Weekly Bible Devotional
“Everything Is Holy: Our Actions”
July 11, 2021
Scripture for Sunday: John 6:1-14
After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, also called the Sea of Tiberias. 2 A large crowd kept following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick. 3 Jesus went up the mountain and sat down there with his disciples. 4 Now the Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near. 5 When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?” 6 He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do. 7 Philip answered him, “Six months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.” 8 One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, 9 “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?” 10 Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” Now there was a great deal of grass in the place; so they sat down, about five thousand in all. 11 Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted. 12 When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, “Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost.” 13 So they gathered them up, and from the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets. 14 When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, “This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world.”
Notes on the Text:
This week we are considering the actions of a little boy whose simple act of generosity and love became the seed for a miracle where God’s love became so clear to many people. We may focus in this story on Jesus and his ability to multiply the bread and the fish. We may even focus on the sharing that took place among the people who were there thinking that this was a miracle of sharing. Yet, it all started with a little boy who was willing to share what he had which was not much.
Barley loaves and fish were as ordinary as one could get. Barley was much more widely cultivated and was always valued less than wheat. Thus, it was a main staple for the poor (2 Kings 7:1; Revelation 6:6). Fish was also a very common food around the lake where the story took place. What the boy gave was nothing fancy! He gave what he had which was not much. But what he gave was so essential for the miracle to happen. This story echoes another story of multiplication from the Bible where the prophet Elisha, according 2 Kings 4:1-7, used what the woman had, a jar of oil, as a starting point and then asked the community to join in by letting the widow borrow their container.
In his commentary on the book of John, NT Wright points out that the disciples did not really know what to do, but their starting point was the little boy and the little ordinary food he had. Wright notes, “The point is obvious, but we perhaps need to be reminded of it: so often we ourselves have no idea what to do, but the starting point is always to bring what is there to the attention of Jesus. You can never tell what he’s going to do with it – though part of Christian faith is the expectation that he will do something we hadn’t thought of, something new and creative.”
The symbolism of the story is also important as we know that later on in the chapter, Jesus is identified as the bread of life. It was a reminder to the followers of Jesus about the sustenance which God gave their ancestors in the wilderness after leaving slavery in Egypt. Jesus was reminding them of that experience of oppression when the people of ancient Israel were enslaved in Egypt and God through the leadership of Moses got them out. In their time in the wilderness, God gave them manna, the bread from heaven, to sustain their lives. God was as close to them as the bread they ate every day. In their sharing of that bread with each other, they found their way to a new life. In the same way, Jesus was giving his people a strong image of God’s presence with them through him as the bread of life. God was again redeeming them from the oppression of the Romans, through the ministry of presence and through the actions of ordinary people like the little boy who shared his food.
Miracles happen when people work with God offering whatever they have for the service of love. The Bible story for this week reminds us that finding the holy in our actions is about remembering to do the next right thing with love. Our small acts of love are the loaves and fishes which God uses to impact and transform the world. When we stated our mission statement as a church to be “Transforming Lives by Sharing the Love of God in our Communities,” we knew that it was an audacious goal, but we trusted that if we do our part, no matter how small it may be, God is able to take our small and faithful actions to bring about the transformation and healing that are needed here in our community. In addition, the small and consistent acts of love accumulate to become a way of life. The same is true of us as individuals. Setting out to be loving all the time may seem daunting, but learning to trust God to guide us in the next decision and actions to be loving ends up changing us in huge ways. It is all about focusing on the next step.
Mother Teresa was once asked about assisting in the creation of a big hospital that would be named after her. She was asked to think about all of the lives that the hospital could help and how all who entered would see her name. Without missing a beat, her response was this: “God did not call me to minister to the millions, but to minister to the one in front of me.” The person in front of her was all that her life was about.
Logos by Mary Oliver:
Why worry about the loaves and fishes?
If you say the right words, the wine expands.
If you say them with love
and the felt ferocity of that love
and the felt necessity of that love,
the fish explode into many.
Imagine him, speaking,
and don’t worry about what is reality,
or what is plain, or what is mysterious.
If you were there, it was all those things.
If you can imagine it, it is all those things.
Eat, drink, be happy.
Accept the miracle.
Accept, too, each spoken word
spoken with love.
Dream Big by Josh Wilson