The Gospel According to John – 2018.07.29
The reading for today is a gross misrepresentation the ministry of Jesus and the way that he preached.
This reading from the Gospel of John is piece of pure propaganda, as such it is an example of the type of writing that should be struck from the sacred text. It never should have made the cannon.
The gospel writers took a story from the common tradition and embellished it. They transformed a story that was suggestive of a miracle, the feeding of the multitudes, and transformed it into an explicit work of magic.
In other versions of this story the miracle of faith which led to the feeding of the people could be read as having come from the people themselves, because they were following the way that Jesus was leading them in.
Other versions of this story allow for a reading which suggests that the people, seeing how little food there was to be passed around, contributed to the stores of foodstuffs that they each had on the person; those without enough taking what they needed, and those with extra giving what they had in the spirit of communitarianism and hospitality.
That is better reading of this story, but the authors of John’s Gospel were not content with that. They could not resist the temptation to embellish and give the credit to Jesus’ supernatural powers.
Such a move undercuts that teaching of Jesus, the way he preached, is a living way. It does not require faith in magic powers, but trust in your fellow human beings, along with a basic commitment to justice and compassion.
The Feeding of the Five Thousand
Jesus went off to the other side of the Sea of Galilee – or of Tiberias – and a large crowd followed him, impressed by the signs he gave by curing the sick. Jesus climbed the hillside, and sat down there with his disciples. It was shortly before the Jewish feast of Passover.
Looking up, Jesus saw the crowds approaching and said to Philip, ‘Where can we buy some bread for these people to eat?’ He only said this to test Philip; he himself knew exactly what he was going to do. Philip answered, ‘Two hundred denarii would only buy enough to give them a small piece each.’ One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said, ‘There is a small boy here with five barley loaves and two fish; but what is that between so many?’ Jesus said to them, ‘Make the people sit down.’ There was plenty of grass there, and as many as five thousand men sat down. Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks, and gave them out to all who were sitting ready; he then did the same with the fish, giving out as much as was wanted. When they had eaten enough he said to the disciples, ‘Pick up the pieces left over, so that nothing gets wasted.’ So they picked them up, and filled twelve hampers with scraps left over from the meal of five barley loaves. The people, seeing this sign that he had given, said, ‘This really is the prophet who is to come into the world.’ Jesus, who could see they were about to come and take him by force and make him king, escaped back to the hills by himself.
17th Sunday in Ordinary Time