June 16, 2020 by Bob Whitaker
In all four Gospels we read the story of Jesus multiplying five loaves and two fish for a crowd of 5,000. The story is personalized in John’s gospel by including a young boy who provided elements for the miracle. This is a story of sacramental living. There are a variety of opinions about the word sacrament, especially when it relates to baptism and the Lord’s Supper – Baptists typically use the word ordinance while Catholics and others in the Protestant tradition use the word sacrament. No matter your tradition, there is richness in the word sacrament. So, what exactly does the word sacrament mean? Here is a simple definition: “A sacrament is a common physical element that represents a sacred reality.” Think of the ordinary elements of water in baptism or bread at communion.
In the story of the feeding of the 5,000 we see a sacramental moment. The bread and fish supplied by a young boy were ordinary daily elements of life but in the next few moments those elements were used to represent a spiritual reality – Jesus the Bread of Life. When Jesus instructed the disciples to find the food necessary to feed the hungry crowd, all they discovered were these common elements of a daily meal. Of course, as the story develops, those common elements are miraculously multiplied. It is possible, maybe even likely, that the young boy and the disciples wished that the loaves and fish would be sufficient to feed the crowd. Perhaps they were offered to Jesus in faith or maybe simply out of frustration because Jesus had instructed them to feed the crowd. No matter, Jesus took what was common and transformed it into a sacred reality.
It is true that the main point of this story is Jesus, the Bread of Life, the one who came down from the Father, the one who provided manna to the people of Israel in the desert. However, I see another spiritual lesson in the story, a lesson about sacramental living. In other words, this is a story that reminds us that God takes the common elements of life and produces miraculous results. When we surrender our ordinary life to God he creates extraordinary things out of the mundane. He produces miracles with common elements. He gives us an opportunity to live sacramentally. Our ordinary lives can become a symbol of a spiritual reality that is behind the common elements of our day. Maybe this is what the Apostle Paul had in mind when he said, “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen” (Ephesians 4:20).
I hope you will be encouraged to surrender the common elements of your life to God by faith so that he can multiply your service like the loaves and fish.