13 When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns. 14 When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed those who were ill.
15 As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, ‘This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so that they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.’
16 Jesus replied, ‘They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.’
17 ‘We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,’ they answered.
18 ‘Bring them here to me,’ he said. 19 And he told the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. 20 They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. 21 The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children.
Jesus is empty – loss of a loved one
What a gathering – both here in this building for the first time in ages, and this day on the grassy slope by the sea.
In these last months, I wonder whether we have been like the people on that grassy slope with Jesus. Have we been like them, like the disciples and even like Jesus himself on this day – empty; feeling and knowing that word, ‘empty’.
They all seem empty on some way.
- Jesus is grieving the loss of his cousin, friend and spiritual mentor, John the Baptist. Grief makes you empty.
- The crowd are homeless and hungry as they gather.
- The disciple come up short. They know they have not got what it takes to meet the pressing need of people.
They all seem a bit empty as they gather. All seem incapable, at a bit of a loss; powerless.
Maybe we have all felt this way – empty or powerless in the face of this threat. I suspect we have found out we are indeed powerless – or at least not as powerful as we thought we were.
We have lost things too; our expected, known way of life. Many have lost more: personal freedoms, jobs, relationships, staff, income, sense of security, financial security.
We wish someone would just find an easy cure. I wonder whether the crowd that day wanted the same.
We want a return to easy living. Our threat is not over yet. We are bracing for the impact of the real cost economically that will impact many lives and livelihoods.
It’s all here on this grassy knoll by the sea: loss, grief, tiredness, and powerlessness.
Jesus is empty. Empty grief emptying his soul.
The disciples are empty. They have no supplies or ability to supply the need right in front of them.
The crowd are empty. They are out of bread and without a bed. Like many in our world in our time, these people live within a much smaller margin of error. This is close call.
We know what he does. It is magnificent. Only by him, the day is filled, transformed and turned into a huge gain for everyone.
We know who does this to who too. Jesus fills them. It is his bread being passed around.
Just like that manna in the desert of so long before, everyone gets some: little kids to grandmas and grandpas, the saintly ones and the sinning ones, the doubters and the believers and those who just want some bread without any mention of religion! We marvel at that. We thank him for that.
But how does he do it? This we don’t know. Not fully. But we do know that how he does it involves us. We are part of the supply chain.
“You give them something to eat.’ he says.
Jesus allows his empty incapable ‘basket case’ friends to participate in his overflowing ability and authority to bring the filling, the satisfying, the contentment, the miracle of life saved and continued with thanks for another day.
Jesus does not do magic tricks that merely pull all the attention and adulation to himself. He shares the glory and power and love for the people and asks his disciples and us, his disciples now to show some guts doing the same.
As they start to step into that sea of people by the sea with those rather empty looking baskets, these incapable ‘basket cases’ get to deliver his bread from their baskets as they go.
Can you hear this? As they simply do what he does and say what he says, these empty followers get full to overflowing themselves, as they simply give what they have been given.
Either way, everyone gets filled to overflowing; all are satisfied – those employed in the supply chain and those on the end of it.
This is how Jesus feeds life, saves life, transforms lives and lives with people: He fills them all and works through people to do it, and the people giving get too – enough to take home for the family – there is more than enough bread with Jesus.
What’s the bread? It is Him: His underserved forgiveness; unearned and unearnable love when you can’t or won’t even talk about religion or faith; his deep satisfaction in the heart when all you chase is more stuff, looks, self-discovery, personal power, positive thinking…….
You can hear here that when Jesus feeds you, you get more than you bargained for – like when I purchase a freshly made loaf of sourdough from Linke’s early Saturday morning, I get more then the bread, I get the craft of Baker Chris and Tamra and the whole Linke family!
With Jesus gifts, you get him, all of him, not just what he can give you.
And with him comes his calling. And that is the truth here for us –
You only receive as you give, not before.
You only grow as you go, not before you go.
You are filled more as you fill others, and not before.
Friends, Jesus has filled us with his life, fed us with his word of life, satisfied our lonely and hungry souls and we are still here, even in this uncomfortable interrupted and worrying time.
Jesus is still the resurrection and the life running through our veins, and beyond this COVID time and even beyond our graves.
Even more. Many of us who know we are ‘basket cases’ have stepped out into the crowd trusting Jesus to keep the bread of his life and love coming.
I know many of you have responded to the call of Jesus to take his bread to others. He said ‘Go’ and you went.
Many of you have in your own way gone to others and filled them with Jesus’ grace by being there for others and doing what was right and good for people in this restricted time.
I thank him for the bread and for all the ‘basket cases’ (including me) made new, by his bread of life!
Like the crowd on this day by the sea, I reckon we may have come away satisfied in this time of extended interruption.
Like those disciples enlisted in to supply chain of life, I suspect many of us have grown because we went. Jesus gave us his words and we took a small basket of them with us as we were out and about or on the phone or at the keyboard giving out the bread of his words, his stories his grace, the hope that is just in us.
And so, like The Twelve, we keep going. As they went with empty baskets trusting that they would filled enough for the filling of others, so Jesus sends us among people here with whatever we have, however small, knowing he will make us enough for the filling.
His love is to fill them all with the bread from heaven, the bread that not only fills the stomach but fills the heart – his underserved, love that resurrects a person from death to life, from empty to fill, from self to other, from worry and fear to hope and love for God and others.
So, the gospel call goes out among the crowd and rings in our ears: You will grow AS you go, not before.
You can step out into the crowd with what you have been given already and share it and it will go around and be more than enough for more than a few.
Eat and be satisfied. Go. Share. You have got what it takes because he has what you take.