25th July 2021

Ephesians 3:14-end / John 6:1-21

Dear friends,

“Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, for ever and ever. Amen” (Eph 3:20-21).

That’s one of my favourite verses in the whole Bible because it sums up one of the fundamental truths of our lives as Christians –   that we should constantly be praising our awesome heavenly Father who blesses us with an immeasurable abundance. That with God at the centre of our lives, they won’t be just ok, they’ll be blessed beyond our understanding. That’s not blessing in terms of wealth or status; it’s not even a guarantee against pain and suffering; no, it’s a peace and blessing that despite whatever else might happen in our lives, we’ll be touched by God’s heavenly grace in ways we never thought possible, and with more love than we ever thought existed. And it’s the abundance of God’s love and provision that I want to focus on today because that’s the essence of the miracle of the feeding of the 5,000 which we’ve just heard.

It’s such a well-known Bible story; Jesus and his disciples have moved to a new area and have retreated up a mountain, maybe to pray, for Jesus to teach them quietly or maybe to rest. However, a huge crowd have caught-up with them, wanting to see Jesus. Knowing they would have travelled far, Jesus had compassion for them and wanted them to be fed, but it would seem there were few resources. As we know from the passage, the five loaves and two fish were enough to feed everyone present and there was plenty left over.

People have different views about the possibilities of this miracle; some really struggle with the notion that Jesus simply multiplied the loaves and fish to feed the masses. I’ve never had a problem with this; we see evidence of God’s miracles every day, so, for the Son of God to feed 5,000 people with bread and fish? A piece of cake!

There are other ways to look at this miracle; some like to imagine that it was like a sacramental meal. In fact, if we continue to read on in chapter six of John’s Gospel, Jesus speaks in a way that’s very reminiscent of the Last Supper when he refers to those who will eat his flesh and drink his blood. Maybe as everyone received a blessed morsel of bread or fish that day their souls were nourished fully, just as we are, every time we receive Holy Communion.

A third view is the possibility that some of the pilgrims who had followed Jesus had provisions of their own. It may have been human nature not to immediately show what they had for fear of losing their lunch, but maybe they were moved by Jesus’ example of care and compassion, they shared what they had so that all were fed. The miracle here may have been not that of the loaves and fish, but that the hearts of men and women were turned.

However we may view miracles, it’s important not to think of them as something which once happened, but something which continues to happen. Whilst they recall an event in history, they are far more than that; they are manifestations of the eternal love and power of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. In this particular miracle, it shows us that:

Jesus was concerned about the physical needs of the crowd. It would be interesting to look at the Gospels to see just how much time he spent not talking, but relieving human suffering and hunger. Jesus needs us to be those hands and feet for him now, sharing his Good News, by words and actions.

In Jesus all our needs are satisfied. As St.Augustine wrote, ‘You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You’. And as St.Paul wrote to the Philippians, “My God will fully satisfy every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (4:19). We can go through life kidding ourselves that the material things matter, but unless we put God first, life will never feel fulfilled.

Jesus’ help was abundant. There was more than enough for everyone to eat at the feeding of the 5,000. We’re told the crowds had, “…as much as they wanted” (v.11). In the original Greek, the word meant ‘filled’, in a way which suggests the people gorged. So, we’re not talking about just enough, they were full to the brim! That’s what God’s love is like and the miracles reflect it.

In many ways, it doesn’t really matter how we understand this miracle as long as we have prayerfully interpreted the passage. What is important is to remember that when Jesus Christ is present the weary find rest and the hungry are fed.        

We know this, but there are so many who don’t know that peace and joy – that relief that having the love of Christ in their lives can bring. Christ shared the loaves and fish with others as an expression of his abundant love. Let us also metaphorically share the loaves and fish with all who we meet. It might be by words; it might be by actions. God has a way for each of us to do this work, no matter what our skills or age.

Maybe we’ve come to a junction in our lives where that needs to change?

As many of us emerge out of the worst of the covid restrictions, do we need to step-up in the way we help?

Or is it time to do something less physical?

Whatever we do, let’s all pray. Let’s pray for those we know and love who don’t yet know the abundant love of Jesus Christ, and let’s also remember to pray for those further afield, using our prayer diaries.

And above all, as St.Paul wrote to the Colossians, let’s be thankful! (Colossians 3:15)

Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, for ever and ever. Amen.

Every blessing, Heidi.