By ANN KLAVANO
Special to The Hays Daily News
Feeding the 5,000 is a well-known bible story. When there is a large, hungry crowd out in a deserted region, Jesus provides food for all. He does this by blessing and breaking the two loaves and five fish the disciples have found, and asking the disciples to pass the food out to the crowd. When the meal is done, there are 12 baskets of leftover food.
I was recently rereading Matthew's account of this miracle and realized there are more "how," "why" and "who" questions than I had first realized.
It is fun to look at the "how" of Bible stories. For example, how did the Israelites cross the Red Sea, how did the manna in the wilderness work, and, then, how did they feed the 5,000?
There are interesting thing to think about, such as how many people really were there? The Bible tells us there was 5,000 plus the women and children. Would that have been closer to 10,000 or 20,000?
How was all the food delivered to all the people? That's a lot of people for the disciples to serve -- and a lot of fish and loaves for Jesus to break.
However, the Bible is not a textbook, and not all detail is given. The author of Matthew decided not to include some of the details given in the other Gospels. The "how" was not the important part of the story.
At first glance, the "why" is quite explicit in this story. We are told that he started healing people because "he had compassion on them." He starts ministering to the people even though we have just been told that Jesus wanted to be by himself.
My guess is that he had just heard about the beheading of John the Baptist. John was both Jesus' first cousin and the one who baptized him. I know that when I have heard of a family death, I become quite distracted. I might need time to cry, to decide what to do, to be comforted by others. I can understand going away to be alone. However, Jesus was drawn to the need of the people, the strong "why" of compassion.
The "why" of the disciples are not so clear. The disciples come and ask Jesus to send the people away to get food. Perhaps this was the most sensible thing they could think of. Perhaps they were just trying to get rid of the people. We don't know their "why," but we do know they turned to Jesus to handle the situation.
There is an interesting turn of the "who" question here. Jesus could have handled the hungry crowd in a variety of ways.
As God incarnate, God made flesh, he could have done this in any number of flashy ways. He could have waved his hands and made food appear before each person. He could have made everyone's stomach suddenly full. But no, this is not the path he chose. He chose instead to include the disciples. The disciples were instructed to give them something to eat. The disciples rounded up the five loaves and two fish.
After Jesus did the miracle of the blessing, the disciples did the passing out of the food. They were the ones that gathered up 12 baskets of broken pieces.
I think the role of the disciples in Jesus' time should inform our role as disciples in 2008. We cannot sit back and wait for God to take care of everything. No, we are called by God to be servants in the world.
When we gather together as groups of Christians, miraculous things can happen. We can rely on God's abundance to be with us. A God who feeds a crowd more than they need is a God that will be generous in help.
Yes, we should join in passing out pieces of bread and fish, a ministry that might take a multitude of forms. We can rely on the knowledge that God will give us a supply of love, energy and all that we need.
This supply may come in unexpected ways and times and is a sign of God's abundance of love. Thanks be to God.
Ann Klavano is pastoral intern at St. John Lutheran Church, Ellis.