All Ate and Were Filled (Day 20 of A Simple Lent)
Outside of the Passion story or maybe Luke’s version of the birth story, there are few stories about Jesus that are as universally known as the Feeding of the Multitudes. If I were to ask you to tell the story, you probably could. It may not capture everything in Mark’s telling or in John’s, but you could get the highlights:
- Jesus wanted to feed thousands of people
- The disciples didn’t know how – they wanted to send them away
- Jesus tells them to feed the people with what they have
- They find 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish
- The food is blessed and distributed
- And all are fed.
You might even remember that important bit at the end in which Jesus asks the disciples to collect the remainder: 12 baskets. Not all elements are completely consistent in all 4 gospels, but this one is.
Why the 12 baskets of leftovers?
We’ll find out shortly that they don’t take bread with them in the boat. So they aren’t making doggy bags for themselves.
Perhaps it is to prove the abundance of Jesus’s magic trick. That doesn’t strike me as in character with the rest of the gospel. Besides, it begins that very sentence by saying
And all ate and were filled
It highlights that everyone there was full and that now the disciples each have enough to share.
It is funny that the text doesn’t say this. It leaves it wide open.
When I read Mark, however, I read it like a student in a classroom and Mark is my teacher. Sometimes he lectures and tells me what I need to know. And sometimes he simply initiates the conversation and expects me to finish it.
The question isn’t why collect the leftovers, as if Jesus’s miracle is like putting a handful of popcorn in the popper and being like “we’ll see how much this makes!” It is more like I made enough for us and enough for you to do something else with it. What will you do?
Recently I heard that we’ve got the conversation wrong about how GOD works. Canon Bruce Gray told me that we often talk about our lives as a tangle between scarcity and abundance: not having enough and having more than enough.
“What an American idea”
he said. Where it is either too little or too much.
The gospel, however, speaks not to abundance but sufficiency. As in enough. Particularly, that all have enough.
When five thousand were gathered to hear Jesus, he fed them all and “all ate and were filled”.
When the people were led into the desert and they didn’t have enough to eat, how did GOD feed them?
And how did GOD provide it?
It showed up in the morning.
And what was the volume?
They had their fill. All had their fill. But could they hoard it or save it for later? No. They had enough. And the next day? Enough.
When Jesus taught his followers to pray, what did he say about food?
Give us today our daily bread
May we have it when?
Whose is it?
The expectation we are given about GOD is that none of us is supposed to be hungry, that none of us is supposed to lack. All get enough to eat.
And the hard truth, the part that is hardest for we who are American and we who love to speak of rights and freedom, who want GOD to give to us abundantly is that GOD doesn’t speak of being over-filled or swimming in bread.
It isn’t rationed or split into crumbs to leave us starving.
It isn’t hoarded and saved for later times.
It is enough.
How might we live into an economic of sufficiency or enough? How might we live full and not hungry for more? How might we live with an ethic of sharing and into a ministry of giving away our abundance to those who lack?
How can we know the difference between living sufficiently and living abundantly?
Daily Office Readings
Or visit the alternative Daily Office I often use.
This week’s homework is to surround yourself with what brings joy to your life.
Download the worksheet: A Simple Lent-Handout 3!