19 October 2016Matthew 14:13-21
“They replied, ‘We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.’ And he said, ‘Bring them here to me.’” (vv. 17-18)
Psalm: Psalm 31:1-8
Matthew's Gospel is somewhat vague about precisely what Jesus heard that made him leave and cross over the Sea of Galilee (verse 13). Many assume that it was the news of his cousin John the Baptist's execution and that he was withdrawing to grieve. This would make sense. However, the story of John's death could be read as an interlude and that Jesus had heard how stories about him had reached Herod. Maybe he was leaving to escape the public attention.
Whatever his motivation, he was foiled as the crowd followed him and met him as his boat landed. We can tie ourselves in knots trying to determine the historical details of the miracle. Did Jesus multiply the loaves and fish, or did the disciples' generosity inspire the people to share what they had? Regardless, the importance of the account lies in its deeper significance.
Matthew's Gospel records that it was the disciples who articulated the needs of the people (verse 15) and were the ones to offer their meagre rations (verse 17). Although they could not see how what they offered could make a difference, Jesus transformed their offering into something beyond their imagining. Compared with the might of the Roman Empire, the early Church would have felt its resources similarly meagre. What encouragement it must have been to them to have hope in how Jesus could transform them.
This account also has significance due to its links with Holy Communion. Every day as Jews broke bread at meal times a blessing would be said. It is likely that Jesus used those words in this instance (verse 19). From the earliest days of the Church a blessing was said over the bread before its breaking and sharing. Just as this bread provided strength to the disciples and all those who had come to Jesus, so the bread of Holy Communion is seen to provide strength for all who receive it.
In this narrative we see Jesus respond to the people with compassion. This compassion isn't just a feeling of sympathy, it overflows into action. We notice that Jesus' compassion results in people's needs being met.
- In what ways have you experienced Jesus blessing what you offer?
- What is the significance of Holy Communion for you and your life of faith?