The line that stands out for me in the good old loaves and fishes story, is when Jesus asks everybody to sit down.
Make the people (ἀνθρώπους here. contrasted with the ἄνδρες of the next clause) recline. Now there was much grass in the place
In case you don’t know the set up, someone Jesus really loved, and needed in some special way, had just been executed. This was the first many close friends that were going to get killed, in the course of this grand scheme. Jesus was sad. He just wanted to go as far away from every living person and grieve.
But he had rock star status, already. Even though he had found this deserted field, in the middle of nowhere, everybody – I mean, lots of people – found him. Clung to him. Needed him. Not moment’s peace, to be sad. Maybe a little self pity even. But then he did the real miracle – the one that we must also learn, the one bit of magic that will let anyone create something from nothing:
and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd.
You turn your attention away from yourself, away from your sorrows, and when you look up, you will see a crowd of lost people, waiting for your word. And when you see them, you will feel flush with power.
The scene is this: a totally unplanned “event” in a totally inappropriate place for this size crowd. And Jesus’ managers – the apostles – started to worry about logistical catastrophes.
At this pint in the story, I see the Woodstock music festival. An inordinate crowd of, who knows, not particularly organized people, driven by hunger – spiritual hunger – to a nowhere place, to here a nowhere man, in terms of his likelihood of earthly success. Hadn’t the flower children been seeking, so far, in vain, something to unify them, to give them the feeling of unity? No one had proposed such a thing. It wasn’t even an official movement.
Meanwhile, a couple of stoner producers, most likely motivated by greed, decided to have the first rock Fest. Again, God’s choice of leaders always falls to the least faithful. But it happened. And like the Jesus story, no one was prepared for what really happened. A city of 500,000 people rose up from a dream, and all had a heightened consciousness, all at once.
A theological question : who was Jesus at Woodstock ? Well, John Sebastien delivers the message to “sit down. ” He let the crowd know that they were no longer a crowd, but an living, loving community. And the stage producer was constantly getting on the mic and reassuring people that there was food and water coming in, from nowhere. But it did come. And doctors and medical supplies and blankets. All impossible. All unplanned.
The answer is that nowadays, everyone is Jesus. Everyone has to do the job of taking care of one another. Jesus was there to show us our own responsibilities.
But Jesus said, “You feed them.”
The food was already there. It was the disciples faith (our faith) that was missing. And, it was the disciples immediate reaction, that of all children, to wonder that the responsibility was upon them, not upon someone in charge. What seems like adult common sense, in this case, is the child’s abdication, the leveling of yet another excuse, hidden behind human legitimacy, the exonerates them from any action:
“With what?” they asked. “We’d have to work for months to earn enough money to buy food for all these people!”
It’s an engrained reaction, in a society of people who do nothing, because the do not want to believe in anything. If you are given a great opportunity to be faithful, quickly find an exit.
And now, the magic comes from the group, not the guru. The faith comes from within. They found a way, the found enough, they fed the people, somehow, from nowhere, from nothing.
So, we should take this as a miracle? A bit of magic? Jesus said, “aberra cadavera” over the five loaves and two fishes, and, just like the magician’s top hat, the baskets became bottomless?
No. You missed the point. It’s supposed to be a real, useful example of how when we step out of our fear and disbelief, “miraculous” things to happen. Of course, they aren’t that miraculous: they happen because we work together, we gather together what we have, and through collective imagination, and a willpower derived from hope, we make the impossible, possible. Actually, this happens all the time: someone says I can’t, someone who loves them says yes you can, and, behold, they do. Woodstock was an amazingly profound example of this. People died, and babies were born, all on a grassy field, in a chance meeting of 500,000 believers.