Psalms 96; 147:1-11, Isaiah 52:13-53:12, Galatians 4:21-31, Mark 8:11-26
If we experienced an event – not once but twice – where a few loaves and fishes miraculously fed a multitude, would it have a lasting impact on us?
Today’s Gospel reading takes place after that second feeding of the multitudes, yet the disciples don’t seem quite able to process the meaning of what has happened. Does their thick-headedness frustrate us? Certainly Jesus felt frustrated as his time on earth grew shorter and his need to teach them more urgent. When they later mistake Jesus’s metaphor of yeast for yet another bread shortage, he responds:
“Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes and fail to see? Do you have ears and fail to hear? And do you not remember? […] Do you not yet understand?”
In other words, “What are you not getting about all this bread?!”
While the disciples were amazed both times the loaves and fishes multiplied, they failed to internalize the accompanying lesson: God’s abundance frees us for concerns beyond bread. It seems the impact of miracles on our faith and spiritual maturity is fleeting at best. This is an easy lesson to forget, because so many “ministries” promise a life full of miracles if we pray, repent, or donate enough. So much so, that when we don’t experience logic-defying miracles in our lives, we think something is wrong. Signs and wonders, or more accurately the lack of them, become an impediment to faith.
Who can say with authority why, when, or if miracles happen? They don’t define our faith – if they did, wouldn’t miracles alone have been sufficient for the disciples? Rather, Gospel miracles illustrate what life is like in God’s kingdom.
Apart from the odd cursed fig tree, Jesus’s miracles are about healing, abundance, and wholeness. We don’t have to be able to cure by laying on hands to contribute to this kingdom. When we forgive others, nurture the sick and feed the hungry, or embrace the alienated, we build God’s kingdom. When we live in Christ, each of us is a miracle waiting to bless the world.
Comfort: Our God is abundant in love and grace.
Challenge: God’s abundance can be expressed through our generosity; ask yourself where you might be more generous.
Prayer: Thank you God for filling me with the Bread of Life and satisfying me with Living Waters. Amen.
Discussion: Sadly, many people are genuinely in need of bread and clean water. How would you speak with them about God’s abundance?
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