As my post yesterday concerned Jesus’s healing and feeding of the Four Thousand (and more) Gentiles, it seemed apposite to find a post at Steadfast Lutherans about His feeding the Five Thousand (and more).
The Feeding of the Five Thousand is the traditional (pre-Lectionary) Laetare Sunday gospel reading. (Laetare Sunday is today, March 6, 2016.)
Pastor Joseph Abrahamson shared Martin Luther’s reflections on this marvellous creative miracle, excerpts of which follow. Here Luther wrote about John 6:1-15.
May we not be discouraged, as Philip and Andrew were at finding we haven’t enough (emphases mine):
We see that Philip is not deficient in arithmetic. We also can count up very well what we shall need and must have for our household. But as soon as we see that provision is wanting, we become discouraged. This was the case also with Andrew …
The Evangelist [John] did not wish this to be left unnoticed, in order that we may learn by the example of the disciples, that such calculations are entirely useless; if, indeed, we are Christians and have Christ with us.
What of poverty opposing riches?
Nothing in the world hinders faith as much as riches on the one side and poverty on the other. Against these two things which hinder on both sides, Christ speaks here, and teaches the middle state; namely, to be neither too rich nor too poor, but learn to trust God, that he will sustain us, and be content with what God daily gives us.
How is it that we remember this miraculous multiplication of loaves and fishes but tend to dismiss the annual growing of grain, fruit, vegetables and other foodstuffs? Is one not as miraculous as the other? Luther reproves us for a lack of faith:
Who clothes the trees, which are bare in the winter, but as soon as the summer begins are loaded with leaves and fruits? Who causes the corn to grow so abundantly? Do not I, (as the Lord means to teach by this miracle, ) who herewith have fed 5000 people with two fishes and five loaves? But here reason says: Yes, as regards the trees and the corn and other things, that occurs every year; therefore it is not extraordinary and miraculous; but this feeding of 5000 people with two fishes and five loaves occurred only once; therefore it is extraordinary and miraculous. Answer: What is the reason that this appears to you extraordinary and miraculous, and that the former case, when out of single grains innumerable ones grow, is not miraculous to you? That is not the fault of God or his works, but it is the fault of your unbelief, that you are so blind and hardened, and can not know God’s wonders.
From this, we can apply our Lord’s generosity, mercy and compassion to our own personal situations:
He gave not as much as there was on hand, but “as much as they would.” Here we must not think that he did this only at that time and does not wish to continue to do so, also, among his Christians. For we see examples of this blessing every day; not only as regards food, but also as regards all other kinds of want, for which he wonderfully and unexpectedly devises ways and means.
Finally, with what is left over, Luther tells us that we must be prudent with what we have whilst sharing with others, otherwise God may withdraw His blessings:
We must diligently preserve God’s blessings and not squander them away, but save them for future needs. But when this is not done, and God’s blessings are so sinfully and shame fully abused. God is driven by such vices to withhold, and where there has been one year of abundant harvests, there will follow two or three years of failure.
By commanding his disciples to gather up the fragments that were left over, the Lord does not wish to be understood that we should be covetous, but that you might be able to serve your neighbor in times of need.
Such an exposition transforms the historic miracle of the Feeding the Five Thousand to a meaningful lesson on God’s merciful daily and annual bounty for Christians throughout the ages. How blessed we are in His grace and compassion.