Matthew 14:13-21 (NRSV)
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There is a connection between moving boxes and rabbits...they multiply. I know the last time we moved we did not have this many boxes and I know we didn’t collect this much stuff! I know that I gave away almost my entire collection of Star Wars books to the Paulding County library system and I still find boxes with books in them. I did take up hunting as a hobby but I don’t have that much stuff. I only have one head, I’m thinking I need to get rid of some of these hats.
We have nothing here in our house but a few odds and ends but come time to move, it all seemed to add up to far more than we thoughtl
The little the disciples had they dis-counted. It was nothing but it was the nothing that was theirs. It was a nothing that they owned, all five loaves and two fishes (they didn’t have to do an inventory). Stephen Covey, in his “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”, talks about the Law of Abundance vs. the Law of Scarcity. The problem is always in perspective.
Jesus would not send the people away and the disciples wanted to hang on to every item they had, especially their filet o’ fish sandwiches. I have got nothing but...a diploma on the wall. I have got nothing but...this car/van/SUV. I have got nothing but... this house that really isn’t worth what it was when I bought it. I have got nothing but...my collection of stuffed animals, DVDs, Star Wars, ___________________ (fill in the blank for yourself).
I often here people talk about getting mad with God and give Jesus a pass. But this text is what infuriates me about Jesus sometimes. He gets too close. He oversteps the boundaries between the material and spiritual. But as pastor Rob Bell put it so well, “Everything is spiritual!” Try as we might, the heresy of the gnostics continues to confront us even after 2,000 years! We may try to parse are way to dividing the reality but it remains. God became flesh and blood - the spiritual and the material were joined in Jesus - and so that reality will continue to confront us.
A tourist arrived in Poland and went to visit a famous Rabbi who lived there. He arrived at the Rabbi’s home and found himself amazed by what he saw. The home consisted of book shelves full of books, a chair and a table. “Rabbi, where is your furniture?” asked the tourist. “Where is yours?” replied the rabbi. “Mine? But I am only a visitor here,” was the reply. “So am I,” said the rabbi. (The Spirituality of Imperfection, pg 34).
The parallel of this passage in John chapter 6 lets us know that the people were so moved by the miracle, they began to push for making Jesus king and start a revolution. That Matthew omits this, in my mind, underlines his need to make a distinction. Jesus was not so interested in nationalism but in people.
Let me share with you that I have heard sermons and lectures on this passage. I’ve read books that refer to it. It does speak about the importance in needing time away from the crowd. Jesus was grieving over the news of his cousin’s death. It speaks too of putting aside our needs for others. The words here speak about how we are given an opportunity to serve Jesus and how he will bless our little bit. There are words here that parallel the Communion meal as well. Professors and researchers note that the bread was likely barley which was the common bread of the poor. The fish on the other hand, represent a likely delicacy. Surely, the twelve baskets left over are not coincidence and are intended to hint at the 12 tribes of Israel.
But this is not a lecture hall at college and this is not a text book. We Christians believe that this book contains all knowledge sufficient for salvation. We believe that is “God-breathed.” We believe it is the primary source for understanding God that is over our tradition, reason and experience. We see scarcity and it is there that Jesus digs for sincerity...
“You give them something to eat.” “We have nothing here BUT five loaves and two fish.”
“I’ve got nothing here but this and that and in this economy and the state of the world Jesus, it is all I’ve got!” And he says, “Bring them here to me.” Jesus pushes us to being sincere for the disciples are right they’ve got nothing BUT this little bit. We’ve got nothing but... You’ve got nothing... I’ve got nothing but...and so we are forced to admit our abundance, we are forced to put our cards on the table. Jesus calls our bluff because everything matters...
We are at an uncomfortable convergence of many religions and philosphical ponderings as well. We don’t like the thought of giving up what we have and what we’ve earned. “After all, compared to the ‘Joneses’ (apologies to the Joneses), I’ve got nothing here but...” And we’ve got to earn it, we’re meant to do it - we have to go after it all! - We’ve got to do it! Look at the book of Joshua in the Old Testament. You can chalk up victory after victory. He achieved it all and still he too came to this point of choice: And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD." Joshua 24:15
In time there comes A TIME where we must set our own goods beside what is our own GOOD...and Jesus meets us at that point and, says, “Bring them here to me.” Our goods at 13 years old are far different than those at 33 or 53. Our victories must be achieved but for our own good, we must lay down our goods. Only then can we take up Jesus. If we’ve got Jesus, then we’ve got by far the better end of the deal.