Equipping God's People to Create Missional Culture

Jesus and the Five Thousand – A First World Translation

orthodox-hereticPeter Rollins in The Orthodox Heretic: And Other Impossible Tales shares this parable and explanation. It’s a first world translation of Jesus and the Five Thousand. “Jesus withdrew privately by boat to a solitary place, but the crowds continued to follow him. Evening was now approaching and the people, many of whom had traveled a great distance, were growing hungry.

Seeing this, Jesus sent his disciples out to gather food, but all they could find were five loaves of bread and two fishes. Then Jesus asked that they go out again and gather up the provisions that the crowds had brought to sustain them in their travels. Once this was accomplished, a vast mountain of fish and bread stood before Jesus. Upon seeing this he directed the people to sit down on the grass.

Standing before the food and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks to God and broke the bread. Jesus and his friends ate like kings in full view of the starving people. But what was truly amazing, what was miraculous about this meal, was that when they had finished the massive banquet there were not even enough crumbs left to fill a starving person’s hand.

What is shocking about this parable is how it inscribes selfish and inhumane actions onto Christ himself by twisting the story we all know of Jesus feeding the multitude. While it would seem perfectly acceptable to attack governments, corporations, and individuals for failing to distribute goods appropriately and turning away from the poorest among us who suffer as a direct result of our greed, it would seem inappropriate to read such inhumanity into the actions of Christ himself. If anything, Christ was one who demonstrated a life of joyful simplicity, radical healing and unimaginable love. Christ challenges us to look outward, and thus he should not be the one whom we condemn.

Yet in the Scriptures we read that those who follow Christ are nothing less than the manifestation of his body in the world today. We see this in Colossians, Corinthians and Ephesians. The presence of Christ in the world is said to be directly encountered in the presence of those who gather in his name. In very concrete terms, people learn of Christ through those who claim to live out the way of Christ. However, if Christ is proclaimed in the life of his followers, if the body of believers is thought to manifest the body of Christ in the world, then we must stop, draw breath, and ask ourselves whether the parable that we just heard is presented to the world today, at least in the minds of those who witness the lifestyle of those of us who live in the West.”

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