In those days when there was again a great crowd without anything to eat, he called his disciples and said to them, “I have compassion for the crowd, because they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat. If I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way—and some of them have come from a great distance.” His disciples replied, “How can one feed these people with bread here in the desert?” He asked them, “How many loaves do you have?” They said, “Seven.” Then he ordered the crowd to sit down on the ground; and he took the seven loaves, and after giving thanks he broke them and gave them to his disciples to distribute; and they distributed them to the crowd. They had also a few small fish; and after blessing them, he ordered that these too should be distributed. They ate and were filled; and they took up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full. Now there were about four thousand people. And he sent them away. And immediately he got into the boat with his disciples and went to the district of Dalmanutha.
Abundance, it turns out, is a lot harder to learn than scarcity. In fact, I’d argue that we’re actually pretty good at scarcity. Don’t get me wrong. We don’t like it. We don’t want it. But we’re used to it. More than that, it’s what we’ve come to expect.
That surely is a part of what is going on in this story, the second time Jesus feeds a multitude. And of course it’s the word “second” that I’m focusing on. Because I really could understand the disciples being utterly flabbergasted the first time there was a huge crowd and Jesus ordered them to feed them (6:30-44). I mean, how are they supposed to come up with so much food? But Jesus took what they could find and multiplied it.
And since then they’ve seen him still a storm – okay, that actually happened before the first feeding, but still… – and walk on water and heal and all the rest. And they still don’t seem to get it. I mean, the setting is almost identical. Big crowds who can’t get enough of Jesus, Jesus has compassion on them, teaching and healing for several days, and now he wants to feed them.
Okay, fellas, haven’t we been here before? Goodness gracious, we – as the readers of Mark’s story – certainly know what’s going to happen. In fact, I’d be willing to bet that even if we were reading this story for the first time – and maybe some of us are – we can tell by now what to expect from Jesus. He’s going to feed them. More than that, he’ll take what little the disciples think they have and use it to care for God’s people. Because that’s a kingdom-of-God kind of thing to do. And by this point in the story the disciples have seen him do this over and over again. So why don’t they get it?
Because scarcity they’re used to; abundance, not so much. Oddly enough, of course, they’ve been living with abundance ever since they first ran into Jesus – abundant healing, abundant power, abundant food, abundant compassion, abundant just about everything. But they’ve been trained, coached, and conditioned to expect scarcity, and that takes a while to get over.
Are we really any different? Think about it. We live at a time of unprecedented abundance. That abundance isn’t shared equitably for sure, yet most of us nevertheless enjoy a level of relative abundance that our grandparents could never have imagined. And yet we don’t act that way. No, we earn and shop and store and consume and hoard as if it could all be gone tomorrow. Why? Because we, too, have been trained, coached, and conditioned to expect scarcity, and that takes a while to get over.
But I wonder what would happen if a bunch of us just started acting like we had enough? Like we actually had more than enough? That we had enough to share? Enough to offer to God to multiply to take care of others? What if we just stopped for a moment today and took stock, not of our wants or needs but our blessings, not of our shortcoming but our bounty, not of our deficits but our strengths, not of our lack but our abundance? What if a whole multitude of Christians who live with abundance and enjoy the promise of abundant life did that?
Goodness gracious, but perhaps the world would be fed…and changed forever.
Prayer: Dear God, open our eyes to see, be grateful for, and share the blessings and abundance you have already showered upon us. In Jesus’ name, Amen.