2 Samuel 11:1-15; Psalm 14; (or 2 Kings 4:42-44; Psalm 145:10-19); Ephesians 3:14-21; John 6:1-21
“The sad duty of politics is to establish justice in a sinful world.” – Richard Niebuhr
The story of the feeding of the multitude is the most frequently repeated miracle of Jesus in all of the New Testament. It is in every Gospel account (Matthew 14:13-21; Mark 6:30-44; Luke 9:10-17; John 6:1-13). Then Matthew and Mark each tell a second version of feeding of 4,000 (Matthew 15:32-39; Mark 8:1-10). In all we hear the story six times; and rightly so. It speaks to one of Jesus’ most important messages: justice. Everyone on that mountain side got enough to eat. This is not retributive justice which is about punishment for wrongs done. Jesus is not concerned about that kind of justice, or any kind of revenge. Punishment is often our obsession, not his. The feeding of the 5,000 or 4,000 is about distributive justice which sees to it that everyone gets enough. Specifically in this example everyone gets enough to eat. However, Jesus doesn’t preach equality of ownership. Although everyone gets enough to eat, the rich can still go out to a fancy restaurant for steak and lobster. Although everyone gets basic health care, the rich can still have their expensive insurance policies. Although everyone gets secure shelter, the rich can still live in their mansions. But sometimes for everyone to have enough some of us need to have less. Therein is the resistance to the Gospel message. We all like the idea of everyone having enough, but none of us want to have any less than we have already accumulated. Some of us may have to get by with less in order for everyone to have enough. Jesus is revolutionary. Followers of this teaching of Jesus have been ridiculed and branded socialists or communists. As the presidential elections are coming up next year we might ask ourselves which of the candidates are advocating distributive justice and which retributive justice. We may have to muddle through the grey areas on this issue. And while we are at it, less we be self-righteous, let us evaluate ourselves. Even though Jesus’ teaching does not necessarily require strict equality, there is one area where it does. God gives his love, mercy (opposite of retributive justice), forgiveness, rain and sunshine to all equally even when we have not earned it. God sees beyond our defects and blesses us all. Now that is equal distribution.
John 6:14 says that the people referred to Jesus as “the” prophet who is to come into the world. Most translations say “the,” however some vary. This is a reference to Deuteronomy 18:15 where Moses says “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me.” Although Moses says “a” prophet, his statement became a messianic hope. People began to talk about “the” prophet who will be the Messiah. That little article (the or a) makes a big difference.
God’s way modeled here and now.
Bit less, but enough.