Loaves and Fish


There’s a story in the New Testament about 5,000 people being fed with 5 loaves and 3 fish, and it appears in all four of the Gospels. As it happens, it was reckoned by two of these Gospels to be such a good story, that they each staged a re-run with some tweaks – 4,000 people this time, and only 2 fish, but 2 extra loaves to make up the difference. I sometimes ask myself this question – if I had been there, complete with video camera, would I have been able to focus it on these loaves and fish, and film their amazing multiplication? I find it hard to believe that I would. 

There are stories told by Jesus of Nazareth which are called parables. They’re not about ‘happenings’ which actually took place, but ‘happenings’ intended to make points worthy of their hearers’ careful consideration. It seems to me that there are stories told by the writers of the Gospels which can also be understood to be parables. They too are not about ‘supernatural’, or some would say ‘magical’, things that happened, but are imaginative stories with down-to-earth meanings that are hopefully of some practical value to you and to me.

This story seems to me, on the face of it, to be about things that can be shared without our ever running out of them. Now for us, that certainly can’t apply to material things, of which there can never be an endless supply. But it can apply to immaterial things, such as love, affection, thoughtfulness, kindness, generosity, gratitude and praise. There can always be plenty more of these forthcoming, no matter how often and how widely they’re shared. It’s as if they’re stored in a bank that can’t go broke.  

Not only can they are shared, but they can also be contagious – to use a word of up-to-the-minute significance! As a rugby fan, I think about one player being floored by a late tackle and, within seconds, up to thirty players pushing and shoving each other around, not to mention the surreptitious, (hoping not to be caught on video), elbow or fist. Contagiousness, however, needn’t always deserve a bad press.

In a much more positive and constructive way, these immaterial things we’ve listed above, these manifestations of humanity at its best, can quickly ‘do the rounds’. They can ‘magically’ make innumerable people not only feel a lot better about themselves, but also much more likely to take part personally in the spreading of such positive ‘contagion’. The good effects of seven kind words, and three thoughtful actions, could spread themselves outwards to many thousands of people. 

I don’t know about you, but if I were put into a kitchen with a few loaves and fishes, no one need bother anticipating any magical outcomes. We’ve all, however, been put into this world with an ongoing supply of that love, affection, thoughtfulness, kindness, generosity, gratitude and praise. We should occasionally remind ourselves of this, and take stock of how we’re doing …..  

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