17th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
2 Kings 4:42-44
Psalm 145:10-11, 15-16, 17-18 (16)
July 29, 2018
During the time Elisha served as a prophet of the Lord, there was a famine in the land. So, food was scare. A man brings twenty barley loaves and Elisha directs that it be given to the people. The response? “How can I set this before a hundred people?”
The response indicates it is too little to feed that a hundred people. If you think about it, twenty loaves could be enough to give a hundred people something but not enough to fill their bellies. Yet, “when they had eaten, there was some left over.” Food was scarce but “The hand of the Lord feeds us; he answers all our needs.”
So, I would call this a small miracle. Now, what we read about in the Old Testament prefigures what we read Jesus does in the gospels. Elisha, with the grace of the Lord, fed a hundred people with twenty loaves. Jesus feeds five thousand with just “five barley loaves and two fish.” This is not a small miracle. This is a huge miracle.
Why does Jesus do this? Certainly, the crowd needed physical food to eat but is that all Jesus is about? No! We are told that “a large crowd followed him, because they saw the signs he was performing on the sick.”
Hearing the miracles referred to as “signs” tells us they are meant to point to something more. Jesus doesn’t just feed five thousand people and leave. He does it in a way to make sure people realize there is something greater going on here.
So, before Jesus feeds them he says “to Philip, “Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?” Jesus wants to make sure they appreciate what is going on.
Philip’s response points to the impossibility of the situation, “Two hundred days’ wages worth of food would not be enough for each of them to have a little.”
Is the situation impossible? Perhaps for humans but there is hope for nothing is impossible for God. We find there is hope when “Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, said to him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish.””
In human terms, this could hardly be called hope, five loaves and two fish for 5,000? Impossible! That’s what makes the feeding a sign that God is at work in Jesus. Jesus feeds the five thousand as a sign to all that his power comes from God. From God’s power, there is more left over than they started with. Jesus provides in abundance.
In keeping with the feeding of the five thousand as a sign, it is essential that we realize that Jesus does not simply feed the people physically and move on.
You see, this passage is only the beginning of what is known as Jesus’ Bread of Life Discourse that spans all seventy-one verses of the sixth chapter of John’s Gospel.
For most of this year B in our Sunday lectionary cycle, we hear predominantly from Mark’s Gospel but starting this week and for the next four weeks after today, we take a step away from Mark’s Gospel to hear from Jesus’ Bread of Life Discourse.
To understand where our belief of the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist comes from, it is vital that we listen to this Bread of Life discourse. Our belief that the Eucharist is the Body and Blood of Jesus comes from Jesus’ own words. In the coming weeks we will hear how we must eat his flesh and drink his blood.
The feeding of the five thousand with physical food is just beginning. In the coming weeks we will hear Jesus speaks of how the bread he will give is his flesh “for the life of the world.”