The Miracle Through the Bread and Fish
Where Did the Miracle Take Place?
Rev. Dr. Sergio E. Arevalo, Jr.
August 03, 2014 (8th Sunday after Pentecost)
Who among you believes in miracles? Let me ask this way, who among you believes that miracle may happen in our times?
The Princeton Religion Research Center’s PRRC Emerging Trends made a research and published in November 1988. The survey question is that “Even today, miracles are performed by the power of God” and they asked adults for this question. The percentage of adults who mostly agree or completely agree with the statement was 82%.
The story of the miraculous feeding occupied a central place in the oral tradition about Jesus Christ. It is only the miracle story that occurs in all four Gospels. Matthew and Mark even tell the story twice (Mt.14:13-21; 15:32-39; Mk.6:30-44; 8:1-10; Lk. 9:10-19 and Jn. 6:1-15). The story of the feeding of the 5000 was popular in the early church because of the Eucharistic interpretation to which it lent itself, the Eucharistic interpretation receives a notable touch in John chapter 6.
I. The Miracle Takes Place in the Desert
The story tells us that the feeding happened in the desert, and they were far from villages, that’s why Jesus decided that they should be given food rather than sending them away to buy their own food.
In the passage, the disciples wanted to send them away, and buy their own food from desert to far villages. But Jesus had different idea, let the crowd stay, and give them food. Who had more intelligent and pragmatic suggestions? Of course, the disciples, in our modern time, if you would suggest like what Jesus did, you might say, “Oh this man is crazy.”
To accommodate the will of Jesus, the disciples asked “Should we go and buy 200 denarii worth of bread and give it to them to eat?” (Mk.6:37). In the version of Luke, “We have nothing more than five loaves of bread and two fish—unless we go and buy food for all these people” (9:13). In the version of John, it was Jesus who asked and tested Philip, “Where can we buy bread for these people to eat?” (6:5-6).
To cut the story short, the miracle of feeding the 5000 happened in the desert. In a dry land. Dry land symbolizes of lack of life, the ugliness of the land. But God showed that he could make miracles anywhere he wants to.
He can make miracle even though a man is hopeless, he can make a miracle in a boring church, and that’s what happened at 312 Azusa street in Los Angeles, Ca. in 1906 till 1915 (some source until 1920). The longest revival happened in that address, and you know what building is that? It was “a lumberyard, a stockyard, a tombstone shop, and had most recently been used as a stable on the ground floor with rooms for rent upstairs” (http://www.revival-library.org/pensketches/am_pentecostals/seymourazusa.html). But that place was the place where the Pentecostal churches started. That ugly building was the vortex of Pentecostalism that scattered all over the world and in all churches.
God can make miracles even though our community is full of transgressions. Do you remember the story of Nineveh? The evangelist of God, Jonah did not like to go to Nineveh to preach salvation, because they were evil in the sight of God, so he bound for Tarshish instead of following the will of God. But the Lord made miracles, and wonders, and Jonah finally arrived in Nineveh. He preached the will of God, and the people repented from their sins.
II. The Miracle Takes Place With the Loaves of Bread and Fish
Matthew 14:19-20 say “Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and blessed them. Then he broke the loaves in pieces and gave them to his disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. All of them ate and were filled. Then the disciples picked up what was left of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full.”
Miracle of multiplying the bread and fish? Do you believe that? In the 1 Kings 17, Elijah, a foreigner in the land of Zarephath in Sidon, asked the widow to give him something to eat. The widow argued that she had only a handful of flour, and some oil left in the bottle enough for her and her son. Elijah insisted that she should give him food first, and afterwards cook for themselves since he believed what the Lord told him that her jar of flour, and the bottle of oil would not be empty (v.16). For many days, the jar and bottle did not become empty.
Miracle of multiplying the loaves of bread and fish? Why not? Our God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. If he did miracles before, he can make miracles today, and he can make miracles in the future.
III. The Miracle Takes Place in the Hearts of People
Another interpretation of this miracle of feeding the 5000 is that of William Barclay, an Scottish theologian. He interprets that since the Passover was coming and the people were going to Jerusalem, people must be ready. They must have had foods in their bags. It was just wise to prepare everything before you travel to a very far place.
In the account of John, it was Andrew who discovered that a little boy had five barley loaves and two small fish (6:9). In the accounts of Matthew, Mark and Luke, they did not mention the boy. If a little boy had 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish, how much more those adults who were in journey towards Jerusalem. Where’s the miracle there?
I will tell you where it was. When Jesus Christ gave thanks, and broke the bread and fish, and distributed to the crowd, the people felt the miracle in their hearts, they felt the needs to bring out their packed meals, and share with others.
What’s the message in this kind of interpretation? God will make a miracle in us if we are going to give up our lives to Him. The little boy’s giving up of his packed meals was a good model example here. Miracles might happen when something is given up.
Let us ask ourselves, what are the things that we need to give up so that miracles will happen to us?
In the story, we can see that Jesus initiated the miracle. He made the miracle for the people. Why? Matthew 14:14 gives us a hint. He loved them, he had compassion for them. Indeed, if love is in us, it will move us, it will move to something miraculous. Jesus cared for the people rather than materials things.
Why Jesus was not making miracles always, simply because miracle was only used to strengthen the gospel of the Kingdom of God. To strengthen the message of Jesus Christ.