As a follow-up to the Good Samaritan parable in my recent letter, I have chosen to consider the message (or messages) to be found in the parable of the feeding of the five thousand. I can be found in Matt. 14:13-21, Mark 6:30-44, Luke 9:10-17 and John 6:1-13. It is the only parable to be found in all four Gospels so it must have been considered very important. Some of the accounts differ in detail but the story is basically the same.
Briefly as the story goes, a great throng came to hear Jesus teach. When it grew late and the people had not eaten, Jesus performed a miracle and created enough fish and loaves of bread to fill the stomachs of all of them.
What am I to make of this important story? What was the message Jesus was sending? How am I to understand this "miracle?" I can think of at least three possibilities:
Maybe, because of Jesus' love and compassion the miracle was that Jesus simply demonstrated his power to create a physical supply of food sufficient to meet the physical needs of his followers.
Perhaps, Jesus had taught the people that they must show love and compassion for others in need. And maybe some of the people had brought food with them and following Jesus' teaching they began to share their food with others. Thus they all understood that when there is love and compassion no one goes hungry.
Perhaps, Jesus was saying that the loaves and fishes were metaphors. They were to be understood as the love and compassion that is needed to feed the souls of both the givers and the receivers.
So which one is right? If I choose one of them, does that mean that those who choose differently are wrong? Or do we all have the freedom to choose what best feeds our hunger? Do I (on anyone else) have the right to insist that I am the only one who made the correct choice? Can there still be more understandings? If so, does that mean that we are all wrong? How can I know for sure?
All I can do is what I once heard a wise man say, "Hold on to what you have until you find something better."