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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Friday, January 31, 2020  

Today’s Scripture Reading | John 6:1–15

After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, also called the Sea of Tiberias. A large crowd kept following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick. Jesus went up the mountain and sat down there with his disciples. Now the Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near. When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?” He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do. Philip answered him, “Six months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.” One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?” Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” Now there was a great deal of grass in the place; so they sat down, about five thousand in all. Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted. When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, “Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost.” So they gathered them up, and from the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets. When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, “This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world.”

When Jesus realized that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself. (NRSV)

A friend of mine spent several years living in Cameroon, a country in Central Africa. She describes how Cameroonians would engage in good-natured ribbing with folks who assumed that Jesus cloned the bread and the fish in order to produce enough to feed all the people in this story. People who live in harsh climates or rugged terrain know that you never set off on a journey without packing enough food to cover unforeseen detours. Of course everyone had some food with them! The miracle is that they all shared what they had with one another.

Why is that less of a miracle? Jesus was able to convince 5,000 people to share their resources. Convincing people to share that which assured their comfort or even survival feels like a bigger miracle than cloning fish or bread. Undoubtedly some in the crowd had been on the road longer and had less to share. Others may have made poor decisions about food consumption and only had crumbs. Still others may not have had resources to pack for a multi-day trip and they simply relied on God to provide. Enough people had food so that when shared, all could eat.

What a miracle indeed! The good news that Jesus proclaimed was powerful enough to convince all those who followed him that none of us could be satisfied as long as some were still hungry.

God who supplies our needs, continue to soften our heart so that we can participate in miracles of justice and generosity every single day. Amen.

Written by Andrea Denney, Director of Operational Ministries

Reflection and Prayer © Fourth Presbyterian Church

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