13Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. 14When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick. 15When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” 16Jesus said to them, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” 17They replied, “We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.” 18And he said, “Bring them here to me.” 19Then 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 and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. 20And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full. 21And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.
What I am Learning:
Moses led the People of Israel to Sinai after their liberation from Egypt. There he have them the Torah, the instruction of God, to show them how to live together in peace and justice. Then after a time in the wilderness, they became hungry. God provided manna (which means “what is it?”) to meet their basic needs. Both the teaching and the manna were a part of God’s liberation of the people.
Elijah found himself exhausted after a battle with Jezebel and Ahab. An angel gives him bread to journey to a holy mountain. In the strength of that bread he is able to make the journey.
In Isaiah 25 and other places there is a vision of a great feast when God makes all things new.
Later in Matthew, Jesus shares the meal with his disciples, a meal he commands them to continue to share for strength for the continuing work of liberation.
Each one of these stories is about God providing in the midst of a journey to liberation from domination culture to a culture of mutuality. This story in Matthew takes all of these stores (and more) to say something about Jesus: namely that Jesus is leading people to the liberation that God intends for all people.
Jesus and the crowds find out that John the Baptist has been killed by Herod at the request of his dancing daughter. Jesus is grieving and wants some time alone. But the crowds need him. And it is a large crowd – bigger than most all cities in Palestine at the time.
The significant part here is not really about whether or not a miracle happened, or how it happened. The significance of the story is that Jesus is leading people to liberation from the domination culture of the Roman Empire and the way God sustains people on such a journey. No small part of that story is that people were willing to share their food with such a large crowd.
As disciples of Jesus we continue the legacy and story of Jesus. God continues to sustain us and to call us to share our food so that all may eat.
Today we see large numbers of people looking for liberation from domination cultures. One is the plight of the Palestinian people whose economic possibilities are being severely limited and whose human rights abrogated by extremists on the Israeli and Palestinian sides.
The other people looking for liberation are children escaping from drug gangs and poverty in Central America. I cannot imagine what it would be like to send my children on a dangerous journey to another country as the best option for their future.
Moses was a refugee in a similar way. Elijah escaped into the desert. Jesus, Mary and Joseph escaped to Egypt from the murderous Herod.
The deepest values of the Judeo Christian faith are to care for the basic needs of vulnerable human beings.
I am very proud that the ELCA's and the Episcopal Church's presiding bishops have publicly taken a stance to support our welcoming of these children and to assist Central American countries in sustainable economic development.
I suggest that we all contact our elected representatives in the next few days.
The Lutheran Immigration and Refuge Service has a great blog page to help you fashion a letter:
God is with these children. Jesus is with them in the wilderness. But someone needs to share the 5 loves and 2 fish to start the feast.
Under all of this is the belief held by Muslims, Christians and Jews: that God is moving to heal and create the world and so we are free to engage in loving work now, despite all that seems to be wrong in the world.
God does not ask us to fix the world, but to be a part of the God’s healing and creation of the world – which in turn is how God brings healing to us.