Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Miracles of Abundance: The Loaves and the Fish

Jesus performed some miracles of abundance; C.S. Lewis called them "miracles of fertility". From a small amount of bread he made a plentiful meal for thousands; besides the bread, there were also some small fish that he made into that plentiful meal for thousands.

God often uses miracles as a sign. That is to say: there is a message in the miracles. A healing may show God's power, but it also shows compassion, and at times was also a sign that Jesus has authority to forgive sins, or to demonstrate that a blind man can see better than the sighted.

In the miracles of abundance, there is a message that God will provide. And there is a message of God's generosity. Picture the leftover baskets, as Jesus' generosity overflowed and went beyond what was needed.

Still: Why loaves and fish? I suppose God could have had the disciples find someone in the crowd who was carrying some lamb jerky or dried figs if it had suited his purposes. But bread is one of the most deeply-used food-symbols. It was the manna in the wilderness -- something that Jesus mentioned not too far from the feeding of the multitude, according to John's gospel. It was the Bread of the Presence in the ancient Hebrew priestly ordinances. It was a reminder that physical food does not fulfill our needs -- as Jesus quoted the ancient saying that man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. Bread had a long and honored history as a symbol long before Jesus applied it to himself as the true bread from heaven. Remembering what he said about not living by bread alone, the "true bread from heaven" seems to work out to another way of saying he is the Word of God, made flesh.

Interesting, interesting, that something he had singled out for a miracle of abundance, and had such a rich symbolic background, was again chosen out of the different selections on the table at the Last Supper. It was the bread that he took and broke, and blessed, and said, "Take and eat. This is my body, given for you." He made sure that later generations would not forget: "Do this to remember me."

So we have the ancient "manna" as bread from heaven, and the miracle of abundance applied to bread. When Jesus chose the bread at the Last Supper, there may be a message here, about a miracle of abundance for God's forgiveness, and a sign that God's generosity again supplies more than is needed.

To be continued ...

1 comment:

Martin LaBar said...

I look forward to the next installment. Water into wine, maybe?