Saturday, December 20, 2014
LOVE CAME DOWN AT CHRISTMASTIME
Christmas Eve Silent Night, Jamestown, NC
Jesus had already spent a tiring day preaching to the people and he had sailed across the Sea of Galilee with his disciples to rest. But a large crowd hungered for more and it became necessary to also feed them late in the day. William Barkley in his book, Insights: Miracles, posits three explanations for how Jesus was able to feed the multitude of five thousand with five barley loaves and two sardine-size fishes. This poor man’s bread and the small preserved pickled fish of Galilee were known throughout the Roman Empire. The story is one of seven miracles that the apostle John relates in his Gospel to show that Jesus is the Messiah. Barkley notes that we’ll never know exactly what happened on that grassy plain near the Sea of Galilee, but it was miraculous. One possible explanation is that Jesus simply multiplies the loaves and fishes. Or, it may have literally been a sacramental meal and it was just a morsel that the people received which nourished their hearts and souls like our communion does today.
Or, there may actually be a very inspiring third explanation. Many people in the great crowd wanting to hear Jesus may have been pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover. Jewish people carried their own food in bottle-shaped baskets so they could observe their rules of cleanness and uncleanness. They had probably packed just enough food for the journey without consideration for sharing it. But they listened to Jesus’ message and witnessed the young boy’s gift to him. God is constantly using ordinary people like you, me and the boy to accomplish extraordinary things! “Little is much when God is in it!” Philip didn’t think they could feed the multitude, but Andrew brought the boy with his small lunch to Jesus. If you don’t think God can handle a large problem, your God isn’t big enough!
Then Jesus turned, blessed the loaves and fishes as the father of a family and gave them to his disciples to distribute. In this way they had to trust that the peoples’ needs would be fulfilled and they could only share what they had received. That’s still how it works today. This modeled behavior in the presence of the Son of God must have assuredly moved the crowd to willingly share with others around them and it became a spontaneous, miraculous lovefeast in the spirit of goodwill and love for God and others. The resurrected Jesus later appeared to his disciples on these same shores of the Sea of Galilee where he assured them of an abundant life everlasting and challenged them to feed his sheep and make a difference in their lives, while he prepared a breakfast of bread and fish.
The “lessons learned” from this “miracle of the sharing of five loaves and two fish” were that Andrew trusted that Jesus could make something happen if he just made the effort to help by bringing the small boy to him. And although the boy didn’t have a lot to offer, it was enough to complete a miracle. Barkley notes that “it may well be that the world is denied miracle after miracle and triumph after triumph because we will not bring to Jesus what we have and what we are. If we would lay ourselves on the altar of his service, there is no saying what he could do with us and through us.” It may just be that it was not the loaves and fish that were miraculously changed that day on the Shores of Galilee, but the hearts and souls of all who gathered there that received the Bread of Life! Love changes everything. And the greatest gift of love known to mankind came down at Christmastime, shared the love, fed his flock and changed the world, which may also explain why this miracle left such an impression that it is the only one that appears in all four Gospels.
And as Isaiah prophesied over 700 years before the child was born, “he will be called Prince of Peace”!
I'll be standing there next year!