A MINGLING OF LOVE AND POWER
In an article published in America Magazine, John Martens offers a compiled list of the “12 Top Parables” he would consider his favorites. Check through them and recall the lesson Jesus is teaching in each of these. Determine if these would be your top 12 as well.
- The Talents in Matthew 25
- The Marriage Feast at Cana in Matthew 22
- The Sower and the Seed in Mark 4
- The Wheat and the Weeds in Matthew 13
- The Mustard Seed in Mark 4
- The Rich Fool in Luke 12
- The Lost Sheep in Luke 15
- The Sheep and the Goats in Matthew 25
- The Dishonest Manager in Luke 16
- The Good Samaritan in Luke 10
- The Prodigal Son in Luke 15
- The Unmerciful Servant in Matthew 18
Are you surprised he did not include the parable of the Feeding of the 5,000 people? After all, this is one of the most well -known of Jesus’ stories, and it is the only one, along with the Resurrection, that appears in all four gospels. Most of us are always amazed that the entire multitude of followers was fed with that small meal of five loaves of bread and two fish, and they didn’t run out of food! We are told that Jesus provided “as much as they wanted” and “they all ate and were satisfied.” Jesus did not just meet the basic need of the people; he lavished them with so much that there were “twelve baskets of broken pieces of bread and fish left over!”
Why is this parable so popular with many of us? Maybe it is because it is one of the most familiar-one we hear year after year in our liturgy. It is more understandable than many of the other parables, and it carries lessons for us that are clearly applicable. In this parable, we learn how God will shatter the pint-sized expectations of what his followers can do if they will learn to give what they already have been given. Someone once said, “Little is much when God is in it!” We can never believe our resources are too little to serve God.
Perhaps this parable has much significance also because it vividly reminds us that Jesus fed others through the agency of his disciples. We can only imagine that the disciples were stressed out after a long day, and they didn’t have the ability nor certainly the resources to feed a huge crowd. But did they realize that Jesus could have done the job himself with an instant miracle? Yet, he didn’t! We are told that there was one who had a clue-Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. Andrew called out to a young boy standing nearby who had five loaves and two fish. Interesting that this particular child was following Jesus-eager to hear and see and possibly even ready to do God’s work. He learned, and now we know that this can happen when we are open to truly following God. Little did he realize that he was about to give an enormous gift in order that others would be fed. The only problem, Andrew said, was that this was certainly not enough for such a huge crowd. But for Jesus, it was enough. Jesus then commissioned the disciples around him to distribute the food for him. How would this work? They would give only as they had now received. Those disciples were totally dependent on the Lord for the supply of food that they had to distribute. Another lesson for us-as God used these simple men, God still uses people-each of us-in the same way today to distribute to others what we have received.
Jesus, by this miracle, proved his ability to do great things with small stuff. God is able to make more than enough. Jesus can still do that! But, actually, Jesus did not need the food to perform the miracle. He just wanted people to participate with him in his mission. In a sense, God doesn’t need our help, but he wants us and invites us to take an active role in accomplishing his work. Notice that when the disciples came to Jesus with the problem of needing food, Jesus told them “you give them something yourselves.” He wanted them to take their eyes off the problem and put them on the answer. There’s another lesson here for us: no one has the sole task of saving the world ourselves, but each of us can offer our “bread and fish” to make the world a more just and peaceful place for all.
Finally, we can say that Jesus saw a need when he was with the crowd. Through his eyes of compassion, he saw people who were hungry, and he simply did what was needed to be done. This miracle plays out the story of all Jesus’ miracles: he met a need, and he showed forth the glory of God. A mingling of love and power! Sometimes, God uses the unexpected to open our eyes to his love and power. This story reminds us that we must live in constant awareness of the needs of others, showing empathy, compassion and generosity. Our “miracle” is to change peoples’ hearts! And sometimes, it is we who feel we are in a situation that needs a “miracle” also. One theologian wrote “Give God room to work through ways you never imagined or dreamed. It may not be what we expect, but will be what we need.”