Wednesday, 7 April 2021
Title: Five small loaves and two small fish
By Dorothy Teoh
Mark 6: 30-44; John 6:1-13
Imagine the scene. The day is getting late and the shadows are lengthening on the ground. The crowd of thousands who had followed Jesus and his disciples to this lonely place to hear the Teacher teach had a long way to go on foot before they could reach home and have their dinner.
There are no shops here, no stalls selling food, and certainly no food delivery services unlike today. The disciples come to Jesus and tell him to send the people away so that they could go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat (Mark 6: 36).
Our Lord’s response was, “You give them something to eat.” The disciples may not have said as much but they must have thought, “Jesus, you’ve got to be kidding! There are about 5,000 people here. Where can we get money to buy enough food to feed this multitude?” “That would take eight months of a man’s wages,” they reply (Mark 6: 37). In the gospel of John, John records Philip’s answer which is even more graphic. “Eight months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!” (John 6:9)
Enter the boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish (John 6:9). Not much is known about this boy. How old was he? Were his parents with him or had he followed the crowds on his own? Perhaps his mother had hurriedly wrapped up the five barley loaves and two fish and thrust them into her son’s hands before he ran out of the house, so that her boy would not go hungry later.
Now, imagine that you are the boy. You have been sitting on the grass for hours listening to the Teacher. You may not have understood everything you heard; still, you found it fascinating. But now, your stomach is rumbling from hunger and you are looking forward to
going off to a quiet spot away from the crowd to eat the barley loaves and fish before embarking on the long trek home.
But wait, the Twelve disciples are going around among the large crowd asking if anyone had bread, as instructed by Jesus (Mark 6:38). The disciple named Andrew comes up to where you are, and your heart skips a beat, maybe two. You wonder if you should keep quiet, or offer your five loaves and two fish. Hunger is not the only pang you feel as you surrender the loaves and fish, because the Teacher wants them.
And when you do, something follows that you could never have imagined. Your meagre meal that would have fed only you now feeds five thousand men (excluding women and children, as noted in Matthew 14:21), with 12 basketfuls left over.
Five small loaves and two small fish were all the boy had, but he surrendered them to Jesus. If I were the boy, I might have thought, “What can Jesus do with five small loaves and two small fish? What about the others who also brought food?”
Even Andrew who, like the rest of the Twelve, had witnessed the various miracles that Jesus performed after He had appointed them as Apostles, expressed his doubts. After identifying the boy and his meagre rations, he says: “… but how far will they go among so many?”
(John 6:9). In fact, the Twelve had just returned from the mission that Jesus sent them out on during which they preached the message of repentance, drove out many demons and anointed and healed many sick people (Mark 6:12). Yet, they doubted.
How many loaves and fish do we have? Few or many, are we willing to offer them all to Jesus and see what He will make of them, despite our doubts? Not just material possessions, but time and talents. Even if all we have is little, it is not too little for Jesus to use. Neither are we too insignificant for Him to use if we surrender our lives to Him. The boy
is nameless, just one in a crowd of thousands. Yet, by selflessly giving what he had, he became part of a huge miracle that’s been told and retold through the ages.
That miracle also points us towards Jesus, the Son of God – the Bread of Life who is able to meet not just our physical needs as He did in feeding the five thousand, but all our spiritual needs.
Lord Jesus, help us to be willing to offer all we have, little or much, to You so that You can multiply it and use it to bless many and glorify God. May we be willing to offer not just our material possessions but also our lives because You offered Yourself first on the Cross, in our place. We thank and praise You. Amen.
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