Dear Christ Church Family,
What do an Eastern Market fish and today’s reading from Matthew have in common? Well, maybe nothing. Except to remind us how to help Jesus do a miracle. Sound “fishy”? Check it out.
Tuesday, June 9, 2020 RCL Daily Office Readings, Year 2
I was at the fishmongers in Eastern Market last Friday when a huge 70 lb. fresh-caught rockfish was brought in for weighing and dressing. It was quite a sight. And it came to mind when our Gospel reading for today came up.
The feedings of the Five Thousand, in chapter 14, and the second feeding of the Four Thousand, here in chapter 15, are commonly thought to be reiterations of the same event. This is because, notably, the feeding of the Five Thousand is mentioned in all four Gospels – the only miracle story of Jesus that has that distinction. It was apparently such a big deal in the minds of the Disciples and the Early Church, that there was no one who didn’t know about it. The feeding of the Four Thousand, however, is mentioned only in Matthew and Mark, and the descriptions are nearly identical to the previous feeding of the Five Thousand.
So, why did that big fish at Eastern Market come to mind as I read this miracle story? Well, there is a unique detail in John’s account that I have remembered from childhood. When Jesus asks how much food the Disciples have on hand, Andrew says that a “lad” present there has five loaves and two fish. I’ve remembered that detail from childhood, because that lad’s perspective is how the story was first told to us in Sunday School. Here was a small child, we were told, who gave his small lunch to Jesus, and Jesus used it to feed thousands of people. The lesson was that, even though we children were small (and of small account apparently), even we small children could help Jesus. It was a pretty good lesson, despite the teacher’s (probably unintended) emphasis to us on how small we were. At least it has stuck with me for over 65 years that even the smallest of efforts put into Jesus’ hands can work miracles.
Still, I have often wondered how Jesus did it; using a kid’s lunch to feed all those people. But here’s what hit me about that Eastern Market fish and the “lad” in John’s account. What kid carries a “little lunch” of 5 or 7 loaves of bread with two whole fish? I’m sure the “two whole fish” were not 70 lb. each, but the Sea of Galilee doesn’t have minnows or sardines either. This was not the kid’s lunch. Clearly, he had been at a market earlier with his mother’s shopping list.
Now, what follow’s here is pure conjecture and speculation on my part. I’m not saying that this is what happened, nor am I explaining away a miracle. What I am saying is that there is another way to view this miracle than that Jesus was a food replicator, a la Star Trek.
The lad, along with many others in that market, may well have gotten caught up in the crowd moving out from the towns to see Jesus. In other words, there may have been a fair number of others in that crowd who also came from that same market, and even other town markets. They spend the day following Jesus, watching Jesus heal the sick, and hearing and seeing Jesus speak and show God’s love and compassion.
Despite this, everyone is still hungry. No one is breaking out the food they have carried with them. They are there for themselves and what Jesus can do for them personally. But now, one person, this “lad”, offers his (fair amount of) food to Jesus to do with as only Jesus can. Something had moved this child, something said or seen, and he seems to have offered to help Jesus. As the Disciples take the blessed food from Jesus and begin to distribute it, the crowd, seeing this act of compassion in this child, finally get the point as they are moved at last by the words and actions of Jesus, and they begin to freely offer their own provisions. They are moved to no longer follow Jesus for what they can get from Jesus, but for what they can give to Jesus. As a result of a child’s act of faith and love for Jesus, others are moved to faith and love for Jesus, and thousands are fed.
Now, as I said, I am not saying that this is how it happened. But consider: is this any less a miracle? Human beings, perhaps among the most selfish of beings in the universe, are moved to share everything with others for no other reason than the love and compassion of Jesus. And, every moment that you and I are moved to share ourselves, whether that be with our means, or with our compassion, whatever way we may do it, we are finally getting the point as we place that moment in Jesus’ hands for others. And that too is no less a miracle. So, share! Help Jesus work a miracle.