Following Jesus into the wilderness was an experience not to be missed.
There were signs and wonders. There were debates with entrenched leaders (which they always lost!) and there were those wonderful stories about the Kingdom of God. Hearts were stirred. Minds were challenged. Even so, bellies still tended to report empty. The disciples reported this hunger crisis to Jesus and much to their surprise, He told them to feed them. Of course, the only thing to do was break up the meeting and send the people on their way left to their own devices as far as provisions were concerned. They were all too far into the wilderness to supply food beyond what the most farsighted of them had thought to bring. Of these farsighted ones, a solitary little boy was found to have a small lunch. Jesus commanded the small provision be brought to Him.
“Little Is Much when God Is in It”
There is a vintage gospel song by this title and it remains true to this day. Remember that Jesus measured faith in grains of mustard seed—small measures in the world’s eyes. The disciples could not see the little boy’s lunch as relevant to the massive needs of the multitude, but Jesus knew better. He took the loaves and fishes in His hands, gave thanks, and blessed them. (The word used in John’s gospel is the root word of Eucharist, the “Great Thanksgiving!) This “little” bit of food became “much” in the hands of the disciples. As they broke the bread and the fish, it multiplied before their eyes. A miracle of creation occurred with each plunge of their hands into the baskets and they had enough for each group of people all sitting orderly on the ground. There was no panic, no rush to get food before it ran out. Jesus was in charge, this one who commanded demons and disease with equal authority, so people quickly relaxed and waited their turn. If the fish needed salt, I am sure the tears of the disciples supply that seasoning as well.
The Fellowship Meal
Eating together is an indispensable method of spiritual fellowship. The Old Covenant was celebrated by the Seder and Passover meals. For New Covenant worshipers, the Communion Meal is the heart of public worship. Why are these feasts important?
- They physically represent spiritual realities. We are family, committed to God and to each other! Our souls are nourished by this fellowship.
- Spiritually, the things of God and His Kingdom nourish our spirits, strengthening us for demands of the times in which we live. In the Bible, the Word is called meat and bread, the flow of the Spirit is New Wine, and the waters of worship are the very River of Life.
The feast in the wilderness teaches us that to follow Jesus is to be well fed. He can take “little” and make it “much.” There is always enough because Jesus is serving the substance and life of His own victory over death.
One More Thing
Like the tiny mustard seed in the parable and the little boy’s lunch in this feast, when the Lord takes into His mighty hands what we have to give, He blesses it. He blessing is so powerful, what we have becomes enough!
And when Jesus went out He saw a great multitude; and He was moved with compassion for them, and healed their sick. When it was evening, His disciples came to Him, saying, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is already late. Send the multitudes away, that they may go into the villages and buy themselves food.” But Jesus said to them, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.” And they said to Him, “We have here only five loaves and two fish.” He said, “Bring them here to Me.” Then He commanded the multitudes to sit down on the grass. And He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, He blessed and broke and gave the loaves to the disciples; and the disciples gave to the multitudes. So they all ate and were filled, and they took up twelve baskets full of the fragments that remained. Now those who had eaten were about five thousand men, besides women and children.
Communion Prayer from the Book of Common Prayer (adapted SRP)
We celebrate the memorial of our redemption, O Father, in this sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving. Recalling Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension, we offer you these gifts. Sanctify them by your Holy Spirit to be for your people the Substance and Life of your Son, the holy food and drink of new and unending life in him. Sanctify us also that we may faithfully receive this holy Sacrament, and serve you in unity, constancy, and peace; and at the last day bring us with all your saints into the joy of your eternal kingdom. All this we ask through your Son Jesus Christ: By him, and with him, and in him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit all honor and glory is yours, Almighty Father, now and forever. Amen.
Little Is Much
Words and Music: Kittie L. Suffield
1 In the harvest field now ripened
There’s a work for all to do;
Hark! the voice of God is calling
To the harvest calling you.
Little is much when God is in it,
Labor not for wealth or fame;
There’s a crown, and you can win it,
If you go in Jesus’ name.
2 Does the place you’re called to labor
Seem too small and little known?
It is great if God is in it,
And He’ll not forget His own.
3 When the conflict here is ended
And our race on earth is run,
He will say, if we are faithful,
“Welcome home, My child, well done
© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved