And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full.
August 6, 2023, Words By: Rev. Sarah Wiles, Image By: unknown
Jesus must have been exhausted. He’d gone to the desert in the first place because John the Baptist had just been executed. He was seeking space to grieve. Of course, people followed. When he saw them coming, I imagine Jesus taking a deep steadying breath as he prepares to meet their need with compassion. He heals those who were ill—in body or soul—all day long.
Now the sun is setting, and the disciples, who I imagine have been running crowd control all day, are worn out. They’re tired and hungry, and they realize all these thousands of people out here in the desert must be hungry too. There’s no food. They go to Jesus with the infinitely reasonable suggestion to send them all home. And he, can you believe this, he turns to them and says, “You give them something to eat.”
But, but they sputter. We have nothing, nothing except five loaves and a couple of fish. We don’t have nearly enough.
I have this feeling all the time. In some seasons of life, it feels like I wake up every single day thinking I don’t have enough to face this day. I don’t have enough: enough energy, enough patience, enough kindness to meet my own needs, much less anyone else’s. With the disciples we find ourselves saying, so many people need so much, and I just don’t have enough. The pantry is empty except for a heel of bread and a tin of tuna.
Jesus says, Give them to me. He takes, blesses, breaks, gives. And all ate and were filled. They even had leftovers.
I love imagining the murmuring as Jesus begins to pass the loaves, as each person tears off a hunk, and passes it to the next, and they see it is enough, there’s plenty, gracious plenty.
How did it work? Did Jesus’ love overcome the laws of physics? Some suggest that perhaps his act of sharing set others free to do the same, that everyone had a little food, and when it was shared, it was more than enough. To some that seems like a cop-out, a cheap explanation that robs the story of its miracle. Maybe it does. I don’t know.
I am not a person for whom sharing comes easily. I have trouble just sharing french fries, even when the meal in front of me clearly has enough food for three people. I am constantly convinced that there won’t be enough for me, much less anybody else. So, if I were in a desert with barely enough food for myself, it would absolutely take a miracle to get me to share.
Who knows how it happened. What the gospel tells us is heartbreakingly simple: it seemed they did not have enough, but with Christ, it was more than enough. In the middle of that desert, in the twinkling of an eye, they had a feast.
This is apparently just how it is. With Jesus, our not nearly enough becomes gracious plenty.
I need this reminder again and again. Apparently, the early followers of Jesus did, too. Versions of this story are told six times in the four gospels. We are always hungry for this grace.
The beauty, the miracle, is that there is nothing that needs to be done to receive this grace. The people sit down and open their hands and are fed. Not enough becomes gracious plenty.
When we begin to relax into this ever-present abundance of grace, our hearts slowly soften, our clenched jaws loosen, our breathing slows, the fear recedes, and we are fed.
It may not look like much. It may not look like nearly enough. But give it to me, Christ says. Let me show you how much there really is—more than enough to go around, an abundance, gracious plenty.
What would it feel like to ever so gently relax into a trust that what we have, what we are, is enough?
What would you do if you weren’t afraid of running out?