If you’ve ever been to Jubilee! Circle even once, or listened to our podcasts, then you know that we don’t spend a lot of time on the “traditional” interpretations of scripture. Instead, we’re more interested in seeing Jesus and his story in a new light – turning the stories upside down, inside out, and seeing what new insights we might glean from a different, less traditional, vantage point.
That all said, Jubilants were perhaps a bit shocked in our last Cosmic Kindergarten class when I told them that I fully believed that the story of Jesus feeding the 5,000 in this week’s Jesus story in Mark 6:30-44 was a bona fide miracle.
But, of course, not in the way the traditionalists would define “miracle.”
In this particular Cosmic Kindergarten class, our lesson for the day was on sharing. I told our Cosmic Kindergarteners that even though we’ve been taught that human beings are selfish by nature, I invited them to reconsider that. Perhaps, just perhaps, we’re originally blessed with an inner sharer – an innate nature to give to others, even to those we don’t particularly like.
If this is true, then the story of the feeding of the 5,000 was a miracle of sharing. It was Jesus’ compassion for the crowd, and the generosity of the disciples sharing their meager 5 loaves of bread and two fishes that awakened the inner sharers in the crowd. The crowd put aside its beliefs that they were all selfish human beings, and relearned their innate sharing instinct.
This interpretation is not new, and it tends to piss off people who really want a mystical, supernatural miracle to take place in this setting. I understand. I get it. We want to believe that God will step in and fulfill our needs. We want to believe that it’s not up to us to feed the world, it’s not up to us to meet the needs of our neighbor. Instead, we often see this miracle story’s lesson as this: Stand back and rely on God to work the miracles. If we can do it ourselves, we reason, why would we even need God?
But, my question is this: Why is it any less a miracle for people to share with one another? I believe it’s a fairly impressive miracle that a group of 5,000 tired, sweaty, cranky and hungry people would be so overwhelmed with compassion for one another – so able to “suffer with” one another – that they shared their stashes of food with their neighbor. Given that we’ve convinced ourselves that human nature is callous and selfish, I think the sight of 5,000 people sharing food is far more miraculous than God just supernaturally multiplying loaves and fishes.
If you’ve watched the current presidential campaign for more than five minutes you’ve seen the spectacular selfishness of human beings on display. At one Republican candidate debate the crowd even shouted out to let people without healthcare die. They didn’t want to have to pay to help another person who may be sick. It would be a true, bona fide miracle to get people who hold these kinds of beliefs about their fellow human beings to share their food with a crowd of strangers instead of saying, “I brought enough for me. Too bad for you that you didn’t think ahead or earn enough to buy your own.”
One other reason why I believe this was a miracle of sharing is Jesus’ own words to his disciples. He told them: “You give them something to eat.”
This weren’t just empty words. Jesus was telling his disciples, and us, that we have the power to feed each other. We have the power to share, to come together, to work cooperatively in this world to bring about the New Jerusalem we’re seeking. This goes hand in hand with Jesus’ assertion that the realm of God is already here. It’s here when we set aside our own selfish feelings and learn how to share. The realm of God appears when we learn the true meaning of sharing – when we open ourselves to one another, when we become vulnerable to each other, and when we share even though we may run the risk of lacking what we need if we give what we have away to other people.
But, here’s where the real, mind-boggling, out of this world miracle occurs – the more we give, the more we get. The people gave what they had and they collected a bumper crop of left-overs. The giving kept on going. No one lacked for food. No one lacked for anything – the food, the compassion, the sharing, the miracles kept multiplying – because this crowd deeply learned the lesson of sharing. Love is only something if we give it away – when we hoard it, when we lock it away, when we keep it selfishly for ourselves, it dies. We lack for everything when we selfishly hoard our food, or our money, or our time, or our space.
Jubilants, how would it change the way you lived if you saw someone in need, and instead of ignoring their need, you helped them get what they need? How would it changed the way you lived if you realized that the only way any of us get fed in this world is by sharing – and not just by sharing food, but by sharing resources like clean air, clean water, or technology, or anything else we may want to keep just for ourselves?
Jubilants, how would it change the way you lived, if you truly understood Jesus when he said, “You give them something to eat.” We shy away from fulfilling that commandment because we think we have so little to give. The disciples felt this way. “We’ve only got five loaves and two fishes,” they complained.
What makes sharing a miracle, Jubilants, is not how much you have to share, but that you share whatever you have. When we share whatever we have, it is blessed, multiplied and yields baskets and baskets full of leftovers. No one goes hungry. Everyone gets their fill – and that, Jubilants, is the kind of miracle we can perform every single day.
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Jubilee! Circle Minister