Those little extras…

Posted by on May 14, 2023 in Blog | 0 comments

woman eating a cheese pizza

I’ve been reading the account of the feeding of the 5000 in Matthew 14:13-21. You’re probably already sighing and thinking this is a miracle you have heard about often enough. It’s the only miracle to pop up in each of the gospels, a reminder that there is something about food that is unforgettable. Feeding 5000 – yes, that was a truly memorable day. Except it wasn’t feeding 5000, was it?

Tucked away in verse 21 is the little detail that they fed “about 5000 men, beside women and children.” Each time we speak of the feeding of the 5000 we quietly forget about the women and the children, as though their food didn’t count or their presence didn’t matter. Were they just “little extras” included in the miracle, which we are happy to scale down to feeding 5000.

Turns out that the little extras are really important. After all, it was a child – one of those extras – who provided the five loaves and two fish (John 6:9). Not being one of the 5000 men he presumably wasn’t thought to count for much – except how would the miracle have worked out without him?

So how many people were actually there. Commentators are divided, but 20 000 is not an uncommon estimate. I think its reasonable. Do the maths. For every two men who managed to take the time off to listen to Jesus, there was probably one woman – so 2500 women. And children were everywhere in the ancient world. Large families were the norm. So as a conservative estimate, for every man present, 2.5 children – or 12500 of the little nippers darting in and out of the crowd. Add it all up, and you get to 20 000.

In other words, when we speak of the feeding of the 5000 we probably mean the feeding of the 20000 – and the miracle is courtesy of Jesus aided by one of the extras who was not included in the 5000. It’s not an insignificant difference, is it?

Life is filled with so many little extras that aren’t so little. And someone is responsible for them – even if they are only mentioned as an afterthought. How about asking God to help you spot some of the overlooked extras of life today. Noticing can rectify some of the enormous injustices of life.

There is another part to the miracle that I love. Matt 14:19 reads: “Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples and the disciples gave them to the people.” Take, thank, break, give – the sequence strikes me as significant. Jesus takes what the crowd has offered. He then gives thanks for it. Realistically, it was pretty paltry. Could a crowd of 20 000 really only manage 5 loaves and two fish – all provided by one of their most junior members? Whatever – Jesus doesn’t argue, nor does he suggest it wasn’t enough. He gives thanks for it, knowing that little is much when God is in it. He then breaks it. In the hands of God, nothing stays just the same. And from being broken, 5 loaves and two fish become enough to feed 5000 – 20 000 – the world. But it must be given out to the world, and Jesus looks to his disciples to do that.

And here’s the question: What will you give to Jesus today so that he can take it, deeply give thanks for it, break it, and then give it back to you to give out to your world. 5 loaves and 2 fish are never enough, especially in a world where there are so many unnoticed extras we must also cater for. Except they were enough back then… and they will be, today.

As always, nice chatting…

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