Whenever I hear the story about the feeding of the 5,000, I nearly always hear the same interpretation. The story shows the awesome power of God’s miracles, the little faith of the disciples, and the willingness of the young boy with the fish and loaves to share. But today, I saw that story in a slightly different light. Let’s set the sceen:
So, Jesus is starting to gain reputation around the area. He has already healed sick people, and his stories are starting to spread. So when he comes to Galilee, the crowds are quick to assemble. Not assemble really so much as follow Jesus. He was going to the mountain side to teach, and the crowds just followed. I have this image of people leaning of their open windows, watching the crowds overflow the streets, following the man they have heard to be the Healer. Jesus leads them away from the city, and to the hillside. The time is approaching Passover. Which meant holiday for the Jewish culture. So imagine, right before taking vaction for one of the most important religous holidays, walking out of the office in the middle of the day! Thewse were men and women who were busy attending to other things, preparing for the Passover Feast. I imagine there were women cooking and cleaning, children setting the tables and making room for relatives. The men were preparing to take time off from work, trying to squeeze in a few extra hours of work, to finish that last wood carving, mending nets. Suddenly, a whisper, a mummer, from home to office, all throughout the town. “He’s coming.” As they see Jesus passing by, heading to cross the sea towards the hill, people by the thousands simply abandon their current task and follow behing like they were following the Piper. Ovens left burning, brooms dropped to the ground, needles and chisels stopped without notice.
Jesus crossed the Sea of Galilee and people met him on the other side. They were so anxious to hear or see anything. There is no stage, no fancy sound system, just nature’s accoustics. As people start to settle in on the hillside, Jesus tells Philip, “Look around at all these people! What are we going to do about feeding them all?” Now imagine the panic that sets in with Philip. He was only expecting to come and listen to Jesus teach, he wasn’t prepared to fix anyone dinner, much less the…one, two….FIVE Thousand men!! And women and children! Where did all these people come from?!
From here out, the story focuses on the miracle of the loaves and fish, the way the disciples, especially Philip, lacked faith, and how the meager offerings of a young boy were multiplied for the good of all. And these are all great lessons to learn. But my question is…how did all those men and women leave their homes and not a single person think to bring supper!? Now, I can see, with the men, how it would be easy for that to not be on the forefront of their minds. They were at work, expecting to return home in a few hours for a meal. But the women, in that day and age, that was their job. To prepare the meals, tend to the home and raise the children. And not one thought to bring a loaf of bread, meat, or a handful of fruit to snack on. They were so enthralled with the thought of following this great Healer, that they abandoned every other thought.
What an amazing way to live. In the New Testament, we don’t always see the Jewish community getting it right when it comes to accepting the coming of Jesus, but here in this story, it seems natural. What does it mean to be so involved in something, so entranced, hopeful or even just curious, that you leave everything else behind. No thought to the burning ovens, the huge feast that needs to be planned and prepared for, the daily duties of work, what everyone else expects, to just leave that behind and follow. To follow in complete faith that the needs will be cared for. These men and women followed by the thousands because they had heard of Jesus as a great Healer and a great Teacher. They were willing to leave all else behind in hopes that he could heal and teach them too. They went with the faith that their needs would be cared for. And they were not disappointed on any level. They were feed through a miracle, they were feed through community, and they were feed through Jesus’ teachings.
As I am preparing to leave, to follow something that I have only heard about, I am scared. I have had a lot more time to prepare than the 5,000. The ovens are turned off, the nets folded neatly away. I have a month to say goodbyes, pack my bags and anticpate. But do I have the faith to follow God’s lead, sit back on the hill and listen to the teachings, and not ask, “Where’s the food?”