Sharing Is His Mission in an Unequal Society
by Rev. A. R. Joshi
I have listened to many speakers, ministers and evangelists preach on this particular passage from St. John. My father was a pastor, and I also have heard him preaching on this passage. Every time the pastor has preached about how great Jesus was and how much extraordinary power he had. No doubt Jesus was Christ; and being the Son of God, he had spiritual power. When you open the first chapter of Genesis, however, it is mentioned there that we are created in Gods image. Thus, we also are created as a responsible human society. Jesus feeding 5,000 people is always interpreted as Jesus multiplying five loaves of bread and two fish to the extent that all the people of this multitude were adequately fed and that 12 baskets of food were left over.
We are trying to make Jesus a hero. Truly speaking, there is no need to do this because He is the Son of God and Christ; therefore, he does not need to depend on us to become a great person or a hero. What is missing in our understanding is to comprehend what He is trying to tell us. It is easy to make Him great and throw our responsibilities on Him and then escape.
When I read this particular passage, I see altogether a different point, a different way of understanding, a different message, that Jesus is trying to give us. A crowd of 5,000 people was gathered around Jesus in a mountain area far away from even a village. Jesus saw that all of these people were with Him; and being afternoon with the crowd hungry, they needed to be fed. Jesus brought this to the attention of His disciples. (John 6:5) Jesuss expectation of His disciples was for them to take responsibility for seeing that the people were fed. Immediately, however, His disciples tried to escape from this responsibility by making excuses. "From where should we bring the bread?" they asked. "We are far away from the place where we can purchase it, and the crowd is so big that even if we give just a little bread to each person we will require a lot of money; even that will not be enough."
A very important event takes place though. The disciple Andreas brings forward a very small boy, telling Jesus that here is a lad who has five loaves of bread and two fish. Now here is the problem of interpretation. Many of us have the concept that Jesus took those five loaves of bread and two fish, prayed, and the bread and fish started multiplying. I do not agree with this. My faith does not allow me to believe this type of interpretation.
Then what exactly happened? The 12-year-old boy is a very important character in this incident, but nobody takes him seriously when we talk and preach on this particular passage. This always happens: the small persons are always ignored, and importance is given to the personalities who are in the limelight.
If a 12-year-old child had carried with him five loaves of bread and two fish, which to my mind was much more than his requirements, if a boy of this age had carried more than enough, what about the families with children sitting around Jesus? Can we say that they had nothing with them to take care of their needs? Were they so irresponsible that they had no feeling for their own relatives? The 12-year-old boy had so much faith in Christ and His ministry that he offered what he had for the sake of the community. I doubt that in those days children had money in their pockets. What he had, however, was five loaves of bread and two fish, and his faith in God made him sacrifice for the sake of a larger society.
I strongly feel that almost everybody who was there around Jesus had their own food. They were doubtful whether others were caring or not; and if we opened our lunches, they thought, we would have to share them with others. Therefore, they preferred to wait until Jesus had finished His talk, and they could then disappear into the nearby bushes to share with only their kith and kin. Listening to Jesus Christ, the God, from morning to evening had not made any impact on their minds. The selfish nature of human beings makes ones mind so hard that even God directly speaking did not touch their hearts. Seeing this attitude of the people, Jesus brings this small boy and his large heart to expose the meanness of the people and to make them feel guilty about it.
It is then in Scripture that the miracle takes place: everybody opens their packed lunches. Naturally everybody had carried more than they required, just as the boy had done; and after they all ate, 12 baskets full of food were left.
In my life, I have traveled a lot, especially long distance journeys by train where you have to carry your food. Whenever I travel by train, my wife does not say that my husband eats only two or three pieces of bread, and therefore, he has to eat two times on the train so she should pack only six pieces of bread. She always feels that - suppose the train is delayed - it is better to have some extra so that he will not have any problem.
The same applies to the crowd which was around Jesus. They had more than enough with them, but there was no willingness to share. Thus, the real miracle that Jesus performed was the changing of hearts and attitudes; and once that was done, the great problem was solved.
God has gifted us with physical strength, the mental capacity to think and has given us a sensitive heart. We must, as a responsible creation of God, use these gifts meaningfully to make this world more sustainable for all human beings, animals and Nature, but unfortunately we do not see beyond ourselves, which blocks our mission that is to us assigned by God. Let us not throw our responsibilities on God by using big words to glorify Jesus. He wants us to be responsible citizens and to be faithful to His calling.
Now I want to end this message with a short story.
In the state of Bihar in India, a small Christian family was staying near a coal mine where the husband was working. He had a wife and a child who used to carry his lunch to him every day, and they used to sit together and have their lunch near his place of work.
One day, while they were having their usual lunch, a big slab of coal fell upon them. The man survived, but his wife and child were killed instantly. This really shook the man. The world became meaningless for him. Life became miserable. He had no interest in anything. Sometimes he used to work, but the rest of the time he only remembered the sad incident which had happened in his life. Naturally, that led him not to bathe properly, to wash his clothes nor to cut his hair and shave, and hence, he started looking ugly. With filthy clothes on, wandering the streets and with this strain on his mind, he was led to alcohol.
One day after consuming a little alcohol, he was roaming around the streets in the town where he was staying, and all of a sudden he saw a church with beautiful colored windows and a nice compound wall with a strong gate. Suddenly he realized that such a sad incident had happened in his life and he had not shared it with his God, and so he decided to go to the church and talk to God about what had happened to him.
But while he was entering, the watchman stopped him. Looking at him, the watchman thought that he may rob the precious things in the church, and so he was driven away, which made him go to the church quite often. Every time he tried, however, he was sent away.
One day though the watchman felt pity and told him that, although he was taking a risk, he would grant him a few minutes to go and pray. The man was very glad and entered the church, but the management committee of the church, who were inside making decisions about beautifying the building and compound, had finished their business and were coming out. Looking at this ugly looking man, they shouted at the watchman as to why he was allowed to enter the church premises. The precious silver vessels and gold crosses were what they were worried about, and finally the poor man was chased out.
In a sad mood, he started roaming around and walked out of town and sat on a rock, disappointed and full of agony. While sitting on this rock for a long time, he fell asleep; and in his sleep, he saw a beautiful dream: Jesus coming down straight to him, tapping his shoulder and speaking his name, "Michael, why are you so sad?"
Hearing this, he was astonished and replied, "My Lord, you, here, next to me!"
Jesus said, "Yes, Michael, why are you asking this?"
He replied, "Jesus, the last several weeks I was trying to meet you. There is so much I wanted to share with you. I tried my level best to meet you inside the church, but those church people did not allow me to come in.
Jesus smiled and said, "Michael, my child, dont worry about these trivial things. Since the foundation stone of that church was laid, I myself have been trying to get into that church, but those people have never allowed me to get in to this date."
This story tells us something very real. The marginalized and poor are left out always. If they are allowed in, we will have to share our comforts and privileges. Therefore, we want to keep them out. Jesus wants us to take them in, to share with them what we have and to create a new world where everybody will be equal in front of God. He wants us to share all of the resources that we have been given so that all people will experience what the Kingdom of God is here and now.
[This article was published in Voices Vol.18 No.3, September 1994. pp.17-19]