31 Maple Street
Bristol, Connecticut USA
August 18, 2019
Rev. Kristen J. Kleiman
The Feeding of the Five Thousand is the only miracle story, outside of Jesus’ resurrection, that occurs in all four gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Matthew, Mark, and Luke are called the synoptic gospels because they have the same eye syn-optic, which is to be expected because scholars believe Matthew, Mark, and Luke were all written from the same source material.
But John. John tends to go his own way. Matthew and Luke begin with stories of Jesus’ birth. Mark with John the Baptist. John though begins with “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…” (John 1:1)
John really likes to go his own way, so it’s interesting that of all of the stories of Jesus’ life that John could have included, he chose the Feeding of the Five Thousand. It speaks to this being a really important story in Jesus’ life and ministry, a significance discovered in the similarities and differences of the gospel writers’ accounts.
In all of the gospels, we have the impression that Jesus is tired; Jesus is looking for some rest, trying to get away with be alone with his disciples. The synoptic gospels say he goes to a “deserted place”. It does not stay deserted for long. The crowds follow, and Jesus has compassion on them, curing their sick, teaching them about the kingdom of God. Even John includes this detail that the crowds follow because “they saw the signs that [Jesus] was doing for the sick” (John 6:2)
All four gospels also include the detail that Jesus wants to feed the crowd, but the disciples respond with ‘we have only five loaves and two fish’, and a ‘it will never be enough’ attitude.
Jesus is undaunted by their negativity, and all four gospels say he has the crowd sit down in the green grass (a reference to the 23rd psalm “He maketh me to lie down in green pastures;”? (Psalm 23:2)) Then Jesus looks up to heaven, blesses the bread and breaks it, giving it to his disciples. (Yes, the last supper is not the first or last time that Jesus blesses and breaks bread.)
And all ate and were full. The gospel accounts differ on who exactly was included in the five thousand. Regardless though, if it was five thousand in all or five thousand men plus women and children, a ton of people were fed that day, and when all were full, the leftovers filled twelve baskets!
It was a miracle. It was truly a miracle. Whether you believe it was an actual miracle of Jesus multiplying the food or the miracle of people sharing what they had tucked away to keep for themselves, it was still a miracle.
And it is a reminder that small things make a difference. All four gospels, each in their different way, tell us that five loaves and two fish will not be enough. Mark says it would take two hundred denarii to feed that many people, which would have been 200 days’ pay for most workers (Mark 6:37). Matthew quotes the disciples as saying, “We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.” (Matthew 14:17) And in John, Simon Peter says, “ ‘There is a boy here who has five barley loaves [the cheapest kind of bread] and two fish. But what are they among so many people?” (John 6:9)
But what are they among so many people? Five loaves and two fish are not enough. Not by any stretch of the imagination. And yet, Jesus makes this nothing of five loaves and two fish enough to feed five thousand people, with twelve baskets of leftovers.
What the disciples say it is not enough, Jesus makes an overflowing abundance.
Small things make a difference; small things create miracles. Look at the bread. Look at the fish. Look at the boy…..
Look at the boy. Only John mentions the boy; only John shares this detail about who brought the bread and fish. It was a boy, a child, willing to share what he had.
If he had been a grown up, would he have been so willing to share? Might he have looked at his loaves and fish as not enough and not even bothered to offer them? Would he have let his fear overcome his generosity, worrying that others might look down on him for offering so little, worrying that he would not have enough for himself?
Fortunately, none of those thoughts crossed the boy’s mind. He openly; he willingly; he generously shares what he has, and because of the boy’s generosity, Jesus’ miracle is possible.
Have you ever thought of that? The feeding of the five thousand would not have been possible without the boy and his generosity. His sharing makes the miracle possible.
The same is true with us. Our generosity makes God’s miracles possible.
Too often, we think our gifts are too small to make a difference, too inconsequential to matter. Too often, we think why bother to pledge, why bother to volunteer, what we have to give is not enough.
Adrienne Maree Brown, an author, activist, and social justice facilitator, disagrees. In her book, Emergent Strategy: Shaping Worlds, Shaping Change, Adrienne lays out core principles for change, the first being “Small is good; small is all”. “Small is good; small is all”.
The Salvation Army would agree that small things make a difference, that small things create miracles. In 2017, they raised $144.5 million through their holiday Red Kettle campaign. A million and a half dollars from spare change. (https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/the-salvation-armys-127th-red-kettle-campaign-raises-1445-million-300609929.html)
Alexandra “Alex” Scott, the founder of Alex’s Lemonade Stand, would also agree that small things make a big difference, that small things create miracles. When Alex was four years old, she decided to hold a lemonade stand in her front yard. Many of us as children did the same, and our costs well outweighed our profits. Lemonade stands are not the way to make money. Many might say, lemonade stands can’t make a difference.
And yet, it was through lemonade stands that Alex Scott raised $1 million for childhood cancer research before she passed away at the age of 8. Her little lemonade stand became an international non-profit that has raised over $150 million for childhood cancer, and funded nearly 1,000 research projects at 135 institutions. Miracles have happened because of one little girl, because of one little lemonade stand. (www.alexslemonade.org)
Miracles do come from small things. People are fed; Lives are saved; The kingdom of God is created here on earth.
Whenever you think your gift is too small and you are tempted to not share, remember “Small is good; small is all”. Remember Alex; remember spare change dropped into a red kettle; Remember a boy with five loaves and two fish.
Our generosity makes God’s miracles possible.