You give them something to eat

Today’s lectionary readings are: Psalm 56.1–13; Isaiah 30.19–33Matthew 14.13–36.

As in the birth narratives of Luke 1–2 so here in Matthew 14.13–36 human co-operation with God is a prominent theme. Jesus blesses and breaks the bread but it is the disciples who distribute it to the crowd. We do not for a minute suppose that the disciples have a great deal to do with the miracle. Jesus is clearly depicted as the one who makes the difference. Yet as a kind of prelude to the miracle, Jesus tells the disciples, ‘you give them something to eat’ and, in due course, they do.

In the story that follows, the disciples are in a boat and Jesus appears, ‘walking toward them on the sea’. Rather than simply marvel, Peter wants a piece of the action. ‘Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.’ At the command of Jesus, Peter gets out and walks on the water, but only for a brief moment. He takes his eyes off Jesus and begins to sink. About to be overwhelmed by the waves he cries ‘Lord, save me!’  Jesus lifts him up and, despite a bit of a telling off, all, for Peter, is well.

Make no mistake about it, the story seems to say, without Jesus and without the help of God you can do nothing. Yet Jesus calls his followers to join forces with him and to get involved in his work. When he inspires his disciples they can accomplish great things.

Nothing much has changed. God is surely at work in the world but God uses human beings to accomplish his purposes. In Christ, God graciously calls upon us to feed the hungry, clothe the poor and heal the sick. Sure, we may be pretty useless without God’s help but still Christ calls to us, ‘You give them something to eat’. This is a good time of year to ask how we might do that, then get on with it.

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