From time to time, you’ll hear a theologian or a minister propose that in the Gospel we just heard, the miracle was really that everyone in the crowd shared what they had and found they had more than they needed. Sharing is an excellent virtue and something as Christians we are called to do. But to spin one of Jesus’ signs and miracles into a socialists ideal of the utopia they long for isn’t just incorrect, it’s heresy. The theory fails in basic reading comprehension, but even worse, it’s putting us as human beings in control and relegating God to the role of a coach.
This miracle, or rather as St. John would call it, this sign is more evidence that Jesus is more than just a nice guy who said nice things… more than just an excellent teacher. Just 20 verses later in this same chapter of John, we hear Jesus tell us “I am the bread of life whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.”
Very clearly, Jesus initiates that lunch is going to be “on him.” He asked Philip “Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?” – which John explained, Jesus says to test him. Philip shows quickly the limitations that we as human beings face. Phillip stars doing the calculations – he knows they don’t have enough money to buy food for 5,000 plus… let alone who’s catering, who’s delivering on an order like that? He’s probably thinking to himself – Jesus, we need to make plans, reservations, budgets. All logical, reasonable thoughts that we as human beings encounter in our day to day lives as we try to figure out in our heads how to address this situation.
In the midst of all this, this boy who has been with the crowd and looking at, and listening to Jesus says “here Jesus, you can have my lunch.” Just picture it – the little guy has an innocence and selflessness to not even think about “if I give my lunch, then I won’t have anything left;” Unlike the apostles who are already lost in thoughts of what they don’t have, their limitations, how this is all hopeless, this child hears Jesus wants to do something to feed this whole gathering and says “you can have all that I’ve got.” Jesus takes it. This breathtakingly beautiful act results in an abundance of food for the crowd with massive left overs and doggie bags to boot! The little boy probably never even thought that his offering would be the seed that results in this massive harvest. Which is why God is God and we’re not.
Jesus takes the small lunch given from the biggest of hearts and teaches us that when we follow suit, miracles happen. That is how our God works with us and through us. Phillip and the others, they forgot that this is the same Jesus, who took 20-30 gallon jars of water and was able to make the finest of wine. Our God is so good and so generous that He not only has given us all that we could want or need, but wants us to become what we receive – to become Christ ourselves… which only comes out of selfless, sacrificial love which we saw on the cross. It takes time for us to grow in our faith, in our trust in order to be that generous and experience His life within us. Which is fine, Jesus will take whatever it is we offer, as long as it’s coming from the heart – even if it’s a few loaves and fish. May each of us not miss the opportunity to be a part of a miracle…