John 6:1-15 | 17th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B
Go to the Source
When I worked in Faith Formation, we had a saying: If you feed them, they will come. But in this gospel passage, Jesus worked that saying backwards. The people were already there, and now He instructed the disciples, “Feed them.” If we’d approached Faith Formation events like that, there would have been a frantic team of us phoning the local pizza joints whenever we had a gathering.
The disciples didn’t have access to telephones nor were there any pizza places near the Sea of Galilee. Furthermore, as Philip pointed out, the money needed to feed 5,000 people (probably more like 15,000 when you include women and children) was a big issue. Philip and the others were focused on the logistics. Jesus was focused on the need. I really love that the need He wants to meet isn’t necessarily desperation. These people weren’t necessarily destitute. They gotten swept up in His teaching and lost track of the time. Now it was dinnertime and they didn’t have food. Getting to dinner and not having food is definitely something that has happened to me before. That Jesus cares about that predicament warms my heart.
Not only did Jesus want the disciples to conjure up food for all these people, but He also wanted the people to be served. Jesus instructed, “Have the people recline” (v. 10). The disciples not only served the people, but Jesus also had them clean up too: “Gather the fragments left over so nothing will be wasted” (v. 12). Now that’s real service! Having just returned from their first missionary trip where they had performed miracles in Jesus’s name, the disciples may have started to think they had some kind of elevated powers, but Jesus made sure to bring them back to earth.
I hate that feeling—just when I start to think maybe I’m doing something well and should get some credit, something happens that crashes me back to reality. Jesus always wants us to understand that without God, we can do nothing. Thus, when Jesus told the disciples to feed the people, and Peter responded that “two hundred days’ wages” (v. 7) wouldn’t be enough, I bet Jesus just raised His eyebrows. Andrew broke the awkward quiet with something like, well, there is a little, “but what good are these for so many?” (v. 9) By then Jesus was probably rolling his eyes and thinking, “Come on, guys, you just performed miracles. You know you didn’t do those on your own. Who was behind it? Go to the source!”
The source is Jesus, and when He picks up the bread, breaks it in a nod to the coming Last Supper, and distributes it, there is a plethora of food. There always is when we rely on Jesus rather than on ourselves. Sometimes Jesus’s idea of a plenty matches mine, but often it doesn’t. Often I feel cheated because what Jesus provides is not what I had in mind at all. But if I take time to think about it later, I always see how His provisions fit the bill perfectly. I just have to remind myself to trust the Source, to trust Jesus. And to go to Him, every time.