6 1-4 After this, Jesus went across the Sea of Galilee (some call it Tiberias). A huge crowd followed him, attracted by the miracles they had seen him do among the sick. When he got to the other side, he climbed a hill and sat down, surrounded by his disciples. It was nearly time for the Feast of Passover, kept annually by the Jews.
5-6 When Jesus looked out and saw that a large crowd had arrived, he said to Philip, “Where can we buy bread to feed these people?” He said this to stretch Philip’s faith. He already knew what he was going to do.
7 Philip answered, “Two hundred silver pieces wouldn’t be enough to buy bread for each person to get a piece.”
8-9 One of the disciples—it was Andrew, brother to Simon Peter—said, “There’s a little boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But that’s a drop in the bucket for a crowd like this.”
10-11 Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” There was a nice carpet of green grass in this place. They sat down, about five thousand of them. Then Jesus took the bread and, having given thanks, gave it to those who were seated. He did the same with the fish. All ate as much as they wanted.
12-13 When the people had eaten their fill, he said to his disciples, “Gather the leftovers so nothing is wasted.” They went to work and filled twelve large baskets with leftovers from the five barley loaves.
14-15 The people realized that God was at work among them in what Jesus had just done. They said, “This is the Prophet for sure, God’s Prophet right here in Galilee!” Jesus saw that in their enthusiasm, they were about to grab him and make him king, so he slipped off and went back up the mountain to be by himself.
16-21 In the evening his disciples went down to the sea, got in the boat, and headed back across the water to Capernaum. It had grown quite dark and Jesus had not yet returned. A huge wind blew up, churning the sea. They were maybe three or four miles out when they saw Jesus walking on the sea, quite near the boat. They were scared senseless, but he reassured them, “It’s me. It’s all right. Don’t be afraid.” So they took him on board. In no time they reached land—the exact spot they were headed to.
An emergency meeting was called by the ruling board of First Church. The discussion was centered around what to do with 5,000 people gathered on the church lawn in search of healing and a meal. All committees were to report in on their findings.
Philip was chair of the Finance Committee. He reported that not even six months’ worth of worship offerings would cover the cost. He concluded, “Not enough.”
Andrew from the Outreach Committee reported that there was a small percentage of the budget set aside for this type of thing, but, again, “Not enough.”
The Trustees tried to settle them on the grass outside, but worried about the newly manicured lawn and the azalea beds. In terms of space, “Not enough.”
The Worship Committee were unable to add to the conversation because they had been busy making plans for the Advent Season.
No one expected a miracle. No one even looked for a miracle.
Not enough. In the wealthiest nation in the world, there’s not enough. Not enough food; not enough medical assistance; not enough munitions for war; not enough of anything. We’re live in a world that isn’t good enough, isn’t big enough, can’t do enough. And we end up shrugging our shoulders in despair at the 5,000.
We’re not enough. That’s all we can do. And we leave the meeting, sighing at the enormity of the problem.
Enter Jesus with amazing grace. He has the crowd sit on the green grass, like a shepherd making them, “to lie down in green pastures.” Then he takes the bread, he gives thanks to God for bread and fish. He gives it to the multitude.
And there’s more. When everyone had satisfied their ravenous hunger, he had the disciples gather up the leftovers: nothing is to be wasted in the kingdom of God. Twelve baskets full.
The 5,000 saw the miracle. They welcomed it and they welcomed Jesus. So much so that they tried to make him king. This was who they’d been looking for. This is the man who will set Israel right and get Rome out of their land.
In the face of the crowds outside our doors, what can we do? When there’s not enough of anything, what can we do?
What we do is face facts. We can’t do it alone. We aren’t enough without Jesus. When the crowds tried to make him king, he slipped away. And while the disciples tried to row to the other side of the lake, they saw him, not far off. He is never far off. He is always ready to get in the boat with us. When we receive him, we find ourselves on dry land.
We aren’t enough without Jesus. We run out of food and money and supplies. Most of all, we run out of knowledge of what we can do. We come to the edge of our education and life experiences. There’s nothing more we can do.
Or not. That’s when we look up and there he is: walking on water, present with us even when we didn’t realize it. That’s when we say, “Come, Lord Jesus. We aren’t anywhere close to being able to help. We need a miracle.”
Then we look for it. Here is a place where God will be glorified. Here is a place where mercy will break forth. Here we will see amazing grace.
We shy away from that, don’t we? We rightfully refuse to turn Jesus into a circus act that can be objectified and controlled. We rightfully refuse to have our Lord and Savior entertain us with an experience that will make us feel better.
We miss out on the relational experience, though. We miss out on the deeply passionate. We miss out on the incarnation.
We have a Blessing Box on our church lawn. It’s a cupboard filled with emergency food. The sign on it says, “Take what you need. Leave what you can.”
People take from it daily. Often they leave something: powdered baby formula, extra tins of food. We even found a sealed package of cigarettes! Often, generous donations arrive in boxes. They set them under the box because there’s so much. Notes appear on the community Facebook page, speaking of the generosity: we offer emergency groceries with no expectations in return.
One evening, a neighbor reported that as soon as the Blessing Box was full, someone waiting in her car nearby, was waiting until the volunteer left. Then she would drive up to the box and take everything. She left nothing behind. Word on the street was that she was selling the food for drugs.
The ruling board spent just a few minutes receiving the report. The decision: there is so much good occurring with the box. We would continue as we had. We would not incur rules. We would hold the young woman in prayer. Two weeks later, the theft stopped. We don’t know what happened and we’re not even sure about the reason for her taking the food in the first place.
I was proud of their decision. They continued to donate food to fill the Blessing Box, fully realizing that it wasn’t being put to the best use 100% of the time. Yet, what we focus on is seeing amazing grace in action. We know that Jesus is present and people from all over the community continue to help us fill the Blessing Box.
It not only fills a need for food. It’s serving to bring the community together in a positive way. Amazing grace pointing to hope and God’s presence.
We’re not enough without Jesus. With Jesus, amazing things happen. On the day that he fed the 5,000, everyone saw the miracle. But, they also felt it. They felt as if they were part of something important. They were important enough for Jesus to take bread, give thanks and distribute it to these, the least the last and the lost. They sat on that green carpet of grass and felt communion with each other.
They felt as if they mattered. This incarnation of God loved them so much that he took time to feed them and heal them and listen to them. They saw and felt the miracle that day. They went home changed people.
Jesus gave hope and healing. The community discovered “hope on the far side of despair, faith that could live with doubt, and the courage to live beyond the sting of death.” (Douglas John Hall, “Feasting on the Words” (Louisville, Westminster John Knox, 2009) Year B Volume 3 page 286)
We miss the miracle when we try to explain it. We miss the miracle when we engage our logical minds. The answer may be to look beyond the miracle. We don’t know everyone who uses the Blessing Box, but we know it to be an important staple in our community. Miracles happen because a family will eat and they will return soon, knowing they can depend on us to help them again.
Miracles happen with a touch or a hug that says, “you’re important.”
Not enough? If we’re doing this alone, yes. We’re not enough.
But with Christ, nothing is impossible. And every time we serve him by serving others, miracles happen that we can hardly see and hardly miss. When we do it to glorify him, Jesus multiples food and fish, changes water into the best wine, walks on water in order to be near us, heals our battered hearts and minds.
There’s more than enough.
And it’s overflowing.
All glory and honor be to God.