In the middle of summer this year, many of our churches are reading John chapter 6 which begins with the multiplication of the loaves and the fishes and then helps us understand the implications of this miracle.
The feeding of the 5,000 is one of the few accounts to be found in the Four Gospels. It must have been very important to these early Christians.
For those of us accustomed to many wonderful and nutritious food choices, a meal of barley loaves and fish doesn’t seem very appealing. In Jesus’ day it was probably considered a substantial meal. Most people would have lived on the verge of not having enough to eat. One person who could provide such a meal to so many people was worth listening to. The crowd was so impressed that the evangelist told us: “Since Jesus knew that they were going to come and take him to make him king, he withdrew again alone to the mountain. Jesus did not shy away from leadership, but he did not want to serve as king, political and military leader.
Later in the chapter, Jesus warns people who were looking for him to provide another free meal. He challenges them to work for food that lasts for eternal life. And then Jesus said: “I am the bread of life; he who comes to me will never go hungry… ”We are asked to put our faith in Jesus as the messenger of God to give life to the world.
At the end of the chapter, Jesus tells us that the bread he will give is his flesh. This saying creates a controversy that ends with many starting and no longer following it.
The early church considered the multiplication of the loaves and fish as a foreshadowing of the Eucharist. Jesus gave himself to his disciples in the bread and wine of the Last Supper and then the next day in his death on the cross.
When our churches were closed for several weeks at the start of the COVID pandemic, we were deprived of receiving our Lord Jesus in communion. We felt in our bones that we were missing something, someone essential.
Jesus continues to offer himself to us. Will we receive it in our bodies, in our lives? I hope and pray that we will not leave him and will not follow him again. May we all put our faith in Jesus who is our bread of life, who gave himself on the cross and in the Eucharist so that we may have life.
– Reverend Jeff Horejsi is Pastor of St. Philip’s Church in Litchfield.