John 6:1-15 NRSVue
1After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, also called the Sea of Tiberias. 2A large crowd kept following him because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick. 3Jesus went up the mountain and sat down there with his disciples. 4Now the Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near. 5When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?” 6He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do. 7Philip answered him, “Two hundred denarii would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.” 8One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, 9“There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?” 10Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” Now there was a great deal of grass in the place, so they sat down, about five thousand in all. 11Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted. 12When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, “Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost.” 13So they gathered them up, and from the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets. 14When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, “This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world.”
15When Jesus realized that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself.
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Some thoughts on this scripture
The message of Jesus reaches into the depths of our humanity, into those spaces of life where we dance and sing, laugh and cry, mourn and despair, hope and love, and where everything deeply human dwells within us. Jesus also pours the living water into that space and speaks an eternal word. In prayer we can say ‘You have the message of eternal life.
The young boy had enough food only for himself; the food was the food of the very poor - the barley loaf. Given with love, it seemed to multiply. Whatever the meaning of this miracle, one of its lessons is that God can make much of what we offer. Our attempts to live in his love and follow him are nothing without him. The small offering of the young man fed the people; we never know where our efforts to love, to help, to support others may bear fruit.
The boy with the small lunch seems to have had little to offer, but what he brought fed the crowds. We often feel that we have little to offer in the service of Jesus. His work now depends on our co-operation with him. What is offered in love - though it looks small - can have large effects. Our prayer time is our daily offering of love and care for others in the immediate circle of our lives and a connection to the larger world of neighbourhood, country and universe.
'A large crowd kept following him': am I in that crowd? Hidden in the middle? Do I risk standing out, being seen by others? Being seen by him?
The Passover, recalling how the Israelites were fed with manna in the desert, is 'near'. Jesus is giving a sign here of who he is, the new Moses, leading those with faith in him into true freedom. I mingle with the crowd, observing what happens around me, accepting his overwhelming bounty, watching him relate to each individual person.
The crowd had motives for following Jesus - physical healing for themselves or their loved ones, the political liberation they thought he had come to bring. What are my motives? What is he offering me?