Indeed, Jesus stands in the center of it all and he knows in his gut that this is a God-moment, even as he knows in his gut that some folks who have gathered have other ideas in their minds as to who he is (Jn. 6:11). After all, the people who have approached Jesus are there because they have witnessed him healing the sick. They are coming with a sense of expectation that he could help them. But Jesus has other things in mind, as Jesus usually does. He is about to reveal God’s abundant love for them.
And so, as someone with good organizing skills, Jesus tells the crowd to sit down, most likely in small groups, which is itself a miracle! (Think about organizing over 5,000 people!) He then takes what Andrew and Philip give him from a small boy on the scene, five small barley loaves and two small fish, and does what any rabbis would do on the Passover: He takes the bread and blesses it and then he gives it to the people. Even the leftovers are used, the fragments and pieces, nothing is wasted. Twelve baskets full of pieces of bread! A sign of God’s abundance.
But notice how Jesus’ instincts kick into action when the people, having been fed, try to make him king by force (Jn. 6:15). After being at the center of the crowd and all the action, Jesus withdraws from the crowd (Jn. 6:15). It is an interesting move, as Jesus instinctively knows that the people there are no longer keeping him as the true center. Instead, they are trying to use him and make him into someone he is not – no longer seeing him as the Bread of life, whom God gives to the world, but as a king who will give them what they want. The trust is gone. In fact, the crowd becomes a kind of mob.
Yet all but the fragments of the bread remain. And the fragments remain blessed. They are, after all, signs of God’s abundant love, but they are also signs of how Christ’s own body itself has been broken and blessed for us – acting as a bridge over troubled waters, as a center whose life is everlasting life (Jn. 3:16), and as a gut-check to what truth is really is – or better, to who truth really is. To Jesus, our Lord and God, to Jesus the Bread of Life. Amen.
Pastor Andy Kinsey