2021-07-18 8th Sunday after Pentecost
Grace, mercy and peace be to you from God our Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen!
I watched a show the other day about a turkey farmer who was always trying to perfect a better turkey. It turns out that his family all really loved the leg portion for dinner. Being a good Catholic, he had too many kids and never enough turkey legs to go round. After many failed attempts and a few tense thanksgiving dinners, the farmer had a break through. “I did it!” he exclaimed to his friends on coffee row, “I finally bred a turkey with 6 legs!” His friends stared back in wide eyed wonder and asked him how it tasted. “I don’t know,” said the farmer. “I never could catch the darn thing!”
Six legged turkeys. What won’t they think of next. It’d be pretty miraculous, I’d reckon. I bet Jesus could have used a few of those miraculous turkeys for His miraculous dinner! 5 loaves and 2 fish for 5000 people, it seems crazy! But all four of the Gospels record this wonder of wonders, so it must be true. And true it was and is as it is recorded in Holy Scripture. The scenario is that Jesus and the disciples are beat. They’re tired. They can’t get even a moments rest from the crowds. People pushing and shoving, just trying to get close to Jesus and the disciples. Miracles beget more miracles. And that’s what the disciples had been up to. If you recall from last week, Jesus sent them out, two by two, with power and authority to preach and teach, cast out demons and heal the sick. Of course that’s going to stir up excitement and interest. But the downside was they became more popular than the Beatles, Princess Diana and M.C. Hammer all rolled into one!
Now you’ve got oodles of people swarming around you and it’s late in the day, everyone is getting hungry, tired and ornery. A little advanced notice would have been nice. Not even Martha Stuart could pull a dinner this size out of thin air. It’s a colossal pain in the you know what. Most people would have told the crowds to scram. Go find a McDonald’s or a Kentucky Fried Chicken and grab a bite. But not Jesus! “When He went ashore He saw a great crowd, and He had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd” (MK 6:34). God’s compassion never fails and here we have another example of this, clear as a bell.
The disciples though, they look around at all these mouths to feed and they tell Jesus to send them away. They don’t embody that same compassion for the masses. After all, these squatters showed up unannounced and ruined their day off! So they protest. But Jesus says “You give them something to eat.” You can almost see the shock on the disciples’ faces. “We?” How can we do this? How can we feed this giant crowd!? We’re in the middle of nowhere, we’re tired, all the drive-thrus are closed, the six legged turkeys are still way too fast, and we’re supposed to make this happen? Oy vey!
This miracle is multi-layered, like an onion. But let it suffice to say that in the midst of our hard times, tight-spots, failures, iniquities, distresses and moments of highest need, the Lord is our Shepherd. He has compassion on us and will not leave us or forsake us. And half the time, that’s all we need to know, right? Whatever we’re up against, what ever dark cloud is looming overhead, whatever long difficult journey we may face, we never walk through them alone. Our Lord and Savior is by our side. He has compassion on us. His grace is sufficient for us.
This is the tremendous comfort and hope that we have as God’s Baptized people. Non believers don’t have access to this. They face the difficulties of life alone in a spinning black hole of uncertainty, doubt and fear. And how terrible this must be. Imagine facing cancer without our Lord’s compassion and blessed assurance! Imagine watching your kids spread their wings and leave the nest without anyone watching over them. Imagine going through life scared and alone. It’s awful. But for us who lean not on our own strength and abilities but rather on the Lord and His power and might, it’s a different story. We face the ups and downs of life with confidence. We endure trials with 100% certainty that God almighty has what is best in mind for us in this life and the next. Without trust in the good Lord Jesus, you just don’t have this.
And this was the disciples’ cardinal sin. Jesus looks at the enormous crowd of people following them, then He looks at the disciples. Then, He speaks the words: “You give them something to eat.” By human power and works, this feat is impossible. But with God, all things are possible. The disciples’, like us, frequently forget this. We too think that life is all up to us. It all rests on our shoulders. But it doesn’t. God’s compassion and mercy never fail us, no matter what. But our own sin and doubt is a beastly creature that is tough to overcome. Logic and math say “Shall we go and buy two hundred days wages worth of bread and give it to them to eat?” For that’s surely what it would take to feed this monstrous crowd of 5000 men plus women plus children. The finite human brain says “This is craziness! It’s impossible!” But God’s power says “watch this!”
I remember back in grade school, probably grade 2 or grade 3. On our classroom wall was all manner of colorful posters and letters and numbers. There was also one great big square poster with all kinds of numbers on it, arranged in a grid. I think you know where I’m going with this. It was a . . . yes, you guessed it, a multiplication table. From 1 to 12 across the top and down the side, all the numbers were there. And they had to be memorized. There wasn’t any of this ridiculous new math that asks “how do you think the number 55 feels being stuck beside number 56 in the table?” Multiplication. It’s the most valuable skill we can learn. And Jesus is a pro at it. He takes the 5 loaves and 2 fish the disciples found and He multiplies them. Again and again, after the blessing, the disciples bring baskets of bread and fish for everyone to eat. And eat the people did! It was no feast of 6 legged turkeys mind you, but it would do in a pinch! The crowds sitting on the green grass ate until they were full. It was better than any other buffet smorg they’d ever attended! God in the flesh was before their very eyes, providing for their needs. Oh to have been able to see it! What a sight it must have been! And, like any awesome meal there were lots of leftovers – 12 baskets full to be precise.
The number 12 is no accident. It’s a perfect number that signifies God’s amazing grace filling the lives of His people. We’ve heard it before in St. Mark’s Gospel. A woman bled for 12 years, a 12 year old girl was brought back to life. And now, the multitudes are fed and there are 12 baskets of food left over. It’s yet another sign of the amazing and miraculous way that God continues to bless us and provide for us and care for us, even in the worst of circumstance. Jesus changed the scene from a “not-nearly-enough” crisis to a “more-than-enough” blessing. And He continues to do it for us today too. We have truly been blessed and have much to be thankful for. Thanks be to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who multiplies His blessings for us. Amen!