An amazing thing about Scripture is its ability to be perennially new.
Even the most familiar passages can offer insights that we have never considered before. All we have to do is to be willing to relax our grip on what we think we know and let the words speak to us as if for the first time.
This happened to me when we heard John’s account of the feeding of the multitude. This is the only miracle that appears in all four of the gospels, so there is a good chance that anyone who has darkened a church doorway knows the basics of what occurred.
Late in the day, with a crowd growing hungry, Jesus asks if there is any food. A boy’s five barley loaves and two fish are the best the disciples can find.
After a prayer of thanksgiving, the disciples distribute the paltry fare. To their surprise, 5,000 men got their fill (we assume that the uncounted women and children were given as well).
What was not eaten filled 12 baskets.
In all the preaching on feeding the 5,000, I’ve never heard anyone talk about that boy. Here he is, a “lad” in some translations, and a poor one at that, given that the coarse bread and tiny fish was a peasant’s plate.
Apparently, he is the only one who either had, or admitted he had, any food. This boy, no doubt hungry himself, readily offers his meager meal, trusting that all would be fed.
Perhaps that is the faith of a child, that innocent trust, which is our ticket to the banquet.
There were abundant leftovers, but what caught my imagination were the words that preceded the 12 wicker baskets.
“Gather the fragments left over so nothing will be wasted,” Jesus says.
This is more than tidying up. It was the very reason He was preaching on that mountain in the first place. The fragments that He came to gather were not the broken barley loaves, but the lives of those who came to Him seeking healing, wholeness, or some understanding of their pain and despair.
We are all fragments — fearful, fallen and failed. We are broken and incapable of self-repair.
Damaged though we are, it is for us that the Kingdom comes.
Like the lad willing to forego his food, we need to trust in the One Who comes to “gather the fragments” so that nothing — not even a single broken life — “will be wasted.”