A student wondered about the difference between heaven and hell, and so approached his teacher. “In heaven,” the teacher said, “there is a large banquet table with every imaginable delicacy you can imagine, every plate is full, every chair is occupied – it’s a bountiful feast. And hell looks exactly the same, a great banquet, but there, everyone is starving.” “Why is that?” the student asked. “The forks are too long,” the teacher said, “and they can’t feed themselves.” “How about in heaven?” the student asked. “Ah,” said the teacher, “in heaven, they feed each other.”
Though we think of Jesus feeding the five thousand that day, it’s really the disciples who do it – with God’s help, of course. Jesus tells them to give the crowd something to eat. Blessing and breaking the bread, he gives it not to the crowd, but to the disciples first, and they in turn pass it around…and are amazed to find there is plenty for everyone, with lots to spare.
Discipleship requires participation on our part and a willingness for us, like Jesus, to take action. When we do-acting with and for Christ-miraculous things are possible. It’s up to us to feed each other.
That may seem like a daunting task, given the magnitude of need we see in the world today, but the story of the feeding of the five thousand serves as evidence that God multiplies our efforts and provides what we alone cannot. All we can do is be faithful with what we’ve been given and do what we’re asked, like the disciples on that mountainside that day.
When Jesus asked them to feed the crowd, their first response was, “We have nothing!” But Jesus knew better. And to the disciples’ credit, they did what he asked. What they found as a result were basketfuls left over – full stomachs, satisfied people, meager resources turned into abundance.