Jesus Feeds

5th Century Byzantine mosaic in the Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes. Tabgha

August 2, 2020

Matthew 14:13-21

Once the wheels of the plane hit the runway at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv, everything seemed to come at me pretty fast. Thankfully, I was able to get some sleep on the plane and was not feeling too tired as we hit the ground running in the Holy Land earlier this year.

The sun had mostly set as we pulled up to our hotel in Tiberius that first night. Tiberius is on the Sea of Galilee, where many of Jesus’ teachings takes place, like our lesson this morning. Waking up the next morning to look out to the Sea of Galilee was an incredible site and only held a glimpse of the sights, sounds, and smells of the trip to come.

There is a relationship with food among the people in Israel and Palestine and there was never not enough food to eat. I can imagine a similar spread for Jesus as he walked into someone’s home as they greeted him and were honored to have him in their home. This morning though, it is Jesus that feeds. Jesus invites the 5000 that have gathered to hear him preach to sit and stay awhile and be nourished, not only in the Word that he shares, but also in the meal of broken bread and fish that is to be shared with all.

It is reminiscent of the words that we heard this morning from Isaiah, “Ho, everyone who thirsts,
come to the waters; and you that have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without price” (Isaiah 55:1). The God that the Israelites encounter after exile reminds them of the great abundance provided. This same abundance is revealed by Jesus breaking the bread and providing fish for all to eat.

The location on the Sea of Galilee where this miracle occurs is remembered at the Church of the Multiplication in Tabgha. You can stand at the entrance of the church and look out to the right at the Sea of Galilee. The current church was built in the early 1980’s but within it are some beautiful mosaics that date back to the 5th century. There was a stillness to the sea while I was there and while in Capernaum, a little further northeast of Tabgha, we had the opportunity to celebrate communion along the shore of the sea.

Breaking bread with one another and having a meal does a lot to create friendships and bond relationships. There is a mystery at work at the communion table when we come together and when that is missing, we long for it. Let us not forget, God is still present at out dinner tables as we sit down with family and enjoy a homecooked meal. There is an abundance of love that can come out of these settings and something to be cherished.

Unfortunately, it is easy to focus on the scarcity. Do we have enough? When will we have enough? How long will what we have last? The disciples in our gospel lesson were also concerned that there was not enough. They want Jesus to send the 5000 off to the surrounding villages because they do not have enough food to feed everyone. And Jesus’ reply to them was, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” Jesus knew what he was going to do, and he wanted to instill the same faith in the disciples, because they were quick to want to send everyone away. There is an abundance around them that they did not see. Out of the five loaves and two fish that they presented to Jesus, which seemed like a scarce amount to feed 5000, there is an abundance of leftovers. Twelve baskets in all, we are told.

The abundance is not only met in the food, but in the community. When we cannot meet in community at this time, we are left looking around and it seems that things are scarce. Yet, God is present and makes God’s presence known to us in new ways. We have learned to be community is different ways, maybe not necessarily better, but ways that still connect us and can feed us. It is the Word of God at this time that feeds us as we wait and anticipate a joyous reunion. Just maybe, we are right where we need to be at this time. God has invited us to stay and sit for a spell so that we can live in the presence of Christ and open our hearts to him. Hearts that are hurting right now because of uncertainty. Hearts that long to hug our neighbors. Hearts that are imprinted with the very love of God.

Jesus has come to feed us. He knows what we need in this time and place. Are you ready to receive it and be nourished in his refreshing grace?

By Alex Steward

I am a husband, father, and pastor within the ELCA. I did not grow up in the church and thus come at this pastoring thing with an unique perspective.

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