5 Loaves, 2 Fishes
FIVE LOAVES AND TWO FISHES
By Ben S. Malayang III, President
(Sermon, Silliman Sunday, San Carlos City UCCP, 24 April 2016)
TEXT Matthew 14: 13-21
13 When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns. 14 When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.15 As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.”16 Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.”17“We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,” they answered. 18“Bring them here to me,” he said. 19 And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. 20 They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. 21 The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children.
Happy Silliman Sunday to all! On behalf of our Board of Trustees and all of us in Silliman, I thank San Carlos City UCCP for kindly hosting this Sunday worship of Hugyaw 2016. And I thank all organizers, leaders, and participants of Hugyaw 2016 for making this worship a part of this happy event. I thank our San Carlos Sillimanians for hosting us here today.
Let us pray:
Thank you Lord for this time together. Thank you Lord for one more occasion to gather in your Name. Thank you Lord for another celebration of your perfect love, your perfect justice, and your ceaseless mercies. Thank you Lord because in you we have faith, and so we have hope. May what we say here and now be only what you want us to say, and that what we hear be only what you want us to hear. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
A large crowd had gathered around Jesus. It’s said to be 5,000, but it did not include women and children. There could have been more. Many of those who came were there perhaps out of curiosity, to see a famous man, a carpenter’s son who’s now a well-known public figure, a preacher and a leader. Many came, it’s said, to hear how Jesus will lead them to freedom from the Romans and to pull them out of the harshness of their daily life.
Indeed, there were big issues of the day — corruption in government; corruption in the temples; corruption among priests; abusive taxes; unjust tax collectors; oppressive state security forces; poor health and medical services so that lepers are to be isolated and the blind left to beg in the streets. Many who came that day were hoping that Jesus could lead them to a life free of foreign masters, a better life, and to a life of prosperity. They were looking to him as a political and economic messiah, to pull them out of what they didn’t like about their world.
Jesus, of course, did something else. He did not give a rousing speech like politicians these days. He did not promise lower taxes, or better airports, or better trains. He did not tell them that he will wipe out drugs and crimes, or will give them a better government, or a government with a heart.
Instead, Jesus told them these:
- Blessed are the poor in spirit; theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
- Blessed are those who mourn; they shall be comforted.
- Blessed are the gentle; they’ll inherit the earth.
- Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness; they’ll be satisfied.
- Blessed are the merciful; they’ll receive mercy.
- Blessed are the pure in heart; they’ll see God.
- Blessed are the peacemakers; they’ll be called children of God.
- Blessed are the persecuted for righteousness; theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
- Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me; rejoice and be glad for your reward in heaven is great.
The crowd wanted freedom from the Romans; Jesus gave them instead the way to be free from sin. They wanted less burden from taxes; Jesus instead told them how to unburden their souls. They wanted out of corrupt governors and priests; Jesus told them instead of the incorruptible Word of God. They wanted to hear a man. Jesus instead made them hear God.
This is Lesson Number 1 in our story: In Christ, pursuits of petty human desires can be actually redirected toward great moments with God. With Jesus, what are puny human aspirations can be transformed into opportunities to experience God. The miracle of Jesus that day, and as now, is that in the din and noise of our daily life and concerns, God can be with us.
There is another lesson in our story. Lesson Number 2 is this: With Christ, what little we have can be used for the greatest glory of God. In Christ, the small becomes big. The insignificant becomes significant. When in the hands of Jesus, when in his care, any small thing matters.
This is the story of the five loaves and two fish. Thousands were there to be with Jesus. But most came unprepared. They didn’t have food with them. I suspect they did not expect to stay long. They were perhaps there only to hear Jesus promise them political goodies. And like attending campaign rallies today, they probably expected that Jesus will just regale them with a nice quick speech, give them hope on their frustrations, excite their imagination to what good things he can do for them, then leave to speed off to somewhere else.
But Jesus gave them God’s Word, and they were transfixed. They stayed to feed on God’s Word.
The disciples didn’t see their great spiritual hunger. What they saw instead was a problem of feeding over five thousand stomachs. They didn’t know how to feed thousands when none seem to have brought any food with them. So they asked Jesus to tell the people to go home.
You see, friends, the disciples didn’t get it. Five thousand or more was not a problem. To Jesus, it was an opportunity. It was a crowd that’s there and they could be made to see God, to experience God’s love, mercy and greatness, and feed their hungry souls. So Jesus told the disciples to let the people stay, not drive them away.
The disciples saw only with their human eyes, and thought of only with what humans can do. They asked Jesus how they can feed thousands when what they had were only five loaves and two fish. The disciples knew their physics and their mathematics. Matter can’t be created nor destroyed. You can’t create additional matter from out of five loaves and two fish to feed thousands. And mathematically, dividing a set amount of five loaves and two fish by a divisor that is increasing toward infinity, will quickly reduce the loaves and fish to zero.
The disciples saw a problem of feeding over five thousand stomachs. Jesus saw an opportunity of feeding over five thousand souls.
Jesus changed the problem into an opportunity. He did something that totally changed the situation. Jesus asked them, “bring those five loaves and two fish to me.” “To me.” “Bring them to me.” When they did, Jesus prayed, lifted up the five loaves and two fish to God, then the humanly impossible became divinely possible. Five loaves and two fish fed thousands, with twelve baskets of leftover to boot.
You see, friends, when brought to Jesus, when placed in the hands of our Lord, nothing is too small as not to become great. Nothing is humanly impossible that cannot be made divinely possible. Here were five loaves and two fish, very small when offered to feed thousands, but when brought to Christ, when placed in the hands of Jesus, they became not only sufficient, but excessive provisions of God’s grace and mercy. If brought to Jesus, the smallest can be the biggest.
Silliman is but a small university. But when fixed on God’s Word and brought to Jesus, it can change the world. When like in Lesson 1 in our story, it opens its heart to God even as it seeks to confront the issues of our day, and like in Lesson 2, it entrusts itself to God, brings itself to God, our small school, Silliman, has the power to transform the world.
So, too, each of us Sillimanians. And so, too, anyone — and all — who believe in the power and reality of God.
- Let us be moved and be bothered by the big issues of our day. But like the thousands with Jesus in our story, let us not miss great moments with God. Let us struggle to find solutions to the big issues of our time, but as well, let us make sure that we give time to hear God. Let’s be sure to listen to God and to keep listening to God.
- And let’s always remember that whatever our circumstance, whatever our lot, each of us has our own five loaves and two fish. They are modest and puny when viewed with human eyes against the many needs of our world. But if brought to Jesus, if placed in the hands of God and entrusted to God, the world will see in our small loaves and fish, the power, majesty and face of Jesus as Via, Veritas, Vita.
Friends, let’s be sure to listen to God. And let’s bring to Jesus what small or big things we have (nothing is too small) because doing so, we will surely change the world. We each has our five loaves and two fish. Each of us is a loaf and a fish. But in the hands of God, we can be a miracle.
Failing these, we fail ourselves, and we fail God. AMEN.