Proper 11 7 Pentecost
I heard someone say that the feeding of the five thousand always reminds them of their childhood. That the story was enchanting and magical. I agree, it is all that and more. This is the only miracle that is recorded in all four of the gospels. Imagine how important this miracle must have been to Jesus’ gathering of believers. Getting anything over on that many people would have been impossible. Most of the other miracles were directed toward one or a small number of people. Even the changing of water into wine was most likely not even known about to most of the partygoers. If you remember, he told some not to mention what he had done in the early miracles. Not that they listened.
 Jesus and his disciples have just learned about John the Baptist beheading and burial. Keep in mind that John is the messenger of the coming of Jesus and that Jesus is just now becoming a recognized figure among the Roman rulers. It is even later suspected, by Herod, that Jesus might actually be the resurrected John the Baptist.
In order to spend some time alone to grieve his friend’s death, and because his disciples are completely worn out, Jesus gets into the boat and heads away from the crowds that now follow him. He just wanted them to be alone for a while. However, the people are able to follow him on foot, around the shoreline. He is unable to escape them. Even in this time of mourning and exhaustion, Jesus relents and goes out among the people to teach and to heal their sick.
The disciples know that Jesus is tired, just as they are, and ask him to send the people away to find food in the villages. They have checked and realize there is only enough for them, (five loaves and two fish) and the others need to find their own. Five thousand people, not counting the women and children. So what are we saying, fifteen thousand? twenty thousand? Of course, the number is irrelevant. Whatever the number, Jesus has more than enough for everyone to satisfy all their needs… with an abundance to spare.
Imagine the disciple’s thoughts when Jesus told them to go and feed all those people with only five loaves and two fish. They must have been thinking, “send them to dominos in town for pizza”.
Obviously, what happened next has a tremendous significance. What comes from or is blessed by Jesus is to be shared with everyone. They in turn share their blessings with others and those blessings multiply the more they are shared.
I once knew a woman that had five children who was talking to a friend of hers that had only one child. The mother of the one made a statement that she did not see how in the world she managed to divide her love among five children. The mother of five replied, “it is easy, you don’t divide, you multiply”.
And so, it was with the disciples. They were doing the wrong kind of math. The rules of mathematics do not apply with the distribution of love. Jesus knew the division of his love for the masses was to become multiplication instead. The factor he knew about was that his sharing was to be passed along… to the disciples, to the people in the front, to the people behind, and so on and so on.
The focus at this point is the extra. I remember from my math class, a long time ago, when we had extra left over from a problem it was called a remainder. I never did understand what happened to that remainder. It was just extra. What happens to the extra?
The scripture tells us that there are twelve baskets of pieces left over, after everyone ate. What happens to the leftovers? We need not give them to the poor and homeless because they are the multitudes that just finished filling their bellies. The significant thing here is the number twelve. Jesus has asked the twelve disciples to give away everything they have. They do what is asked of them and each has a full basket when all the thousands have been satisfied with what Jesus has blessed and sent to them. So, what must be done with the twelve baskets of leftovers?
The book of Exodus relates the story about the manna from heaven, where bread falls from the heavens in order to feed the Israelites. They are specifically instructed to not gather any more than what they actually need for that day, except for the day before the Sabbath when they are to gather enough for the two days that include the Sabbath and the day prior. Any manna gathered outside of these regulations spoils and worms take it over.
This bread remainder from Jesus is much different from Moses manna. Jesus knows what is going to happen to him later in Jerusalem. He is headed for the last supper where he will break the bread and offer thanks just as he did with the thousands on the shore.
Our Holy Communion should be looked upon in this light of the feeding of thousands. This is the body and blood of Christ that was shed for you and for many. For thousands. So that everyone can share in this blessed food.
And, after we partake of this most blessed meal we need to recall that there are leftovers. Leftovers to share with others. More than we had to begin with. As we pass this blessing from row to row we begin to realize that we will never run out. The more we share the more there is to be shared.
So it is with the food from Jesus. The food he gives us is spiritual food. John the Baptist has been beheaded, Jesus is on his way to the cross. But what a remainder there is left for us. The disciples have gathered up that which remains at the lakeshore. They realize, later on, that is precisely what they are; the remainders of Jesus. Their function is to take what was left from what the Lord has blessed and give it to the thousands. And if the blessing is genuine there will most assuredly be a remainder for those who have received that blessing. And that too will be passed along.
As you come to the table for communion today, I ask that you think about the remainder that you have as you go back out into the world. You are taking the blessing of Jesus with you. You are taking the love of God with you. Our savior gave his life for that remainder that you take with you. Like the five loaves and two fishes it is more than enough to feed everyone. Be sure to share it with others. Remember, this is all about multiplication … not division.