area heard that Jesus was there and they came, no they flocked, like a herd of sheep, in desperate need of a Shepherd, they flocked to Jesus.  And so it began, Jesus, the Messiah, was moved with compassion and did not flee deeper for His own comfort in isolation, He turned and He ministered to them; He healed their sick.

Let’s stop for a moment to look at the before the feeding time.  For in the Gospel of Mark, we read that Jesus not only healed their sick but He also taught them.  Jesus, first was taking care of their spiritual needs, He first fed their souls with the Good News of His Heavenly Father’s Message.  So, He’s healing their sick and feeding their souls.  Going back to our focus on earthly and tangible things, like food, we often don’t take the time to understand, this aspect of the “miracle” at all.  Thus to go through a crowd like this and find and heal the sick and then teach to them the lessons of the Kingdom does take some time.

Now the hour has become late and in away there are two aspects to the lateness of the hour.  First literally the day is almost spent, night time is approaching.  Second and equally as late and dark, there is a sense that the wonderful spiritual aspect of day is waning and the cold stark truth of the world is returning.  For the world, in the guise of the disciples, comes to Jesus and says, send them away.  Tell them to depart from You, Jesus, the Messiah, Jesus the Christ, there is nothing more that You can do for them.  They must take care of their earthly need to eat and for that they must depart from You.  I do not blame the disciples for this thought.  Jesus after all was many things, a healer, teacher, preacher, master, carpenter; however, one thing he certainly was not was a baker, a maker of bread.  They had no reason to expect that Jesus had the wherewithal to provide for this crowd.

This next part I truly love.  For God had miraculously provided food for His people before.  God had brought quail from the sky and formed manna to feed the Israelites in the desert.  So Jesus could have called forth a miracle and all at once food could have appeared from heaven.  Instead, Jesus decides to include the disciples.  Jesus in His infinite wisdom understands the power of working His miracle through the hands of His most trusted followers.  So Jesus says: “You feed them”.

One wonders if the disciples thought Jesus had lost His mind?  Or perhaps Jesus was scolding them or making fun of them.  We can’t be sure what they thought besides being incredulous at the suggestion.  For indeed, what could the disciples do with a mere five loaves and two fish?  Alone, they could do nothing.  But they were not alone.

You see Dear Sisters and Brothers, Jesus Christ needed show His disciples then as well as us today; just what is possible through relying on Jesus Christ. Perhaps reluctantly, we can’t be sure, but the disciples do bring the five loaves and the two fish to Jesus.  They watch Him thank God for the loaves and fish and bless them, then they receive them back, now sanctified and they go out and distribute them.  Then group after group, family after family, open the baskets and partake of bread and fish, filling themselves until they can eat no more.  Far from being barely adequate, the loaves and fish not only satisfy the entire crowd but there is such abundance that there is food left over.  It is only then, that Jesus decides it is now time to release the crowds to return to their homes.

Jesus Christ does not wish to turn anyone away unfed, not then, not now.  Jesus Christ also wants us to be fully fed.  Christ first wants us to be fed by His Body and His Blood as the Bread of Life, spiritually bringing us into eternal life with Him as well as equipping us to be victorious in the spiritual battles of this life.  Sometimes that’s where we want to stop Him; place Him only in the realm of the spiritual.  Yet Jesus Christ shows us through this miracle, that He is King of all realms and wishes us not to be left hungry in the natural world as well.  Yet the natural world will try and tell us to depart from Jesus to take care of our natural needs, food, money, health, love.  Jesus Christ tells us to abide in Him and all things, both the things in the here and now plus things for all eternity, He will provide.

Let us not listen to the world, let us never turn away from Jesus Christ to fulfill whatever the need might be.  Jesus Christ will never send us away from Him unfed.  Plus blessing upon blessing, Jesus Christ might very well use us in the feeding of others.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we are so very thankful for the care and love You show to us by never sending us away unfed.  Forgive us Most Merciful Father, when we turn to other than You to meet a need in our lives.  Thank You Father, that You, in Your infinite wisdom, will also bless us by allowing us to be partners in distributing as well as partakers of bounteous blessings You pour out for us.  Through the partnering and partaking may we live lives of praise that bring glory to Your Most Holy Name.  We pray in the Name of Jesus Christ.  Amen