As I said last week, tonight we’re doing the Loaves and Fishes; but first, who can tell me a story about Jesus and little kids? There was a boy in the story about the Loaves and Fishes! Yes, don’t give it away yet! I mean another story with children, not just one kid. When the children wanted to visit Jesus? Yes, that’s the one, tell it. There were some kids who wanted to be with Jesus but they said no. Who’s “they”? The apostles? Yes, the disciples, which may include the apostles and other close followers of Jesus. Matthew’s gospel says, “…children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people…” Who brought the kids? Umm, their parents? Yes, because…they wanted Jesus to bless them. How? By laying hands on them! Yes! “But the disciples rebuked the parents”: Hey, getcha little monkeys offa Jesus; the big man’s busy with important stuff, and we are too. So beat it. But what did Jesus say? He said they could come to him. Yes, Jesus said, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven. And he laid his hands on them and went away.”
I just want y’all to see that Jesus likes kids.
So, Loaves & Fishes. “…a multitude followed [Jesus], because they saw the signs which he did on those who were diseased.” Everybody likes to witness a healing, ’cause seeing is believing. Jesus “had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.” How is it, to be sheep without a shepherd? Lost? Yes, and? Not safe? Yes. So Jesus is preaching to a few thousand people in the countryside, and it’s getting late…and…so…they’re hungry ’cause they didn’t eat all day! Yes. And when sheep are hungry do they go hunt rabbits? No somebody feeds them. Oh…like a plumber? No, a shepherd! Oh, OK. “Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand.” Y’all tell me about the first Passover. They had to splash the blood on the door so the Angel of Death wouldn’t kill their kids. Not all the kids, just…the firstborn. Yes. But they also had to eat something…the lamb and the bread! Yes; it was a kind of food miracle: eat this, splash that, and your firstborn will be spared. So Jesus will be doing another food miracle on a food miracle anniversary.
OK, time for a picture…here’s Jesus, he’s in a good mood ’cause he’s about to dump one of his problems on the apostles; way over here are 5,000 hungry people with sad faces. In the middle are the apostles…well, one apostle, I’m not drawing 12 of them.
“When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a lonely place, and the day is now over; send the crowds away to go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” The apostles are expecting Jesus to take care of business, but Jesus said, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” Jesus is telling the apostles that this is their problem! The apostles don’t want Jesus to dump this on them. And they said to him, “Shall we go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread, and give it to them to eat?” A denarius is a piece of money, 200 denarii would be several thousand dollars nowadays. “And he said to them, “How many loaves have you? Go and see.” Jesus isn’t being a lot of help, is he? He wants the apostles to take charge. My apostle needs to look stressed-out…there we go.
“One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, “There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what are they among so many?” [I draw] Here’s the boy, with all this food…he’s happy to help. Jesus likes kids…so… the boy brings the food to Jesus! Great guess, but no! Another answer? The apostles bring it! Yes. “Jesus said, Bring them to me.” Now isn’t this odd: Jesus has the apostles bring him the food, not the child who was willing to share it. [I draw an arrow from the boy to the apostles; and an arrow from the apostles to Jesus]
“And Jesus said, Make the men sit down.” [arrow from Jesus to the apostles] So who made ’em sit down..Jesus? No, the apostles. [arrow from apostles to the crowd] Yes. “Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand. And taking the five loaves and the two fish he looked up to heaven, and blessed, and broke the loaves…” Then did everyone come up and grab some loaves & fish from Jesus? No, Jesus gave them to the apostles. Yes; [Jesus-apostles arrow] he “gave them to the disciples to set before the people.” So the crowd took what they wanted from the apostles? No, the apostles gave it to them. [apostles-Jesus arrow] And when the crowd was full did they take the leftovers home? Umm, did the apostles get the leftovers? Yes. [arrow] “When they were filled, he said to his disciples, Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost.” The apostles cleaned up and kept the extra food, the people didn’t take it with them. “Therefore they gathered them together, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves, [arrows] which remained over and above what they had eaten.” Remember how much wine was left over at the wedding at Cana? A whole lot! Yes, an abundance; and how much leftover bread is there now? A whole lot! Yes, in both cases more than there was to start. This is how God blesses, not with a little dab, but…a whole lot! Yes. Now, I know getting bread and fish isn’t real exciting to y’all. If I were hungry and you handed me a fish, I’d just look at you like you’d lost your mind. So I like to imagine something like a miraculous pizza buffet, all-you-can-eat with soft drinks for you kids and beer for the grownups. In a meadow. And let me put smiles and bulging stomachs on the crowd now that they’ve had dinner. They look pregnant! Well, maybe some of them are women…who can say?
Now look at the picture; there isn’t a single arrow going from Jesus to the crowd or from the crowd to Jesus. The crowd didn’t even speak to Jesus, and he never spoke to the crowd. In fact, what’s the only thing Jesus did? Multiply the bread? Yes. He did the God-part, the miracle-part. Who did all the rest of the work? The apostles! Yes…why? No guesses, that’s ok. Recall that Jesus thought the crowd were like sheep without…a shepherd. Yes, so Jesus might want to provide them with…a shepherd…yes, who would be…well, wouldn’t Jesus be the shepherd? Yes. Jesus is the shepherd of his flock, as he says later on. Tell me, what did Jesus do 40 days after Easter? He rose from the dead! Well, on Easter he did that…what did he do 40 days later? Oh, he went up to heaven. Yes. Is he still the shepherd in heaven? Yes. And a king? Yes. And if a shepherd, or a king like Hezekiah go away for a while what do they do? Leave somebody in charge! Yes. Now when he fed the multitudes, did Jesus know he’d be going to heaven soon? Yes. So by having the apostles do everything but the God-work he was training them to…be in charge. Yes, and what was he was showing the crowd about the apostles? That they were in charge? Yes, Jesus showed the people that they couldn’t always go straight to him for everything. For some things they might need to go through his authorized agents, like when Jesus wasn’t baptizing anymore. Jesus was only going to be around for a couple more years; so he needed to train the apostles to manage without him physically being there.
And even today every parish has its local shepherd. [Shepherd goes on the board] Dígame, por favor, cómo se llama “shepherd” en Español? How do you say ‘shepherd’ in Spanish? Is it ‘pastor’? Yes [on the board]. So what do we call the shepherd of a parish? Pastor! Yes. That wasn’t too tough was it…yes? Why do we use a Spanish word? Good question: both English and Spanish get the word from Latin. In a Latin Bible you see ‘pastor’ all the time (e.g. John 10:11: ego sum pastor bonus/ I am [the] pastor good).
This miracle of the loaves and fishes is a model for the Church. Look, over here is Jesus; over there are the people; and in the middle are…the apostles? Well, yeah, but I mean today who are they, the people Jesus left in charge. Oh..priests? Yes, and the bishops, and the pope. And the story is also a model for the Mass. People are hungry, not so much for physical nutrition, but…spiritual nutrition? Yes, so they come to church, where Jesus is. Who provides the bread and wine? We do? Yes, and do we bring the bread and wine to Jesus? No, to the priest. Yes, and whose power makes the food miracle happen at Mass? Jesus’s? Yes. And do we all grab what we want? No the priest gives it to us. Yes, and do we take home the leftovers? No. Right…who cleans up the leftovers? The priest. Yes. All like that food miracle 2,000 years ago.
And this miracle food the people ate…did it cure their diseases? No. Keep them from getting old and dying? No. Take away their sins? No! Right. There were no long term benefits.
After this food miracle, the crowd is fired up! “When the people saw the sign which he had done, they said, “This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world!” Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself.” Oh dear, the people have the wrong idea about Jesus; they expect him to be a Messiah, a king like…David! Yes. But Jesus goes away to pray, and sends the apostles back across the Sea of Galilee, where they came from earlier that day. Tell me about their trip across the water. There was a storm and they were afraid, but they saw Jesus walking on the water. Yes. “he spoke to them, saying, “Take heart, it is I; have no fear.” And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, bid me come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus.” I like Peter: he’s always out in front of the other apostles, either the most fearless or the most chicken. Now remember all those people that got healed last week: they didn’t just pray, they…acted! Yes. They acted in faith because they were made of a…body’n’soul! Yes, so like them, Peter acts in faith. He doesn’t just have faith and stay in the boat, he…gets out on the water! Yes! “But when he saw the wind, he was afraid…” what then? He started to sink! Yes, he’s still acting, walking, but his faith is wavering, and down he goes! See, ya gotta have both faith and action, they work together in your body’n’soul. Peter cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “O man of little faith, why did you doubt?” Faith isn’t always easy. Thank goodness Jesus saves people like Peter even when their faith is flimsy, like mine. So then what happens? Jesus makes the storm stop. Yes.
This class will continue in the next post.