I love getting into fish fights – when I win, that is! I love casting my line into the river’s still pools to wait for that expectant bite. What a feeling to reel in the catch!
One particular fish fight may hook you. It was a battle between me and a leviathan-sized trout from the waters of the Arkansas River. Long juicy night-crawlers were the usual bait of choice. I had been scoring bites all morning, but I could not seem to hook and seal a deal. Mark was upstream and not exactly getting any contracts signed either.
Finally, a tug – a BIG one! I pull and jerk quickly to hook him; pull and reel, pull and reel as fast as I can! But I’m losing tension! I can’t reel any quicker! I feel the fight of the fish floundering under the river current. I can’t lose tension, or we lose our dinner!
Instinctively, I grab the line, drop the pole, and begin pulling the line with both hands as if pulling Rapunzel’s long rope-like braid out of the fast-flowing river currents! As fish line piles in a coil next to me, I cry out to Mark, “I got a big one!” I continue pulling the line with all my strength while said husband rushes toward me watching in disbelief. Not at the fish. At me. I guess he’s never seen anyone fish in this manner, without a pole.
We watch the slippery red trout flap wildly at the end of the line as he skims across the sparkling sunlit waters and onto the river embankment. Mark could have landed some pretty good bait himself with how far his jaw dropped while staring down at Rapunzel’s castle I unintentionally built for her with my nylon monofilament fishing line! I am a multitasker. Mark looks up at me and together we cheer! We get to eat tonight!
Catching one fish took a half day’s work and fed one man and one woman. I know of a man who once created thousands of fish instantaneously to feed five thousand men, plus women and children (scholars say up to fifteen to twenty-thousand people), as much fish and bread as they wanted (Matthew 14:13-21, Mark 6:30-44, Luke 9:10-17, John 6:1-15).
This man’s name is Jesus.
A crowd was gathering to see Jesus near the Sea of Galilee in Bethsaida, because they heard of his healing powers. Jesus had gone there initially to be alone to mourn the loss of his cousin, John the Baptist, who had just been murdered. But like paparazzi find celebrities, crowds of people found Jesus.
Despite Jesus’ personal pain, he didn’t turn anyone away. Instead, the Good Shepherd responds to them with deep compassion and heals their hurts.
When Jesus sees the needs of the people coming toward him, his compassion moves him, and he gushes love. He interacts with the sick and his/her family to learn of each disability so he can heal them. Miracles are pouring out of Jesus!
Imagine! The mute are suddenly able to speak and verbalize a heartfelt thank you to their Healer. The lame walk, then run to their wife and kids! The blind see their spouse for the first time, then turn back to see what this Jesus looks like – eyes cloud over again temporarily as they fill with tears of gratitude!
Laughter, amazement, and expressions of joy flow from those who have been touched by their Healer – Jesus. Hope, faith, and tremendous anticipation burst from those waiting their turn.
By evening, the disciples decide that Jesus should send everyone back to their villages to eat before it gets too dark. Jesus responds, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.”
Dumbfounded, the disciples look at each other scratching their heads. They hear this impossible task and question him, but “We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,” and “Eight months wages would not buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!”
Jesus steps forward and motions for the people to come closer and sit in groups on the grass near the water. He takes the fish and loaves of bread, looks toward heaven, gives thanks to his Father, then breaks the loaves and hands them to his disciples.
Suddenly, unexpectedly, and instantaneously, five loaves of bread multiply into ten! To twenty! To two hundred! To two thousand! To enough to satiate the appetites of up to 20,000 people!
Mathematicians and scientists had never seen anything multiply and divide so rapidly! It simply didn’t add up! But each person ate and had their fill. Afterward, the disciples each collect a basketful of leftover food – twelve in total (Matthew 14:13-21).
Jesus provided more than enough for everyone.
To give you a visual of how many people were at this enormous assembly, imagine a large city arena like the Pepsi Center in Denver, capacity 18,007. People have come from all over to see Jesus, to hear his teachings, and to be healed of their ailments.
All four gospel writers write about the feeding of the 5,000+. This is the only miracle, besides Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, that is recorded in all four gospels. This massive feeding undeniably occurred and was quite possibly the first, largest, most significant thanksgiving feast ever!
God still feeds the multitudes throughout the world. Daily, he creates and multiplies the fish in the waters, beasts on the ground, seeds of the earth, birds in the sky, and delicious birds that cannot fly.
Jesus is still with us, and is filled with love and compassion, desiring one-on-one interactions with us. He wants to listen to our needs, and heal our hurts. He is always available, and we don’t have to travel for miles to reach him. He is as close to us as our soul.
He provides for our needs every day. Like he taught his disciples to figure out a way to help meet the needs of the hungry, we, too, are given the task of helping those who need a hand – and when we do, we will have a basketful of leftovers too. We are called to compassion, responding in love to meet the needs of people around us. We can’t perform gargantuan deeds like Jesus did, but God will miraculously multiply our efforts to make a difference in ways we cannot see. And he will take care of us, too.
Miracles never cease! God performs them daily! Thank you, God, today for our food – for our Thanksgiving meal. Thank you for providing the food we will eat tomorrow, and the day after that, and the day after that. We recognize all food comes from you, and that your provisions are still nothing less than miraculous!