A reflection on the feeding of the 5000 and (John 6: 1-15) and Daniel 5 – The writing on the wall.
John’s gospel does not have miracles – John always describes them as signs. That is very important because what does a sign do? It points you to something else.
Do don’t stand mesmerised by the sign itself, you look to see where it leads.
The first and greatest sign, the keynote sign of John’s gospel in the turning of water into wine. The essence of that sign is that it is the gospel in miniature. The water of our existence – our lives - are transformed by the Spirit of God into something much richer and intoxicating by the gospel of Jesus Christ.
And all the signs in John’s gospel relate back to that foundational keynote sign.
John and of course Jesus wants us to look through and beyond the actual sign itself to see something more. Of course, many have no insight and don’t see beyond the event itself and Jesus rebuked those who after the feeding of the 5000 followed him just because they thought they might get another free meal rather than any notion of getting an insight into God.
And this is one of the tie-ins with the story of the writing on the wall in the book of Daniel. Understanding and interpreting the sign was in the gift of Daniel, a man who walked closely with God. The reason God withdrew his favour from the King was basically for idolatry. The definition of idolatry is worshipping that which is not God. Worshipping the creation instead of the creator.
That can be a stone or wood idol as in the case of the king in that story or it could be an addiction to pride and self sufficiency (making ourselves God), or the love of money, or position, or possessions.
God is Lord and creator of all. He gives and sustains all life and redeems it also. He is the final arbiter. Everything we have is a gift from God. In the realms of science and technology, nothing is created. We discover things. Things that were already here and have always been here since the creation of the world. We manipulate things and piece things together. We make wonderful things that make life more comfortable. We manipulate and fashion things out of what was already here using our God-given ingenuity.
What doesn’t change is the human condition. We are not innately cleverer than our forebears – we stand on others shoulders. In fact for all our technology and comfort nowadays we are unhappier with our lot than ever before. The social fabric disintegrates as the family collapses, we lead selfish, greedy, ultimately unfulfilling lives. Stress and stress related illnesses and depression are rampant.
Life for many is empty and pointless. There is a gaping void in their lives which of course they try and fill and dull with drugs, alcohol, promiscuous sex, novelty or various obsessions . The reason given in the Bible is that we live short-circuited lives because we don’t know, recognise or acknowledge the giver of life itself as the creator and importantly the sustainer of all things. God sustains as well as creates.
The shorthand symbol for that sustenance in the Bible is bread, the meal. The shared meal is the way of restoring and nurturing relationships both between humans and between humanity and God. And the favoured way of describing the fulfilment of all things is the heavenly banquet where we will eat with God as the host, which is why the shared meal is the central act of Christian worship, which is based in part on the wider message of the feeding of the 5000. God is in ultimate control and in and through Christ he will feed us and fill us abundantly. In that story, if you remember, afterwards there was so much left over that they could fill twelve basketfuls with food. This means He has more than enough love to go around for us and for everyone else.