5 When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?” 6 He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do. 7 Philip answered him, “Six months’ wages [Greek Two hundred denarii; the denarius was the usual day’s wage for a laborer] would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.” 8 One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, 9 “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?” 10 Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” Now there was a great deal of grass in the place; so they sat down, about five thousand in all. 11 Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted. 12 When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, “Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost.” 13 So they gathered them up, and from the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets. 14 When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, “This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world.”
Verse 10 said Jesus had attracted a big crowd. “Often ancient figures included only ‘men’ (as with the Greek term here), so the total number present exceeds 5,000—far more than the average Galilean town.” So even if Phillip’s financial guess in verse 7 had been accurate, “it is unlikely that surrounding villages had enough bread even had there been money to pay for it.”** But Jesus' creative power took a boy’s readiness to share a lunch barely adequate for one and used it to feed the hungry crowd.
God of all creation, I often feel that what I have to offer isn’t nearly enough to meet the needs I see. Give me a willingness to offer what I can, trusting you to use it for your purposes. Amen.
* Text from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
** Zondervan, NIV, Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible, eBook (Kindle Locations 240131-240132, 240140-240142).
I’m one of those people who likes to over-prepare whenever possible. I doubt I’ve ever made a meal in my life that didn’t yield leftovers. There’s a shelf in my garage that has one extra of just about anything that’s really vital to daily life, and many things that aren’t really that vital, but I feel the need to have extras on hand. I just don’t like to run out of anything. I think I get it from my grandmother whose favorite place to shop in her last years of her life was Costco. She said she liked going through and getting the samples, but if you ever looked in her basement, you’d have thought she went for the paper towels. I rarely get to the point where I have just one or two rolls of paper towels on my shelf, but I think Grandmother had one or two cases of paper towels at any given time.
The thing about my grandmother wasn’t just that she liked to store things up, but even more than that, she loved to give them away. She found joy in knowing what other people needed, liked or might want, and went out of her way to make sure she had plenty of the right things on hand at the right time. I can’t count the number of pudding pops consumed by her grandkids in the ‘80’s. I don’t remember seeing her ever eat one herself (I’m not sure why not…), but she always had them because she knew we loved them.
She worked as the Director of a State-run home for severely disabled adults, and I would go to work with her often when I was young and school was out. I saw her take special items to the residents on many occasions, and as a child remember thinking how cool it was that Grandmother knew exactly what everyone liked. She seemed like some type of magical present fairy that sprinkled little bits of joy all around her.
What I learned, though, was that there was more to it than just keeping a lot of cool stuff around the house or in her office. She knew what people liked because she went out of her way to really know people. She listened when they spoke of their likes and dislikes, and filed that information away for just the right time. She noticed if someone had a need and found simple ways to provide for those needs whenever she could. She learned their stories and showed up for others in ways that they never would have expected.
When she would take me school shopping for new clothes, she’d see a shirt with hearts on it that she knew one of her residents would like, so she would buy it. When she’d buy tickets to the Boy Scout pancake breakfast from my brother, she’d buy some for the refugee family in the neighborhood because she wanted the parents to get a break and enjoy a breakfast they didn’t have to cook for their multi-generational family. I remember one time I went to her house and saw orange creamsicles, the push-pop kind, in her freezer. These were not my favorite, but I learned that she had a guest who happened to love them. One of the residents in the home where she worked was having a hard time with feelings of homesickness, so she’d invited him to stay with her and my grandaddy for the weekend. This young man in his mid-thirties had an intellectual disability. His name was Jared, and he did love the orange creamsicles. He and I worked on a puzzle together that weekend and he seemed very happy to be staying with my grandparents. I met Jared a few more times over the years. I learned that my grandmother helped him get employed by the State as a part time laundry clerk in the residential facility. This confused me because he was the only resident I saw doing a job, but Grandmother told me he liked to watch the laundry go round in the machines so much that she had someone teach him how to work with the washers and dryers. Now Jared was happier because he had a job AND got to watch the machines go around.
My grandmother lived a life of giving to others in both tangible and intangible ways. From her career to her family to the community around her, she may not have ever fed 5,000 from just five loaves of bread, but I have no doubt that her generosity changed lives. I know it did mine. I see much of her in my own children, and hope to have played some part in passing that down.
I just put my own grandson down to sleep as his mama is at work this evening. He’s pretty little--just had his first birthday earlier this month. I look forward to showing him grandmotherly generosity and being the kind of example my grandmother was for me.
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