John Chapter 6:5-13
There is a very well-known story in the Bible about Jesus feeding a whole lot of people – often called the Feeding of the 5000. This story is actually the only miracle story that is in all four of the gospel books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
Thousands of people have come to hear Jesus teach (more than 5000 including women and children). It is late, they are in a deserted place and, of course, there are no food trucks or coffee vans nearby.
And so, Jesus asks his disciples how they are going to feed all these people. He already knows what he is going to do, but he wants to see what they will say.
Can you imagine being asked that question? Imagine you were at an event with thousands of people and someone asks you how you plan to feed them! What would your response be?
I am under the impression that one of Jesus’ disciples, Philip, thinks Jesus is a bit crazy to ask that question! He says, “Jesus, don’t you know it will take almost a year’s wages just to buy enough bread for these people!”
Meanwhile, another of Jesus disciples, Andrew, is being proactive and looking around to see who might have some food. But all he’s found is a boy with 5 loaves and 2 fish. He tells Jesus about the food, but he also says, “What good is that with all these people?”
I wonder if you have ever felt a bit overwhelmed by need, like Andrew did. I have – especially when I stop and think about all the people in the world who need help. Right now I can’t help but think of all the people who are affected by COVID and of all the people in Afghanistan. Sometimes it can start to feel a bit too hard. It can start to feel like nothing you do could even begin to make a difference.
I wonder if the boy from our Bible story felt a bit like that when he offered his food to the disciples. I wonder if he nearly didn’t do it because he thought it couldn’t possibly help all the people in the crowd.
It’s a good thing he did, though! The Bible tells us that Jesus took that bread and fish, gave thanks to God and kept breaking them until there was enough for everyone. And not just enough, but more than enough – there were 12 baskets left at the end. (I love it that Jesus made enough for leftovers).
What an amazing miracle this was.
Jesus really cared about all these people. He was keen to teach them about God’s love and about how to live their best life, but he also really cared if they were hungry. He showed that God cares about people’s physical needs, not about just their spiritual needs. AND he showed that when WE give to others it can make a real difference.
There’s something really wonderful about giving, because it not only makes a real difference to the people we give to – it can also make a real difference to us! I read a book recently that said there is actually a name for the feeling we get when we give to others: it’s called the “Giver’s Glow”. This book says that even the thought of helping others can activate the part of our brain that releases a feel-good neuro-transmitter. This makes us feel great and also makes us want to do more. Giving also gives us a sense of purpose and the feeling that we matter.
So what an important ingredient giving is to a good and happy life!
There are so many opportunities to be part of a culture of giving and service in our College community and beyond. I love how much I see going on here and the number of people who participate.
As you consider what and how you might give (or continue to give), may I also suggest doing some extra learning about who you are giving to – this can make an even bigger difference to both you and to the cause. You might find yourself getting quite passionate about it and inspiring others to give, too.
So let’s keep remembering how important contribution is. Even if it seems like we can’t give very much, like the boy in the Bible story, it can still make a big difference to people. God can really bless and use what we give. And, as an extra bonus, it will also make a difference to us and help us live a happier life! Why would we not be people who give?
Rev Liz Flanigan