Five Breads And Two Fish

February 18, 2007
日本キリスト教団 頌栄教会牧師 清弘剛生 Pastor Takao Kiyohiro, Shoei Church, Church of Christ, Japan
Translator M.A.F., Indiana, USA
Luke 9:10-17

The Disciples Had Returned Back From A Mission Trip

1. "The apostles returned back and reported to Jesus everything they had done," (Luke 9:10). The apostles are the twelve disciples. It has they "returned back," but where had they gone? Verse six says, "The twelve had departed, and as they went around from village to village, they made the gospel known everywhere they went, and they healed diseases." They were sent out by Jesus, and went out on a mission trip. Then, just as Jesus had done, they also healed persons from diseases. A gracious God had touched the people through them. The works of God were manifested. And the disciples were able to help many people suffering from diseases. All the villagers must have thanked the disciples. Being sent off with tears of joy, they left each of the villages.

2. But, as we well know, a change in the heart often occurs when helping others and always being thanked. Our interests wind up only turning upon our actions and not on the people who have borne the suffering. "I did it for them. Such a whole lot, too!" Murmuring like that in our hearts, we start adding up our achievements.

3. Today's passage of scripture tells us that the disciples were not exceptions to this either. "They reported to Jesus everything they had done." They didn't tell Jesus of the people who were suffering and troubled. They didn't even state how that God came upon the people so mercifully. They should have reported on the real world issues of the people and the very acts of God's grace that had been revealed among them. They ought to have offered up prayers of thanksgiving with Jesus. But, that's not what they did. They "reported all" that they had done. This is the way its put when [they] completely give [their] story from start to finish. Isn't there a certain kind of picture coming to your mind out of this? The disciples keep on talking at great length with smug satisfaction and pride about the magnitude of what they have done all the while striving in competition with one another over it. Jesus was patiently listening to them talking like this. In any case, since there were twelve of them, just listening to them was hard enough.

4. Then what did Jesus do? The scripture says, "Jesus brought them and withdraw to the town of Bethsaida with just them." The reason he withdrew with just them is obviously to get a distance from the crowds. More precisely, we could say he did it in order to separate the disciples from the crowds. I think it is easy to see why. The disciples, who are thinking "I did it for them," were continuously being surrounded by the crowds and this was not desirable for either the disciples or for the crowds.

5. But, this got picked up on by the crowds. The people were chasing after Jesus. Of course, he wasn't wanting to withdraw from the people to Bethsaida because having business with the crowds was troublesome. Nor was it because he wanted to rest since one crazy busy day after another kept coming [at him]. We can see the situation from Jesus' own attitude towards the crowds who had been pursuing him. "Jesus welcomed the people, spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those needing medical treatment," says the scripture.

6. Jesus welcomed the people. The word used here has the sense of "joyfully received and accepted." The people, who had been bearing on their backs various sufferings and diseases, had been chasing after Jesus with frantically desperate thoughts. Jesus happily greeted these people. There was also an invitation in that unto the kingdom of God. More than anything, Jesus spoke to them "about the kingdom of God." [He spoke to them about] the call to a world where God governs with grace. To show that they too were invited there, Jesus healed illnesses as a sign that a gracious God was visiting them.

7. The places where Jesus had welcomed the people in became the places where they learned important things that were even hard for the disciples to forget. It tells us that and then goes on with the next story.

You, Give Them Food

8. The sun was going down. The twelve disciples said to Jesus, "Please release the crowd. Therefore, they will go into the nearby villages and countryside to get lodging, and find food. We are in a place remote from anyone and anywhere," (verse twelve). The proposal of the disciples was reasonable. They were in a remote spot and it would take considerable time to get to a village. Unless they set out right away, the day would get dark before they found their way. If that happened, they would also probably be spending the night with empty stomachs.

9. However, Jesus then ordered something astonishing from the disciples. "You, give them food," (verse thirteen). This was ridiculous to say because there was a crowd there amounting to five thousand people, just going by the men alone. The disciples immediately responded, "We have only five breads and two fish, as long as we don't go to buy food for all these people." Of course, the disciples did not intend to go buy food for all the people. To get to the point, they meant, "It's impossible." They were saying, although they have a mere five loaves and two fish, it was absolutely impossible for them to give them food.

10. That's right, it certainly was impossible. But, they forgot one big thing. When they had been sent out on their mission trips, they did not have anything because Jesus had confiscated all their personal effects. This is what the Lord had told them at that time, "You must not bring anything with you on the journey. You must not have [with you] either a walking stick, or bags, or bread, or money. You must not have [with you] two pair of clothing either," (verse three). That's how it was. When they set out on the missionary trip, they did not have a thing. They did not help people with anything they had on them. Just a gracious God was at work through them. They had forgotten that fact. Worse than just forgetting, the disciples even thought "I did it for the people," and precisely because of that reason, Jesus made them come face to face with their poverty once again. They couldn't help [anybody] with what they had. They couldn't help themselves from saying, "We got just five loaves of bread and two fish." They were made to come face to face with that reality.

11. Then the Lord said to the puzzled disciples holding the bread and the fish, "Have the people sit in groups of about fifty persons." The disciples had the people sit just as the Lord said. The event that happened after that is recorded as follows. "Whereupon, Jesus took the five loaves of bread and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, he recited a prayer of praise for [the food], and breaking it handed it to the disciples and they distributed it to the crowd. Everyone ate and was full. When they collected the scraps of leftover bread, they had twelve baskets," (verses sixteen and seventeen).

12. Wow, could there have been something like this? How could something like this happen? It isn't odd if there are people thinking like that. In fact, I'm not sure what actually happened there. But, the message itself, which this narrative is trying to communicate to us, is clear cut. Whenever the crowd had been satisfied, made alive, and experienced the sweetness of the kingdom of God, it was clearly "not due to anything that the disciples had." It was due to the person of Christ that the crowd was satisfied and made alive. What did the disciples do? With all their might and sweating profusely [his] disciples only carried over to the people what Christ blessed, broke, and handed them.

13. This must have been a very hard to forget experience for [his] disciples. That's why it wound up being recorded in all four gospels. It wasn't just because something marvelous happened. It was an event that they had intensely experienced, to be a disciple means that one just receives from Christ and carries it for him, and they experienced the abundant wealth of Christ overflowing right at that point when they were carrying and handing out what they had received from Christ.

14. But, still at this time point, the disciples do not understand full well what it means to carry that which they have received from the Christ. Later on they will come to know on a deeper level.

After Having Been Handed [The Food] By Christ, They Carry It To The People

15. The figure of Jesus: He took the bread, he prayed looking up to heaven, then breaking it he handed it to the disciples. The disciples will later see that very same imagery of Jesus again. It will be in the room of a two storied house. It is the scene of the last supper which is recorded in chapter twenty-two. "After that, Jesus took the bread, recited a prayer of thanksgiving, broke it, gave it to the apostles, and said, 'This is my body which is being given for you. Practice like this as a memorial to me.'," (22:19). In this way then, while seated at the last supper the disciples, who had been handed the broken bread by Jesus on the Galilean grass, will come to be handed torn bread from Jesus along with the statement "This is my body."

16. And we know that things proceeded just as the Lord had said it would. The Lord said, "This is my body," and according to what he had said, [he tore] not only the bread but also he planned on tearing his own self and handing himself over. The next day, the Lord was crucified and died. For the atonement of our sins Jesus broke and handed over his own body, his own life. The Lord broke and handed over his own body, his own life in order that we might become forgiven of our sins, have a share in God's grace, be satisfied by God's grace, and made alive. What happened on that Galilean grass was nothing other than a sign to point to what would come to pass later in the cross of Christ.

17. Indeed and that's not all. When we read more of this gospel, after the last supper, we will see once again the same figure of Jesus. It is the figure of him taking bread, reciting a prayer of praise, then breaking it and handing it over to his disciples. It is written in chapter twenty-four. When two [certain] disciples were going to the village of Emmaus, the resurrected Christ appeared and accompanied them on their walk. But, they did not realize it was Jesus. Upon reaching Emmaus, still not realizing who he was, they detain Jesus and invite him to a house. Then this is what is written, "When he came to the dinner seat with them, Jesus took the bread, recited a prayer of praise, then breaking the bread he handed it to them," (24:30).

18. The resurrected Christ broke the bread and passed it to them. Generations of the church have believed this and have practiced this holy supper, [holy communion]. What happened on that Galilean grass was nothing other than a sign to point later to what the Christ of the resurrection does for us when the church breaks bread.

19. [Here we see] the image of the disciples dumbfounded as they carry in their hands the two fish and the five loaves of bread -- and in that we may just possibly see the image of the church today. The image of the disciples, who are standing motionless in the superfluity of their own poverty, is but the same as the image of today's Christian, it is our own image. Even though the world is suffering so, even though it is so sick, we are in it and can only say that "we do not have enough to give."

20. But, that is fine. That is so much better than conceitedly thinking that we can save others with what we have and that we can bring life to others on our own power; because it is right at those moments when we are beaten down by our own poverty and powerlessness that we can see what we are really supposed to be carrying in our hands. We receive from Christ, then we carry it. That is the job of the church. [That] is the job of the Christian. We carry and hand deliver the Christ himself, who had broken his own self and hand delivered himself, and [we carry and hand deliver] Christ's life and Christ's salvation. A Christian is just a person who receives from Christ and carries [what he has given him or her]; we are filled with the abundance of Christ right at that very point of carrying what we have received from him and in delivering it, and shall we not receive these experiences he gives us more and more?