OUR DAILY BREAD :
A SHARING THAT PRECEDES ABUNDANCE… IN JESUS COMMUNITY :
A brief note on Matt 14, 15-16; 15, 32 & 16, 5-11
In the gospel of Matthew the story of the ‘feeding’ occurs twice. Is it because the evangelist found the story so important that he told it twice? If we carefully read Matthew 14 through 16, it becomes clear that there is no repetition of the same story.
The honour of economy comes up for discussion again – the ‘daily bread’. Approaching the arguments on ‘bread’ in the Bible will hardly be materialistic as I have earlier remarked. Whenever we bring ‘DAILY BREAD’ up for deliberation, whenever we pray for it – we pray for everything necessary for obtaining and enjoyment of bread and are concerned on the oven and the flour but never think about the vast fields, the FARMERS who toil in it and the entire country which ships and delivers our daily bread and everything else we eat. For if God did not let it grow, did not bless it and preserve it as it grows, we would never been able to have access to that bread and lay it on the table.
In the story of the ‘feeding’ (Matt. 14, 15-16) the subject is spiritual. What we choose to do with the bread, how we share it with each other or how we snatch it out of each others mouths, always defeats and betrays a spiritual attitude. The subject here, is not just about bread. At the Last Supper, Christ teaches his disciples to practice the feeding in the community – the commune with Jesus as head, that enables the disciples to DISTRIBUTE the bread so that the people are SATISFIED and have abundance of Life.
In the meanwhile, the disciples should have gone to the neighbourhood shops well ahead of time to get food. Jesus community does not have the option to tell people to make their own eating arrangements. That is not HOSPITALITY! When the disciples ask with surprise: where then shall we get all the food? Jesus responds that in a community exercise it is the SHARING, that produces wellbeing and precedes ABUNDANCE: distribution before production: and not the other way around. Twelve baskets are left over as a result of SHARING. Material wealth is not a cause for which the people must sacrifice their daily existence. It is a gift of mercy when that sustenance is geared to the search for the righteousness of the Kingdom of God, when we carefully listen to Jesus’ instruction
In Matthew 15, on the second feeding occasion, Jesus asks the question how can we take care of the situation? The disciples have completely forgotten the earlier feeding or they thought that such a thing ought to happen only in Israel. Now they are in Gerasenes, in the region around the Decapolis – a hostile territory. Here again, the argument is, more than bread. “But there is more to this meal than physical sustenance (see on v. 15); eating together is a symbol of unity. Instead of being dismissed and dispersed (v. 15), the crowds are welcomed into a new community.” That is why a third instruction is given to us – the warning against the leaven of the sadducees and pharisees: the persecutors of the church. The disciples this time, have forgotten to bring their bread. Or, is their concern still directed towards their OWN IMMEDIATE NEEDS? These concerns must be redirected and revisited.
The fact that all four Evangelists make a mention of it and Matthew and Mark both write for a second time: indicates that it was vital to their understanding of Jesus. Matthew indicates in 16, 9, that the versus contained lessons for the disciples – for us too. Therefore to interpret it merely at the level of material provision is to miss the mark. We need to see beyond. The anti-Jesus leaven, permeates society to influence the spiritual, religious and political system. For now the disciples understood that Jesus did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the pharisees and Sadducees. AMEN