The miracle of the feeding of the 5000 is rich in symbolism, with echoes of the Eucharist, Passover, and the messianic feast at the end of time in the kingdom of heaven.
The underlying theme of the feeding of the 5000 is super-abundance. There is more than enough to go around. From just five loaves and two fish, the 5000 men there were satisfied, as well we assume were the equal number of women and children there. Not only were they all satisfied but there were 12 baskets of food left over.
With God, so it is with the “plenteous redemption” we sing about, so it is with forgiveness and love.
One message we may comfortably draw from this event is that in the hands of God, our meagre resources offered to God, blessed, broken and distributed can be multiplied many times over.
It should think that it is fairly common amongst Christians to imagine that we haven’t much to offer to God. But if whatever is given is given in faith then the lesson of this event is that God can do so much with it that we would be amazed.
So what if we were to give our whole life, our gifts and fruit, however meagre we think that might be? That is what Jesus did. His was a life offered, broken and shared out. The self-sacrifice of Jesus is played out in the story of the miraculous feeding and mirrored in our own sharing of bread and wine in our Communion service.
By some mystery, the bread and wine become for us the body and blood of a life outpoured, a life blessed, broken and shared by all present at this special meal. From Sunday school you might remember that the definition of a sacrament is an outward sign of and inner grace. A sacrament is where the lines between sign and symbol and reality blur and merge.
In the story in Matthew the raw materials for the feast have to be provided by the disciples themselves, just as we provide the bread and wine ourselves. But with the bread and wine we also offer ourselves as raw materials to be changed. Within the liturgy, the offering is blessed, broken and shared out amongst all those present.
I am sometimes asked what I think happens to the bread and wine when it is blessed. I think the question is misdirected.
I think the more pertinent question might be “What changes in us?” when we commune
In the feeding of the 5000, the people were full – they were satisfied; complete; at peace. The physical fullness they experienced is also a metaphor for the spiritual fullness, the peace and contentment intended for us by the sharing of bread and wine representing communion between us and God and each other. Holy Communion is a physical representation of atonement where all is complete and all is satisfied, all is healed and all is forgiven.
When we share bread and wine again this morning, we are sharing in the abundant, love and forgiveness and very being of God represented by a tiny piece of bread and a sip of wine. These are “the bread of heaven in Christ Jesus” and “the cup of life in Christ Jesus” and will be the words of distribution we will be using today.
When we share the bread and wine this morning we share with God and each other, with Harry, with Joyce and the entire communion of saints because as St. Paul says so eloquently. “I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord”.